...A one-pound box of prewashed lettuce contains 80 calories of food energy. According to Cornell ecologist David Pimentel, growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the East Coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of food.
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Our ingenuity in feeding ourselves is prodigious, but at various points our technologies come into conflict with nature's ways of doing things, as when we seek to maximize efficiency by planting crops or raising animals in vast mono-cultures. This is something nature never does, always and for good reasons practicing diversity instead. A great many of the health and environmental problems created by our food system owe to our attempts to oversimplify nature's complexities, at both the growing and the eating ends of our food chain.
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The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
This for many people is what is most offensive about hunting""to some, disgusting: that it encourages, or allows, us not only to kill but to take a certain pleasure in killing. It's not as though the rest of us don't countenance the killing of tens of millions of animals every year. Yet for some reason we feel more comfortable with the mechanical killing practiced, out of view and without emotion by industrial agriculture.
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You may not think you eat a lot of corn and soybeans, but you do: 75 percent of the vegetable oils in your diet come from soy (representing 20 percent of your daily calories) and more than half of the sweeteners you consume come from corn (representing around 10 perecent of daily calories).
There's a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig - an animal easily as intelligent as a dog - that becomes the Christmas ham.
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Half of all broccoli grown commercially in America today is a single variety- Marathon- notable for it's high yield. The overwhelming majority of the chickens raised for meat in America are the same hybrid, the Cornish cross; more than 99 percent of turkeys are the Broad-Breasted Whites.
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Wrangham cites several studies indicating that in fact humans don't do well on raw food: they can't maintain their body weight, and half of the women on a raw-food regimen stop menstruating. Devotees of raw food rely heavily on juicers and blenders, because otherwise they would have to spend as much time chewing as the chimps do. It is difficult, if not impossible, to extract sufficient energy from unprocessed plant matter to power a body with such a big, hungry brain.
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I think that there's some brainwashing going on with this idea that we don't have time to cook anymore. We have made cooking seem much more complicated than it is, and part of that comes from watching cooking shows on television-we've turned cooking into a spectator sport. ...My wife and I both work, and we can get a very nice dinner on the table in a half hour. It would not take any less time for us to drive to a fast-food outlet and order, sit down, and bus our table.
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Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.
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Measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it's one of the most powerful things an individual can do--to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.
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The great virtue of a diversified food economy, like a diverse pasture or farm, is its ability to withstand any shock. The important thing is that there be multiple food chains, so that when any one of them fails-when the oil runs out, when mad cow or other food-borne diseases become epidemic, when the pesticides no longer work, when drought strikes and plagues come and soils blow away-we'll still have a way to feed ourselves.
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Cooking is all about connection, I've learned, between us and other species, other times, other cultures (human and microbial both), but, most important, other people. Cooking is one of the more beautiful forms that human generosity takes; that much I sort of knew. But the very best cooking, I discovered, is also a form of intimacy.
When we use these words and we talk about plants having a strategy to do this or wanting this or desiring this, we're being metaphorical obviously. I mean, plants do not have consciousness. But, this is a fault of our own vocabulary. We don't have a very good vocabulary to describe what others species do to us, because we think we're the only species that really does anything.
Even connoisseurship can have politics, Slow Food wagers, since an eater in closer touch with his senses will find less pleasure in a box of Chicken McNuggets than in a pastured chicken or a rare breed of pig. It's all very Italian (and decidedly un-American) to insist that doing the right thing is the most pleasurable thing, and that the act of consumption might be an act of addition rather than subtraction.
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While it is true that many people simply can't afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we've somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority. p.187
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