Food as fuel
Human beings do not recycle nutrients in the way that Earth shows us to do.
Our bad eating habits are part of what brought us COVID-19, bird flu and swine flu, to name just a few. But we also are in trouble if we don’t stop eating trashy, non-nutritious food — soon.
In fact, trash — and most especially the idea of food as trash — is a unique invention by only one animal on the planet — Homo Sapiens. People waste billions of tons of food, — and much of it — is non-food, chemicals and packaging.
Far from being ashamed of this destructive trait that fouls our own nest, up until quite recently the ability to be excessive, wasteful, and even extravagant was a source of human pride. For some people, showing that they can “have more than their share” is still a sign of status.
To be clear, this is not about shaming people who overeat, nor is it fat-shaming. In fact, quite the opposite. It seems that the blame is far to often put upon the victims of all our societal, and commercially promoted “norms.” Historically, men have policed women’s bodies, but this is changing. Today, even men are shamed, policed, and told either “eat like a real man “— meaning meat — or “What are you, not woke enough to make your own salad?”
What is a food “norm”?
As generations slowly edge forward, the food ways of yesteryear are forgotten. Before our addiction to fossil fuels that grew the “not so green” revolution, food was generally grown locally, consumed without excessive packaging, not incredibly processed, less addictive, and more nutritious.
Mono-cultural agriculture did not consume carbon sinks, forests, fresh water and community and cultural identity of place.
In other words, our addiction to fossil fuels as an energy source that consumes more than what is globally sustainable is also the source of those addictions. Our tendency is to seek fat, sugar, consuming more meat than is advisable, and to a very large extent, what we might call convenience.
What was the norm yesterday was less access to high calories, and more communal connection. Human animals evolved for lots of walking, running, caloric burning, and communal cooperation. But, now we ingest “processed” food that requires tremendous resource extravagance.
This new foodways monster is fueled by profits, and the true costs are passed on to you and me.
Our foodways shape who we are
In cultural terms, our past foodways once connected us to family, local community, conversation and food preparation. Our ancestors’ lifestyle also connected us to animals, plants, forest, stream, fresh air, and leisure.
Conversation and conservation were natural results.
Now, to save time, people are far more focused on easy access and preparation. With this comes packaging, long range transport, artificial, and unseen cost, and enough excess that we can just throw it out without even thinking of wasted compost or lost nutrients.
Burning it all away
Over a million years ago, we discovered fire. Then we started burning stuff.
Our disconnection to nature, and our disconnection from our neighbors and extended family — by means of moving exclusively indoors — has a high cost. Ecopsychology recognizes this transition from being of the world to being in our heads. Today, our mind space is consumed by our devices and their ads and apps. Your urge for junk food is a deliberately manufactured ploy to sell you trash in exchange for your cash.
These days people are made to feel guilty, not only for being the fattest generation, but also for not being fun, attractive, care-free, and modern. If you are not using the drive through, if you are not rapturously enjoying those chicken strips or greasy burgers, you are just being a grumpy old stick in the mud. Probably a Boomer, stuck on old-timey days, OR, a lazy millennial who never looked up from their smart device long enough to stop and smell the miracle of hydrolyzed savory flavor invented by a greater generation.
Either way, in today’s food desert landscape, we are all daily invited to just self-medicate our discomfort by filling the holes in our souls — and our sustainable biosphere — with what passes for food.
As you are probably well aware, the twenty first century is the first century in history that has seen as many people dying of overweight related issues as there are people dying of starvation.
This is just part of the enormous cost, however.
Hope for finding food for thought
Our disconnection from the biosphere that makes life on Earth possible is the same broken strand that is destroying marine life with our plastic packaging — very often food related — and our other trash. It is the same frayed thread that disconnects us from one another. We fat shame, or in other ways, divide ourselves from others with whom we should be in strong alliance.
The true tragedy of the commons, the over-use and consumption of limited resources, is not just that we destroy all other life forms that provide real nutrition, but also sustenance and healing. The abundant Earth provides beauty, awe, inspiration, and lessons, as well.
What to do? It’s not all bad news. When you reclaim your belonging to humanity, and to Earth, you empower yourself to more generously feed your body, your community, and your planet.
It’s food for thought, but also spirit.
This post was previously published on Greener Together and is republished here with permission from the author.
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