10 May 2014
Sustainable Food Systems; Sustaining Ourselves and the Environment- 1 Step at a Time
John Turenne came to our class to talk about sustainable food systems, and the reasons as to why they are so important. John is a consultant for best management practices in the food industry, working his way into this respectable position by cooking for Harvard, Saint Luke’s hospital and schools and studying food at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). John’s work is primarily focused on the production of food, which naturally has an environmental aspect to it that he focuses on today. Even though he is concerned mostly with the where and how our food gets to us these days, it wasn’t always this way. He said that he has always been a cook, and he has been in the position where cooking revolves around making money. Even though cooking can be a great business, John has evolved from this perspective to realize that food means much more than just dollars, and that the origins and the quality of our food can be just as important than how much money we can make off of it.
Much of John’s reasoning seemed to stem from simple ethics, and a basic need to just do what is right and what makes sense. The driving force behind all of this is that the current ways that we do farming destroy the land, use large amounts of energy, and ultimately reduce the quality of our food. Another downfall of the modern farming culture is that it pollutes the environment. Through runoff we lose valuable soil to our oceans, and also end up polluting with large amounts of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides all wash away with it. This is incredibly bad for the environment because it degrades the farmland, making it harder to grow crops on in the future, as well as pollutes our waterways causing algal blooms, fish kills and an overall imbalance of the ecosystems downstream. The current farming systems that we use today also degrade our local economies, as larger companies are constantly underselling the local farmers.
The reasons for sustainable agriculture go on and on. Just think about it for a second, over thousands of years farmers have developed a system that they could use to produce food time and time again. Only until recently has the style of farming changed so that farming needs additional inputs, like vast amounts of pesticides, herbicides and water on a scale so large that it depletes our aquifers. Farming is by no means ‘balanced’ in any way, it has run rampant at the expense of the rest of the world.
Just recently, we have had the first generation that lived shorter lives than their parents. It really makes you wonder where this nation is heading. John pointed out that when 75-80% of the nations antibiotics are going to agriculture, there is definitely something wrong.
The overall moral is that we need to be more conscientious about where our food comes from, and businesses need to do the same. Just because something is cheap, it doesn’t mean that it’s ethical or even good for us for that matter. When we buy things, we are voting with our dollars, and we have to vote wisely or else one day, we may not have a choice. We have to use all of our resources to make it happen too. If we want to get away from industrial farming, and get closer to our food, we have to network, we have to work together. Part of the problem is that our society consumes everything and then has an enormous waste stream. In nature, there is no waste; everything gets reused. For the last few million years, nature has been the perfect model for sustainability, and that is about the only business model that we should be looking at. If we want to truly live better, we have to transform our society so that nothing is wasted; then we will have achieved sustainability.
Picture: The luxury spot.com, "10 Foods That Could Be Ruining Your Mood" http://www.theluxuryspot.com/foods-ruining-your-mood/