how we eat is critical to both healthcare and the environment

An interesting interview over at Democracy Now! with the author of In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan.

The gist of it is:
Goodman: [Y]ou wrote a long letter to President Obama, to the “Farmer-in-Chief,” as you put it. What’s the most salient point in it?
Pollan: The most salient point is simply, you are not going to be able to tackle either the healthcare crisis or climate change unless you look at our food system. In the case of climate change, food is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases, the way we’re growing food, the way we’re processing it and the way we’re eating. And the healthcare crisis, as I’ve talked about. So we need to address it. It’s really the shadow issue over these other two issues.
Pollan is correct, in my opinion, to point out how the way in which we feed ourselves is a critical underlying issue of both healthcare and environmental sustainability. It’s a bit like chaos theory, in which small changes in apparently simple systems can yield incredible complexity. But there is, perhaps, a more fundamental issue than food and that is economics – the way in which products and services are exchanged along with the mediums of that exchange. True, if we were to eat local, only food, mostly plants, there would be a cascading effect in terms of our food supply and nutrition. However, we have to deal with a capitalist economy in which the goal is to make money – and to persuade people to spend their money. (How many edible food-like products does Big Food create an appetite for through marketing? All to make money, not to provide us with the nutrition we need.) This means, of course, that companies don’t necessarily have a vested interest in giving people what they need, but in manufacturing want to perpetuate a cycle of spending. Add to this the fact that we price things based on value and not cost, and we’ve added another variable that adds to the overall complexity.

The point is that as long as the economy allows profit to be the defining factor of success, it will be extremely difficult to get the corporation to change their ways of doing business. It would, in fact, take a massive boycotting effort on the part of consumer – an effort that is certainly desirable. The key make profit dependent on other factors, such as environmental sustainability. Perhaps it’s the familiar question of redefining what profit means – the holistic view of economy that defines wealth and success beyond the material terms of money. Perhaps it’s a question of developing a new kind of economic system, an idea I personally favour (two words: Josiah Warren).

Regardless, it’s good to hear a back-to-basics analysis like Pollan’s. It’s certainly in line what people like Dr. McDougall have been saying; change our nutrition and we create a healthier population. Create a healthier population, drive healthcare costs down. Boom goes the dynamite.

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