Reflections on Earth Day

April 22, 2011 in Food Economics, Foodland, General by Mary Ireland

The Industrial Revolution moved our culture from farming to mechanization. One of the results is that we have become disconnected from nature. Farmers want rain, knowing that it is necessary for them to grow their crops. The rest of us sort of view it as a nuisance that will ruin our car wash or make our morning commute a nightmare. The connection between rain and food seems to register only when we watch the news and learn that the increase in the price of food is due to a drought. We often lose sight of the fact that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is a direct connection with nature.

This disconnection extends to the “mental us” and the “physical us.” In one of the most entertaining TED talks, Sir Ken Robinson talks about senior academics – jokingly saying “their body is a way of getting their brains to meetings.” It seems to me that perhaps we function this way a lot more than we realize. We have become a culture of being moved by our cars, subways, trains and buses from event to event. We are vicariously entertained by movies and video games. We really don’t “live” in the real world.”

The disconnection has serious consequences. We choose our cars over clean air and accept the oil pollution of our oceans that comes with that choice; we choose coal to generate electricity and accept mercury poisoning of our water and the destruction of our mountains; we choose factory farming and tender, marbled meat taken from tortured, obese animals, and turn our eyes away from the resulting cruelty to animals.

There are two examples related to treating animals ethically that I would like to share to illustrate how far from decency things have gone. The first is a Florida bill SB 1246 which is likely to pass both houses of the Florida legislature that makes it illegal to produce a video depicting various forms of animal cruelty “and other heinous” practices of agribusiness without the written consent of the owner. This means that a person creating a documentary such as Food, Inc. would be guilty of a first degree felony – unless of course the person got permission. The second is a TED Talk by Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering. Wolpe describes bio-engineering “feats” one of which is using mice to grow a human ear. The implications of bio-engineering are staggering.

I agree with Wolpe that it is time to question what we are doing – and the ramifications of what we are doing. We need videos such as Food, Inc. and Wolpe’s Ted talk to show us what is going on behind the scenes. And once we know, it is our responsibility to act decently and humanely. It is time to live in greater accord with nature. At Dr. Grandma’s we talk a lot about eating food – real, mostly plant-based food. Real food requires reasonably clean air, untainted water and unpolluted soil to grow. For human beings to live we require an environment that will support us; not one that poisons us and causes our genes mutate. When I choose to eat animal protein, I want to do so in good conscience, without having to wonder what sort of torture the animal had to endure. I want people to be able to make documentaries that reveal the truth. The secret society of fear and intimidation, fostered by the giant agribusiness combines, backed by spineless government rubber-stamping of each initiative they seek to expand their monopoly powers, require more light to be shined on it, not more curtains hung to protect it further from scrutiny.

On this Earth Day, I would like to encourage you to think about where we, as a human race are going. To think about what we are doing to the earth that is the source of our food. In order to give some perspective, I would like to share Chief Seattle’s Letter to All. I think it is beautiful and gives us pause to think.

Chief Seattle's Letter

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."