Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Solar Powered Food

When I read an article I really like and want to pass it around to a bunch of people, I usually do one of two things. I'll either share it through Google Reader and add a little note, or I write about it and post it. And, when I write, I feel compelled to do more than just summarize or recommend. I want to riff. I want to offer commentary. I want to pretend to be a journalist. I want to weave the article in with some other thoughts and make the whole package my own little creation.

And, while that's fun for me and I'm pretty sure at least some of the time enjoyable for at least some of the people that read this madness, I worry that I don't do a great job of inspiring people to read the kernel that moved me to rave in the first place.

So, tonight, I'm (A) recommending, (B) offering quotes to whet your appetites, and (C) making one tiny little comment at the end.

(A) Michael Pollan wrote a letter to the next president in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. It's awesome. Pull it out of the recycle bin, or click here.

(B) It's about food policy and how that connects to national security, health and healthcare, and climate change. Here are a few of my favorite moments:

-Chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food.

-As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution — animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete — and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feedlot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer; the latter is remedied not at all.

-We need to stop flattering nutritionally worthless foodlike substances by calling them “junk food” — and instead make clear that such products are not in fact food of any kind.

-Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes.

(C) If I were writing a letter to the next president right now, I'd suggest that he consider making Michael Pollan his Secretary of Agriculture.