Monday, June 22, 2009

More Than Abundant

I wrote the word corn yesterday. It made me think of syrup and advertising. Which sent me on a search for an ad. Which reminded me of an interview with Earl Butz.

In King Corn, a documentary about a couple of kids that want to see what it's like to farm with the big boys, filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney ask Butz, Secretary of Agriculture in the Nixon administration, why he created corn subsidies.

Butz, a quiet old man in the interview, said his goal was abundant, inexpensive food. He didn't want Americans to worry about going hungry. He wanted food to be a given, something everyone could always afford, something that didn't get in the way of the rest of people's lives.

I don't doubt his sincerity. I don't disagree with his goals. And I think he was on to something. But he created a monster.

And one reason that happened, it seems to me, is that he didn't dream big enough. Abundant and inexpensive was enough for him. He lacked the imagination - or the courage - or the energy - to strive for inexpensive, abundant, and healthy - for people and for the planet.

The good news is that imagination and courage and energy do exist, and there's at least one city of 2.5 million, in one big developing country, that's learning to feed itself well.

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