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Sustainability
December 18, 2007 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Our Decrepit Food Factories. Michael Pollan on what sustainability is really about. [Via Gristmill.]
posted by homunculus (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related post: The Case for Resilience
posted by homunculus at 3:48 PM on December 18, 2007


Now what am I supposed to do with the bacon I was going to have for dinner?
posted by localhuman at 3:51 PM on December 18, 2007


I'd be in the mood to get all worked up about this if I hadn't just finished The Road. Instead, I'm savoring my cup of coffee with every ounce of my being and enjoying the absence of cannibals.
posted by mullingitover at 4:03 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Uhm don't let your post apocalyptic fiction derail you from facts such as as the fact we can go the way of the Dodo, because we are animals as well. Yet that doesn't bother me at all, what bothers me is that we could probably avoid going that way by just being a little less obsessed by all the axioms of instant gratification : cheap, quick, live for now, profit at any cost unless I pay it, self-destructing egotism.
posted by elpapacito at 4:10 PM on December 18, 2007


"The herd-thinning's a-comin', it's comin' 'round the bend, and I ain't seen a honeybee since . . . I don't know when"

Not to be Chicken Little, but every time some human brags about our giant self-conscious brains and our opposable thumbs, I just think about all the ways we manically, recklessly hasten our own extinction. Then I look at my dogs and feel sorry that we'll take them, and the chimps, with us. But even our hubris can't kill the planet, and life will go on. I hate to think that Bach and Graham Parker and Grant Wood and Una Mae Carlisle and Basho won't be remembered, but whatchagonnado? At least they existed to begin with.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:12 PM on December 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's all gonna end, sometime, FelliniBlank. May as well be done by our own hands, on our own terms.
posted by notyou at 4:22 PM on December 18, 2007


FelliniBlank writes "Not to be Chicken Little, but every time some human brags about our giant self-conscious brains and our opposable thumbs, I just think about all the ways we manically, recklessly hasten our own extinction."

Humans aren't going extinct any sooner than rats and cockroaches. Our overall standard of living might take a dunk in the outhouse, though.
posted by mullingitover at 4:24 PM on December 18, 2007


True enough -- a good culling won't hurt the gene pool any in the long run.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:30 PM on December 18, 2007


When widespread trade began between China and Europe, one of the unintended results was the black death. Half of Europe died, but the standard of living improved greatly for the other half. And those cultures were only semi-isolated. The first contact between two totally isolated cultures ended up making the Black Death look like a bad flu season. . .

So, when I was in high school, globalization was the hot new buzzword. Borders coming down and goods and capital moving freely and happily along. I never really considered that, when the borders come down, it's not just goods that are moving from everywhere to everywhere else. Every damn microbe and virus from Phuket to Philly (does Philly still export?) ends up being a potential vector for enormous populations that might never otherwise have been exposed. And, in the case of the semi-nomadic bees, taking those fellow travelers home twice yearly to spread among native populations.
posted by absalom at 4:38 PM on December 18, 2007


It's all gonna end, sometime, FelliniBlank. May as well be done by our own hands, on our own terms.

What? What fresh hell is this!?

Immanentize the eschaton my fat ass.
posted by loquacious at 4:43 PM on December 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


What he just said !
posted by elpapacito at 5:23 PM on December 18, 2007


Indeed loquacious, indeed.
posted by -t at 5:45 PM on December 18, 2007


Not to be Chicken Little, but every time some human brags about our giant self-conscious brains and our. ... they existed to begin with. the sky is falling.

Fixed that for you.
posted by delmoi at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2007


Ah yes, a good culling. You going to volunteer to go first and benefit the race? It'd be one thing if we were wiped out like the dinosaurs by a random space rock; going by our own hands isn't "better" it's "stupid." And I don't share your optimism that "some will survive." And cockroaches and rats may go too...they're actually quite dependent on our trash. Something will survive, sure. Though in the end, it'll just be the bacteria waiting around till the sun swallows the planet. Some days that's the best comfort I have. It's not much.
posted by emjaybee at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Seriously, we couldn't wipe out every human if we tried. Inevitably we'll miss some tribe in the Amazon, or Sumatra, or New Guinea, or some tiny island in Micronesia. A hundred thousand years ago there were less than 1,000 people on the planet, and that's all it took to get us to where we are now.

Civilization, which is what we're really thinking about when we say "all mankind," yeah, civilization is a delicate flower and it'll go down quickly. All that culture, art, religion...it'll survive like a square of tissue in a furnace. Future archaeologists will have enviably interesting jobs.
posted by mullingitover at 5:58 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I imagine, that before doomsday comes, we'll grow meat directly in boxes and the almond fields will have figured out some flower to plant between their trees in order to maintain their own stock of bees. That's what I think, anyway.
posted by saysthis at 7:02 PM on December 18, 2007


When widespread trade began between China and Europe, one of the unintended results was the black death.

I always got taught it was overcrowding and bad public hygiene reached a tipping point (the good ol' night pan out the window trick, wot I've seen in the movies). Not sayin' what I got taught is correct. Please elaborate.


The first contact between two totally isolated cultures ended up making the Black Death look like a bad flu season. . .

Spain in South America? Please elaborate.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:32 PM on December 18, 2007


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:34 PM on December 18, 2007


Thanks for reminding me why I was avoiding giving Chicken, Beef and Pork to my kids. Yay for beans!

but they do like almond butter, dammit. sigh.
posted by davejay at 8:12 PM on December 18, 2007


One day, our farming methods will change, along with the whole of our lifestyles.

The choice we have is whether it is change we initiate, or change that is forced upon us. I'd really like to be optimistic about the future, but then I think about the federal response to the first case of mad cow confirmed in the United States.

It was what, 2003? 2004? I've forgotten the year, but I'll never forget the FDA's response because it chilled me to the bone.

"DON'T STOP EATING BEEF! I'M EATING BEEF TONIGHT AND SO SHOULD YOU! ALL OUR FRIENDS FROM ALL OUR OLD JOBS ARE COUNTING ON YOU EATING BEEF EVERY DAY, SO DON'T YOU FUCKERS STOP!"

I might be paraphrasing a little.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:03 PM on December 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


It was what, 2003? 2004? I've forgotten the year, but I'll never forget the FDA's response because it chilled me to the bone.
"DON'T STOP EATING BEEF! I'M EATING BEEF TONIGHT AND SO SHOULD YOU! ALL OUR FRIENDS FROM ALL OUR OLD JOBS ARE COUNTING ON YOU EATING BEEF EVERY DAY, SO DON'T YOU FUCKERS STOP!"
I might be paraphrasing a little.
posted by
EatTheWeak at 9:03 PM on December 18

Eponysterical?
posted by rodeoclown at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2007


I'm the king of eponysterical, pal. I've no way to track or prove this, but I'd reckon the screen name I chose gets my posts classified as such at an uncommonly high rate.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:43 PM on December 18, 2007


[...] you would think our public-health authorities would be all over it. Apparently not. When, in August, the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition asked the Food and Drug Administration what the agency was doing about the problem of MRSA in livestock, the agency had little to say.

What?! Our government watchdogs are asleep at the wheel? Slow on the uptake? Can't smell the coffeeoffal?

This is my surprised face.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:47 AM on December 19, 2007


Well, the black death came from China on trading ships, so the theory goes. The squalor and density of the new urban centers allowed it to spread quickly.
posted by absalom at 4:11 AM on December 19, 2007


Yeah, I don't see mass extinction in my lifetime, but I certainly see life for most of us getting less comfortable and/or more costly.
posted by everichon at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2007


Can we have an eponysterical flag? or would that ruin the whole point?



on to Pollan and Pollen:

Ya'll need to read some John Barnes. He does a lovely job of taking all that is currently wrong with our world and expanding it a thousandfold in a matter of one or two generations at most. I cringe with fear at the thought that the events in his book Mother of Storms could ever happen in my lifetime. Because, so far, we don't have technological parity with our future selves in that book and could never survive the events that we would set off with the technological parity we DO have.

(did that make sense?)
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:51 PM on December 21, 2007


Swine, feedlots, and flu
posted by homunculus at 10:30 AM on December 27, 2007


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