Tilapia is a fish that has taken over the world. As this New York Times article points out, it is easy to farm, reproduce, and fatten up quickly, so in a Capitalistic world, it is ideal. However, it has spread incredible fast, and many overseas tilapia farms have poor standards and are polluting lakes. On top of this, it has become in invasive species in many of the areas it is being farmed. This brings up one, final point about modern-day agriculture
We produce a lot, the economy and our mindset practically demands that we do. Ultimately, all the problems in the food industry come back to this. In all the mass production of corn, chickens, cows, tilapia, and everything else, we are simply subjecting nature to our will. We are not allowing the natural balance of things to even everything out. We are demanding that nature provide us with what we need. It is this mindset that leads us to all the problems we have. The other thing is, we have gotten where we are today fast. We have just exploded in the past century, and it could be that the course of evolution will even everything out with time. Regardless, there is a lot that needs to be addressed in the coming generations, and we will see if the human race is up to the challenge.
There are certain chemicals, Anthocyanins, and it is found naturally in many foods. The give many fruits and produce their natural, bright color. Scientists have found that this chemical may actually have many health properties. In the long history of herbal medicine, it has been used to teat a number of conditions. On top of that, scientists have found that it may actually prevent heart disease and cancer. Its full properties are still being studied, so considering it a “cure all” could be a bit premature. However, the properties that have been discovered drive home an interesting point. Nature does a great job of taking care of itself. Obviously, modern medicine is a blessing to the human race, but there is a lot of evidence that in the complexities of nature, there are safeguards against disease and natural health foods. In a lot of ways, the artifical life we live now cannot be as effective as nature is.
The second lecture of this course embarks on one of the topics that I found most interesting from the introductory lecture last week. That is, it discusses the relationship between the modern-day food landscape and human evolution. Professor Brownwell paints a very clear picture of how humans evolved to get to the dietary behaviors we have today. He discusses how early humans would spend a lot of danger, stress, and calories to get the necessary food they need. He makes an interesting point here. Not only would it make sense for humans to strive for high calorie, high fat diets in these circumstances, it would also make sense for them to be lackadaisical and conserve energy at any point they can. Of course, when you change the landscape of food, these behaviors lead to the typical, overweight couch potato. He also points out that in an overabundance of food, an inefficient metabolism is much more condusive to health. These kinds of ideas make me wonder what kind of evolution could be in the future for humanity. Perhaps rather than going back to the old ways, we are headed towards a new age in human history. What kind of food behaviors and physiological changes will humans have in the future when they have adapted to the changing food climate?
Yale University has a series of lectures available from this course on food. The first lecture was an introductory lecture, so it covered a lot of material. It definitely promises what is sure to be an interesting course, and it is likely that the remainder of these blogs will be on this lecture series. A couple of things in this first lecture stood out to me. Professor Brownwell highlights a very interesting factor to this entire issue. He makes the point that our evolutionary development makes us seek out things like fat and sugar, because they provide a lot of energy. They were not always as common as they are, so it is our bodies natural defense against starvation to crave these foods. Today, the landscape of food available has completely changed that, and our bodies have not kept up with it. Another interesting point was how little exercise we get. With everythig becoming automated, we are not exerting ourselves as much as we should. It makes me wonder about all the technological and urban advancements we have made in recent years. Would we be as advance if we had more peope caring about agriculture and the food we eat? Are these technological advancements worth it? These are all interesting questions to ponder.
This past week, I was had the oppurtunity to tour Serenbe Farms for a couple hours. Over the course of the trip, I saw many different farm animals up close and personal. I petted a goat, and I was actually able to work on the farm itself. I was able to weed a small patch of land. Along with this hands on experience, the farm manager took us around the farm and talked with us about various equipment, crops, and farming techniques she uses. Overall, it was a fascinating experience, and I learned quite a bit from it. Unfortunately, my phone died, so I wasn’t able to get any pictures. Therefore, I have attached some that I found online.
First of all, I got just an interesting impression from the place all around. It was educational to me in learning the difference between organic and non-organic farming, because Serenbe was exactly how I used to picture all farms being. It had large fields, full of a large variety of crops, tractors, machinery, and hands-on labor. As I was looking around, it occured to me that this is what I always pictured farms to be, and this was not the normal thing. It seemed so backwards to me that a farm like this is not the standard way most crops are produced in this day and age. This alone was an eye-opening experience for me.
One of the other things that stuck out to me was small patch of kale the farm manager pointed out. Apparently, she was going to have to throw out the whole batch of it because it had over-rippened and it didn’t taste right. From the outside, they seemed like perfectly normal kale leaves, and it was surprising that every single one of them would have to be thrown out. The manager also mentioned that she had tried to grow a lot of crops over the winter, but she did not expect it to get as cold as it did. Most of the crops she planted froze, and they were ruined. I knew farming was an industry where drastic things like this happened, but seeing it up close really made me realize how much things can be ruined if they go wrong.
The experience at Serenbe was a full sensory experience for us. The manager gave us fresh leeks for us all to try, and they were absolutely deliscious. They tasted fresh, coming right from the ground like that. Leeks are similar to onions, and they definitely had that onion flavor. My breath smelled for the rest of the day, but it was as strong or repelling as an onion might be. The had a milder taste that gave you the full flavor of the onion without the strong bitterness and the tears.
Finally, we got to visit and pet the farm animals up close. This part was so fun. It is the closest I have ever been to animals like this, and it was such a weird experience. It is one thing knowing what a rooster or goat look like from pictures, but seeing one walking around in front of you is a completely different experience. The goats were the most fun, because we could pet them and stuff. One of the guys in the group got one to climb on him. Honestly, this had to be the best part of the trip for me.
Overall, this was an extremely educational and hands-on trip. I learned a lot of interesting things, but I think the best part was just being up close to everything. In many ways, farms are things that have always just been a picture in my mind. Seeing one personally was quite enjoyable.
Every so often, I happen upon a video that leaves me completely floored and inspired. Drew Ramsey’s Ted Talk on the effects of healthy food on the brain is one of those things. It really did inspire me to go as organic with my diet as I possible can. The brain is arguably one of the most important parts of the human body. We can have healthy bodies, but our brains directly affect our outlook and our lifestyle. Nature has provided us with incredible gifts to sustain us, and healthy food is one of those gifts. If unhealthy eating leads to depression and anxiety, imagine the change in the world that would occur if we all started eating healthier. It could change culture as we know it. It could expand progress exponentially. Drew Ramsey seriously has it right here.
Deborah Garcia is the producer of the film The Future of Food. I have not yet seen this film, but I do plan to after watching this interview with Garcia. The interview alone taught me more about GMOs and Monsanto than I had ever known in the past. In a mere forty-five minute video, she touched on so many subjects that it was honestly hard to take it all in. A couple of things about it stood out to me. Firstly, she talked about organic food, and she mentioned that there were attempts at allowing some of the more harmless aspects of processed agriculture to still be considered organic food. She argued that opening things up like this would only leave room for the more harmful things to come in. This is a valid argument she makes, but it reminds me of a more general issue that really does bother me. This is the idea of holding to extremes. On so many issues, such as equality, religion, politics, economics, people fiercely hold to one side or the other. People are rarely able to consider the middle ground of issues, and it is always us versus them. This is one of those areas where it seems to me that if we allow ourselves to take the benefits of both sides, organic food and processed food, we can discard the disabilities and have a truly better food system. Secondly, the company of Monsanto really stood out to me in this video. I’ll admit, I had heard the name before, but I really knew nothing about them. However, the fact that they have a monopoly on agriculture and intellectual property semms completely appalling and wrong to me. I believe that capitalism does have the ability to solve the food crisis we find ourselves in. Grassroots organizations can make changes in public opinion and public policy. A company like Monsanto with such a massive monopoly is not capitalism though. They are a massive obstacle in the road towards change.