Michael Pollan on Food, Energy and Health

Hat tip to O’Reilly Radar for leading me to this video of Michael Pollan speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit last month. Pollan tells it like it is – that agriculture is the key to tackling climate change and many other modern ills.

Food is the shadow problem if they [the politicians] hope to deal with energy independence, climate change and healthcare because as soon as you start working on these issues, and attempt to get anywhere, to reduce our oil consumption, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to curb healthcare costs, you discover that food is the key to doing that. And that food is the shadow problem, the way we are feeding ourselves, so you’re going to need to deal with it.

Basically if the problem is that we’re eating oil, we need to switch, and put the food system back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. This is plausible – remember, every calorie of food you have ever eaten is ultimately the product of photosynthesis. The original solar technology.

Only photosynthesis can take the energy of the sun and turn it into usable carbohydrates, usable energy for us. The challenge is reorganising the system.

Meanwhile, our government seeks to remove agriculture (food) from every consideration of climate change, despite it’s contribution to about 30% of global, anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Even in the House today, the Prime Minister kept insisting that no-one would be affected by the government’s flip-flop delays on the ETS, despite several members including Jeanette pointing out that forestry is already in the ETS, has already started and that foresters will be applying for credits in less than three weeks. He clearly has no idea what he is talking about, hence the four different versions of government ETS policy that we currently have on the table.

But I am digressing from the main thrust of the post, which is that food (and it’s production) is probably the most important lynch pin issue any government faces. It affects all aspects of our economy.

12 Comments Posted

  1. I love this guy.

    Wish our governments and agencies would acknowledge this and his ideas. There are so many things wrong with our system.

    We have the knowledge. We have the technologies. We have the manpower to make it happen. The question is “why hasn’t the system changed?”

    Reduced income for government? Certain people will lose certain powers? Who knows.

    Wish a change would happen – the world needs it.

  2. Greenfly,

    I don’t think they were talking about dogroll as such. More the type of dogfood they advertise on TV these days. Sobering is an understatement if I ever saw one.

    Wow. Looks like Shadbolt has finally become disillusioned with the status quo and has gone back to his activist roots. Good for him I say. I wish him all the luck with his goals.

  3. SleepyTreehugger – that’s sobering, given that the composition of dog roll is, I’m told, an unholy mix of ‘shouldn’t be eaten’ animal parts.
    On the topic of diets and communities, Tim Shadbolt, in his Saturday column, called for Southland and Otagocommunities to ‘come together’, form a single community and learn to look after each other. He’d like to see ‘councils distribute free seeds and organise gardening competitions with brilliant prizes’ and see ‘fertile council land ploughed up and planted in crops..’
    ‘Perhaps a recession could lead to more gardening and healthier diets’, Shadders says. Good work, that man! He hits the nail on the head with this comment –
    ” If the council is informed of a potential threat to our community and we fail to prepare for it, we would be condemmed for our lack of responsibility” His earlier, vocal support for the NActional government
    sits kinda wonky on him now, in light of their retrograde approach.

  4. “Janine – those images are online somewhere. Very sobering. Some of those families have fascinating diets. Not the Americans, I have to add. Theirs is frightening!”

    I can well believe that.

    I’ve recently read a book called the Next Frontier by Robert Rodale, and in it the author stated that in the 1970s the US Department of Health conducted a comparative study of a basket of food that the average American ate and dog food. Shockingly they discovered that dogfood actually fulifilled a human’s dietary requirements than did the typical American’s diet. I’d shudder to think what a contemporary study would find today.

  5. # frog Says:
    December 17th, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    > Except DaveS, that this particular frog happens to be a vegetarian, if you include insects in a healthy vegetarian diet!

    Oh yes, these inconsistencies again – ‘frog is vegetarian, but eats insects’. If I didn’t know better, I could almost believe that the frog was a fictitious character, and his blog written by a human pretending to be a frog.

  6. Janine – those images are online somewhere. Very sobering. Some of those families have fascinating diets. Not the Americans, I have to add. Theirs is frightening!

  7. Have just had from the library a fascinating book called Hungry Planet which is a beautifully photographed and written look at how people across the world feed themselves. Ordinary families from Tibet to Texas, Russia to Australia and everywhere between.

    In addition to the photos of each family with a week’s worth of food piled in front, the book has analyses of the various elements of that food and its cost in US$. As well there are little stories of each family and their lifestyle, some stats on the country they live in and excellent essays on various aspects of food.

    It’s very global, enlightening and a pleasure to read. I think I will try to buy it – three weeks is not long enough!

  8. >
    food (and it’s production) is probably the most important lynch pin issue any government faces

    That’s right. We need more beef, lamb and pork. Together with potatoes cabbage, peas and cauliflour these three form the basis of the food Western people have sustained themselves with for the last few centuries, and built our civilization on.

    I’m with the twins on this one, (and you too of course Frog).

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