Friday 03 Jul 2009
Do you love this land we call America? Is it the purple mountains, the mystery of deserts, the peace of pastoral meadows or the shining seas that you love? Is it the diversity of peoples, each adding an unforgettable ingredient to the melting pot? Is it the formative ideals of freedom and equality that we continue to work towards achieving, generation after generation? Or, is it simply because this is home – the place you grew up, the place your family and loved ones are?
America has often been referred to as the great experiment, and these days, Americans are beginning to gain a new vantage point on our past – not just the past 233 years of nationhood, but the long past of millions of years of ecological existence on this glorious piece of land we call America.
The 4th of July is an excellent day to face the truth that America is suffering from some very real troubles. It’s a good day because the 4th of July is the celebration of a victory in adversity. The power to triumph over bad circumstances is in all of our blood.
I love this place on our blue planet, and today, I’d like to share with you my list of the 3 best things you can do to help America change directions and begin its graceful ascent to a sustainable, healthy future.
Action 1 – Grow Your Own Food
Did you know that in the 1940’s, America’s victory gardens produced 40% of the produce we ate? 40%! Don’t buy into the industry-driven hogwash that states we would starve without factory-farmed, pesticide-dependent monoculture. Take back the skills that were the prize possession of the majority of mankind – the ability to grow the food we need to survive. Our forebears did it and so can we. We are gifted with an abundance of arable land in this country and it can supply more food than we’d know what to do with.
Hard to believe? When sanctions cut Cuba off from the rest of the world, they were forced to rapidly transition from sugar cane monoculture to bio-diverse farming that could feed the country. With a few simple steps, Cuba’s urban gardens, alone, began producing eight thousand tons of food. And that’s just what the city folks were able to do on their rooftops, balconies and in their small backyards. In fact, Cuba’s ministry of agriculture tore up its own lawn and planted it with vegetables! With our great cities and vast farmlands, we can’t fail to feed America with incredible bounty if we all start planting heirloom seeds in whatever space we’ve got.
By growing your own, you will become more human than you’ve ever been before, with the power to sustain the most basic need of your life – to eat. And, you will be eating the best tasting, most nutritious food you’ve ever eaten in your life. Last night, I took a sack of new potatoes to my parents. We all sat down together and ate them with a little olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. We ate in wonder at the taste and gratitude for the bounty. If you’ve never eaten just-picked produce before, your first taste of something you grew yourself will change your perception of life. No less than that. I guarantee it.
Action 2 – Find A Farmer
If you simply can’t grow your own food, or if you can only grow some but not enough to provide a whole year’s supply of food for yourself and your family, find the farmers nearest you.
Eating organic, locally-grown food is the most powerful step you can take in your daily life to reduce fossil fuel pollution and combat global warming. Obviously, the most local food you can eat comes from your own yard, but the next best thing is food that comes from your neighbor’s yard.
Make the nearest farmer’s market your weekly shopping trip destination, use the web to search for the nearest farm stores that are open to the public and consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). With a CSA, even city folks can buy ‘shares’ in a network of local farms. For very reasonable prices, the farmers will deliver to your door a box of local, organic produce every week of the year, and CSAs protect the livelihood of farmers in that, if one of them experiences a crop failure, he is still sure of being paid for his labor and you are still sure of receiving great food from the other farmers in the network.
Until the globalization of the food ‘system’, nearly all food people ate was organic and local. Reclaiming these time-honored givens isn’t something outlandish – it’s adhering to traditions that worked for all past generations of Americans. Eating local food makes sense and empowers you to help build a strong, self-sufficient community to live within, wherever you live. In America, we’ve got all of the resources we need right here to succeed in a shift towards a locally-based food economy. The day that small, local grain mills begin re-opening in your hometown will be a day worthy of fireworks in the USA.
Action 3 – Learn To Cook
Countless books have now been published on how our descent into a diet of highly processed, pre-prepared foods has made us one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Our parents and grandparents took the poisoned bait of convenience when they started opening boxes and cans to make dinner rather than stepping into the yard to fetch it fresh and get it cooking on the stove. In addition to having lost the skills required to make food grow out of the earth, we, as a nation, have lost the skills required to prepare that food. We don’t know how to cook anymore. Such a thing hasn’t happened to the human race since we first found fire!
If you’ve slid into the commercially-marketed belief that no one has time to cook, then you’ve traded authority over your own life for something of no value to anyone but the makers of such convincing corporate messages. You can create a balanced, delicious meal from scratch in less than an hour and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have the right or time to do this for yourself. Time to cook food is as essential a human right as time to sleep and the deprivation of either makes us stressed and sick. Empower yourself by taking back the authority to feed yourself and feed others. You can do this!
Do It For America
Grow your own, find a farmer, cook your own food – these simple yet revolutionary actions are all about re-claiming the skills that every one of your ancestors had but that you have lost in the present age. The nation of America was founded on revolution. We are a determined and creative people with the audacity to hope for a better future. I am convinced to the soles of my feet that the better future lies in our soil and in our hands.
Happy 4th of July!