When I was in the seventh grade, my social studies teacher Mr Shipman taught us that there were 5 billion people aproximately living on earth. Mr. Shipman himself is, for some reason in my brain, integral in my memory of the earth's population. I heard that figure several more times throughout high school but by my college years the news reports were all reporting that earth human population had topped 6 billion. And today we are fast approaching 7 billion.
Writers love to write about 'sustainability', 'doing more with less' and 'supporting growing populations' but what they aren't saying in so many words is: 'Good God, soon there aren't going to be enough resources (read food and water) for all the people on earth!!' Perhaps it wouldn't be wise for them to foster fear among a large section of the population. We can't possibly know how critical our food and water and natural resource situation will get in the next 20 years as a result of population expansion. I believe that if we needed to adapt to shortages of certain items, most people could (provided that the shortages don't encompass. EVERYTHING). Life has continued to find a way to adapt and survive for millenia. I actually have full faith that when oil runs out or becomes endangered enough to become prohibitively expensive that electric car technology will suddenly be pulled out of the dusty back drawer and someone will make ka-gillions!! But until we are forced to wean off gas, we probably won't. $4 a gallon hurts, but it isn't currently making MOST people rethink driving or their job or their living situation, certain subsets of the population excluded.
Food is different though, while some countries have always dealt with simply having enough food for their expanding populations, the US struggles with having TOO MUCH food. You'd think this was a GOOD problem to have. The US currently produces, on a yearly average, about 3900 calories of food for each person in the country per day. The USDA recommends that the average adult consume about 2000 calories per day. Much of the uneaten food is exported and some is wasted, like unsold grocery store food, spoiled foods and restaurant leftovers. But when the extra calories are owned by major corporations they have historically found ways to sell them off and convince you to consume them. From the same source as before, it is estimated that Americans consumed about 2700 caloires per person per day in 2007 for example. That is 28% higher than 1970. And we weigh on average about 30% more too. This tells me that when there is a surplus of food, humans typically rise to the challenge and eat the surplus, even if we don't biologically need it. This also tells me that MARKETING WORKS. Most of the country has succumbed to the message to eat more all while believing that they are impervious to most marketing schemes.
Obesity has created a whole mess of conversation in our nation. We talk incessantly about changing laws and fining fast food restaurants for fraud and public endangerment. We argue about soda taxes and the rights of the overweight. We argue over the Farm Bill knowing that SOMONE will get hurt be it the farmers or public at large. Bloggers like me take to the internet to desperately hope to change our food culture and our children before we all fall victim. But when do we step back from the din of disagreement and say 'I am going to eat right because I HAVE to, not because it is easy.' Some of us have already begun to do so.
Call me a pessimist but I don't think things are going to change fast enough for my generation and possibly my kid's generation. Being so pessimistic doesn't make me write less or feel that what I talk about is futile. We are slowly changing our food culture. But in the mean time I openly admit that I am throwing down the gauntlet. Our obesity crisis is a classic case of survival of the fittest.
If I had a nickel for every person I had met who didn't care about the food that they eat, I would be a rich woman. I have had people tease me and say I was making too much out of our exposure to pesticide residues and chemical food additives. Or, "I have been eating that for YEARS and I am not sick!" Or my favorite "But the chemicals taste so good!"
Well, this pessimist is doing what it takes to feed my kids right, regardless of what anyone else says. I am currently teaching my kids that uber processed sugars, GMOs, chemical additives and the whole host of non-foods that we currently eat as a nation are WRONG! I am not tip toeing around the average child nutritionist's fear of labeling some foods good or bad. I am simply teaching my kids that certain things are food and certain things are not. And in the end, this will make my family stronger and more fit to carry on the gene pool for our species. Call me competetive, but this is survival of the fittest.
We are facing over population. And the biological history book doesn't tell a great story for those species who become out of balance in the world. The earth always wins. Call me controversial. Call me a nut case. Call me drunk with my own opinion. But future fortune will favor those who are strong and healthy. And who knows what lays around the corner? So until then we will continue to eat real food and support local sustainable food systems. We will continue to look for ways to garden and make our own food. And we will continue to encourage people to join the real food movement because we need more like minded people. And it would be unfair to keep our real food secret to ourselves! But what do I say to the detractors? I say 'Bah, you can have your vegetable oil and your Cheetos and your factory farmed beef chunks!' And the next time someone teases me about what I eat or tells me that I am a nut job for believing that the Standard American Diet is such a problem, well, I might just keep my mouth shut. I am a formidable foe after all.