Those words, those bloody words. Every bloody night…..
I am not a good cook on account of my obsession with working, researching, writing and generally doing anything other than cooking. Usually. I can be roused into the kitchen when I’m hungry and occasionally I do enjoy the challenge of making something nice and tasty for the family. Take this weekend for example, I harvested and slow dried figs from my own tree (one of our rabbits got buried under it a few years ago. Bless), found a recipe then made my very own gluten free fig rolls. I felt very proud, but ask me to do that every day for the rest of the time I have a family to feed and I’d be less enthused. It’s something about the drudgery.
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about here. What I’m interested in is sustainability. I’m currently putting a PhD submission together, a PhD that centres around the theme of sustainability. While researching I’m realising that I am starting to feel rather uncomfortable with some of my current lifestyle choices around how I use and value resources, a key ‘resource’ being food. This sucks as one thing you don’t want to have to consider when you are about to add intensive study to your already full life is changing your whole diet.
While it is not like I’ve never considered what I eat before I am starting to see food choice in more political terms, a vote-with-your-fork if you will. This is especially relevant in relation to my pending studies and as such I’d feel a bit of a hypocrite if I didn’t heed my own advice. Maintaining the current state of affairs with regards to the western diet or my PhD subject has already been proved to be unsustainable so I’m not jumping the gun with my conclusions here.
Where to start, where to start…..
Well this has got me thinking and last night I sat up and read this. If you feel like commenting on this piece I’d encourage you to read this link first as the issue is complex, very complex. For example in the UK there are organic veggie crops that are less sustainably grown than regular crops and no scientific evidence to prove they are healthier (these are not my value judgements by the way), that it is possible to be a vegan who makes a bigger environmental impact than a meat eater (although is less likely and the ethics of farming meat are enough on their own to turn many people off), pretty much all types of diet that rely on people you don’t know to make or grow food for you can be inequitable and can contribute to drains on natural resources such as land and/or water, the food-miles/ environmental impact equation is more complex than you would on first look think and even healthy, low impact foods become unsustainable if they end up in the bin.
So where does this leave me?
What I have realised so far is that becoming aware of the far-reaching and complex web of impacts a diet has FEELS like a problem that belongs in the ‘too hard’ basket. All I have come up with after reading the report last night is that I should never eat anything that’s involved a cow again if I want to be sustainable – bye, bye milk, cheese and steak and neither should I REPLACE it with anything similar (vegan cheese is not food, soy milk is yucky and I certainly don’t want coconut milk in my tea). Also, if I REALLY want to eat with a clean conscious I should consider a cruciferous diet with some locally, in-season fruits and nuts thrown in for good measure. I’m just not sure how I’d go with that. On that note, a very important point that the article I’ve linked to makes is that while it is possible to map out a highly sustainable diet, that diet may not meet the emotional and societal needs of a population.
Food is such an intrinsic part of my culture that I can’t simply take a Utilitarian approach and just eat cabbage soup. Well, not until I HAVE to. What I am prepared to do and will do with my family is come up with a set of sustainability values and use that to steer my shopping basket in a more considered direction. As a family we have also just invested in a bigger veggie garden, I’ve already cut down our meat consumption and I’m being much more careful over waste.
Baby steps. Baby steps.
And yes, this is actually helping me in terms of shaping my thoughts for my studies – a good energetic investment 🙂