• 11/07/07
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Here’s a great article from the Guardian on author Barbara Kingsolver’s attempts to go “locavores” – eating food that they had either grown themselves or had bought from the surrounding area…“To get a sense of what the book is about, think of Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s film in which he spent a month doing nothing but consuming McDonald’s fast food. Now imagine its opposite, and you are getting close to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Like Spurlock, Kingsolver and her family set themselves a time-limited task – a year in their case – but instead of plumbing the depths of America’s fast-food culture, their ambition was to shun it completely. While Spurlock set out to record the damage that would be inflicted on his own body by eating the equivalent of nine Big Macs a day, Kingsolver wanted to explore the positive impacts – physical, spiritual and environmental – of a diet that was wholesome, seasonal and local.

Part of the motivation of the book was repulsion at America’s advanced state of what Kingsolver calls “alimentary alienation”, where food is mass-produced and has little or no bearing on the lives of those who eat it. With the help of her husband Steven Hopp, an environmental studies lecturer, she lays out in the book the shocking scale of the crisis. The average food item on the American shelf has travelled 1,500 miles – further than most families go on annual holidays. The US consumes about 400 gallons of oil a year per person for agriculture, a rate of guzzling second only to the car. And here’s a fact straight out of Alice in Wonderland: the US exports 1.1m tonnes of potatoes, and imports 1.4m tonnes. The side-effects of America’s fast-food culture are legion: global warming caused by high food airmiles; obesity due to the poor diet, particularly among American children, who are predicted to be the country’s first generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents; the destruction of farming habitats to clear the way for mass cropping of corn and soya beans; the detachment of millions of Americans who have absolutely no inkling of what they are consuming or where it comes from. As Kingsolver sums it up: “Woe is us, we overfed, undernourished US citizens. We are a nation with an eating disorder, and we know it.” Full article here.