For Blog Action Day:
I got to see and smell slash and burn agriculture and talk to farmers as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama. It was frustrating at times to understand that global demand (in Panama, it is mostly USA demand) has forced rural Panamanians to chose between living off the land in poverty or making a little bit of money growing cash crops or beef cattle in slightly less poverty.
I talked with many volunteers about good books to read to gain perspective on the situation. Some of the books aren't particularly applicable to this blog audience - most of you are not living in the tropics and dealing with rural agriculture problems. However everyone can stop and analyze themselves and ask, how can I consume fewer resources in my daily life? And when I do use resources, how do I find renewable ones? How can I use my power as a consumer to buy items that promote healthy conditions for people and the earth?
These are some books that can help you answer these questions and raise your awareness of how they affect people globally. Head on over to your library and check these out.
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - Pollan, a Berkeley Professor, researches 4 or 5 meals and where they come from: fast food meal, supermarket meal, local meal, hunted and gathered meal. Along the way he talks to traditional farmers, a veterinarian at a feed lot, a mushroom hunter and a small scale organic farmer. This is a really well researched book. There is a great section called Maize Walking looking at the use of farm subsidies and the over use of corn and soybeans in processed foods. 2006
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - She and her family decide that for a year they will eat only locally produced food. Her husband and daughter add little side stories as Barbara reports on their experiences as they give up bananas, grow a huge garden, put up food, learn to make cheese, raise a breeding flock of heirloom turkeys, and visit Italy - the home of the Slow Food Movement. At the end of each chapter are recipes you can try at home. 2007
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser - I know it is getting old (published 1994) but it's a good look at what industrialized agriculture has done to America. This book looks more at human labor conditions and chemical use and feed lots and such depressing stuff. Although there is an obvious solution in this book, simply think about where you food comes from and choose accordingly. I haven't eaten a McDonald's hamburger since, although I have had an ice-cream cone. Shh don't tell.
Hope's Edge by Frances Moore Lappe - this is more about world sustainability and looks at five development agencies in the world. I learned a lot from this book, but it wasn't that riveting. This is the same author that wrote Diet for a Small Plant in the 70's, one of the first books to show problems with the green revolution and world food politics. If you do read this one you can see how Kingsolver borrows the format of this book for her Animal Vegetable Miracle. 2002
The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen - This cookbook is always cited as one of the first cookbooks to embrace a local, seasonal diet that isn't big on meat. The font the book uses kind of drives me nuts, but it has good thoughts and ideas wrapped around some delicious recipes. The writer is from Minnesota. Originally published in 1977 it has been revised many times, most recently in 2003. The Moosewood has produced many cookbooks, make sure you start with the original.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - If you haven't read this book it is a great read. A compelling story about the huge influx of people that left the south western areas affected by the dust bowl in the 1920's and went to California on the promise of jobs in the land of plenty and their deception. This is a story of people in a desperate situation getting exploited. It is played out again and again the world over, particularly among migrant populations. This book is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1939.