Getting Fed Up

 

By Susan Lutz

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is watch. We know we should speak up. We know we should act. But, at times, we must let go and watch.

For years I’ve watched young people around me participate in life according to what others have told them. Advertisers cram sugar down kids’ throats; plastic toys fill up bins; we consume and consume and create chaos in our drive to satiate our desires.

I’ve worked to be a model for my kids in how I eat. I speak up about how the milk on the table is made and where the eggs in the carton come from. I show them videos about ecology, recycling, and humane treatment to animals. After awhile, I feel like the teacher in the comic strip, the Peanuts: bla bla bla – after awhile, my message thinned over the airwaves of our home. I knew some was getting in, but society pushes hard. I gave up on some issues, even warmed to a few I once staunchly disliked (i.e. Disney comes to mind).

As I watched my kids and friends’ kids grow, I’d learn of one becoming a vegetarian, another off to build a solar boat, and others blossoming in their awareness of the environment. When a young person’s mind turns on, it’s an amazing thing to stand witness too.

After a class of kids I know saw the documentary film, Fed Up, some were appalled at the treatment of our food system and as if awoken from their childhood world and were shocked at how corporations had a grip on what went into our food. Some I talked to truly empathized with people in the story, suffering from obesity or health issues all so companies could turn a buck.

The light bulbs didn’t just go on – the passion arose. I could see their minds ticking and their ire rise. Discovering the message the film was way more powerful than me just babbling on about it at the dinner table. I am sure the message will fade and settle over time but perhaps a few will let it truly sink in.

The hard truth is we have to go back into the grocery stores, feed our families, and ourselves drink our water, and breathe the polluted air. Cutting out sugar is a lot harder once we realize it is in almost everything we eat. Yet, the power in what they now know gives me the confidence to now watch as they take on these issues for a new generation. And, once they’ve grabbed on and owned it, we can join together and speak up with a louder voice than before.

#1617: Green Sex For Climate’s Sake

Green Sex for Climate’s Sake (Yes, Green Sex is a shade of green)

There is no single solution for climate change…but separating sex from childbearing represents an under appreciated opportunity to forestall climate disaster…for the climate, family planning’s potential benefits are profound.

Those are the words of my guest this week, Alisha Graves, who is the co-founder of the OASIS Initiative (a project of UC, Berkeley which focuses on reducing population growth and poverty in the Sahel region of Africa). Her recent article, “Green Sex for Climate’s Sake,” debates the link between carbon emissions and population, and the need to educate young women, as well as young men, about contraception, family planning and health. For more information go to: oasisinititative.berkeley.edu and projectdrawdown.org.

Digesting Our Politically Correct Food

By Susan Lutz

Eating well means we must understand what healthy ingredients are. Then, we must find, prepare, and finally consume them. In each one of these steps, a pile of information, contradictions, and blockades pop up like a viscous video game, trying to keep us away from our goal of optimum health.

I find it hard enough to battle my own appetite in the quest for good health. Sugar tastes really good. So does salt. Between the battle of calories between chips and candy, I think I’m doing well for my health by choosing vegetables, fruits, and organic products. Yet, I fall short and cave in occasionally. Something I notice when I chew on a chip or down some ice cream is how much cheaper it is to fill up on this stuff.

I started reading food labels back in college when the idea of health and watching what we ate and what it was composed of became more mainstream. I focused on trying to avoid food additives, food coloring, and sugar. Every year since then, it seems another ingredient is added to the list of things-that-are-horrible-for-you. When I was a kid, doughnuts were thought of as kind-of healthy. (I mean they had wheat in them.) We’ve probably all, at times, thought we were “wholesome” products such as granola, cookies, or pizza only to find out that they’re loaded with corn syrup or low-grade industrial cooking oils, or refined grains.

Turns out, many of these not-so-healthy ingredients are subsidized by the government. And if we aren’t eating soy, grains like wheat, corn, rice, our livestock are. Even if we make a huge effort to stay away from these foods, we probably eat them at some time or another. According to this New York Times article:

Between 1995 and 2010, the government doled out $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to finance the production of these foods, the latter two in part through subsidies on feed grains….Most are used as feed for livestock, turned into biofuels or converted to cheap products and additives like corn sweeteners, industrial oils, processed meats and refined carbohydrates.

Trying to avoid these foods seems impossible. Fill up a bag with organic foods and a comparable bag of “regular” food. Feeding a family with the former is really difficult for most budgets. In addition, the government wanted to allow the non-labeling of food.

The Dark Act, a bill to stop labeling of GMO food, failed in the Senate in March of 2016. Free to move forward, the Vermont’s law requiring food to be labeled took effect July 1, 2016.  Those opposed to GMO foods, claim victory only for now, yet still fear a reconstructed form of the bill could come forth in the year to come.

Information drives a consumer to make choices. Price can be the final factor. When choosing to feed a family, many of us must opt for those products because they are cheaper. And then, we get hooked. Our diet is constructed around these products. Changing my eating habits and information took years. Stopping for an organic, grass-fed, dairy cow’s ice cream could be out of the budget and often out reach, literally, for many families. Frozen ice pops in the local market’s freezer in fun-filled flavors are always ready, available, and priced to sell.

Deep Roots

IMG_2966What do organic tomatoes, horn worms and Olympic figure skating legend Dick Buttons have in common? To find out, tune into this week’s show, as Allison Turcan, Stormie Velarde-Hamill and Scott O’Rourke of Deep Roots and DIG Farms, discuss what it takes to run a suburban farm. Learn about WOOFING, and no it doesn’t involve dogs howling, as well as what the difference is between organic and certified organic products. We chat about creepy, crawly and utterly gross worms which attack tomatoes and turns them truly rotten. Local farms supply the booming green markets in the NY metro tri-state area, and Scott, Allison and Stormie are not only growing amazing produce, they are working with kids, via food literacy programs, to educate them about growing delicious and healthy food. For more info go to facebook.com/DIGFarm

Women Farmers Turn Over the Land with Success

By Susan Lutz

The roles of farmers often seem to go to men. Perhaps rooting from generations of roll assignments – the men work the land, the women raise the children and support their husbands. My family’s roots stretch back to farming. I remember the stories of my grandmothers supporting their husbands, doing the chores, and feeding the family and the extra farm hands. Without these women, the farms wouldn’t run. As times change, the farm is changing, too.

Organic lifestyles are creating demands for less pesticides, more local crops, and food grown without GMOs. Farms used to rely on the next generation of children, usually the son, to step up and take over. As large corporations took over acres, they created a mass production and marketing system and small farms couldn’t compete. We watched family farms collapse in the ’80s. Today, women are finding ways to farm with new insight and success.

The US Department of Agriculture reports that, beginning in the 1980s, women farmers were the “fastest-growing sector of the country’s changing agricultural landscape” and they will continue to be well into the next 25 years. The number continues to rise and women farmers are gaining visibility. The economic challenge for farmers has shifted from the tradition of turning the farm over to their children, especially to the boys, to the unknown. Many families turn away from the farm for work, but today more girls and women are choosing to stay. Some enter farming for reasons such as wanting to raise children in the rural lifestyle while others may see it as a profitable way to live. Some simply want to promote organic living. Some women choose sustainable farming and some undertake a larger scale.

Where does a woman, either working alone or with a partner, turn for resources? The growing number of women farmers has created new opportunities in education, management, production, and financial resources. The Internet, blogging, and social media have opened up a new avenue of community to women farmers. With a quick click, any woman can look up how to attack a cucumber beetle without pesticides or when the best time to plant a certain crop is, and they can share stories and develop friendships with other farmers.

Women are taking back the earth. Not from men, but together as partners. My grandmother and grandfather left the farm even before the economy suffered. Over time they gravitated closer to factories and industries offering steady pay. I wonder, if the resources today were available to them, would they have had a chance to grow their farm and adapt with help rather than flee in the hopes of just staying alive and making ends meet. The organic movement is so important to so many women I know. One farm at a time, we may see the land and its caretakers turn over a whole new leaf.

 

The Fight for Food: Who’s Got the Right?

By Susan Lutz

We change all the time. We adapt and learn to survive in new ways. When it comes to food, we fight for the right to know what’s in it, eat organic, and buy local. Often these steps all seem logical. We must continue to move forward and build a better food-making machine.

Enter the GMO. Are they good for us? Bad for us? Huge corporations say they are not only fine but needed. How can GMOs be good for us? While sipping my organic, fair trade coffee one morning I saw a report on CBS Sunday Morning about GMOs, examining both sides. I have to admit, after seeing the papaya grower’s woes about a bug that wiped out all of their crops, I could understand why the farmer chose to use GMO seeds to grow a new papaya that was bug-resistant. Both sides gave logical reasons as to why we should allow or ban GMOs.

It’s easy to say something is “all bad”. McDonald’s, for example, encompasses many things I deplore. Yet, I’ve eaten there. I took my kids to the indoor play areas when I lived in a country that either didn’t have parks for kids or had parks that were too dangerous to play in. Did I understand that I was being “sold” a brand in hopes that not only I but also my children would remember those golden arches for a lifetime? Yes. (My son still points to any McDonald’s we pass and asks to play there years after he’s been in one.)

Both sides have a point. The organizations that are against the corporations developing GMOs are passionate about stopping their use. To date, about 19 European countries have banned GMOs. But what about that farmer and those dead papaya trees? He’s now farming again, profitable again. Would that happen with non-GMO techniques? Perhaps that’s the bigger question. Much research and development goes into the creation of GMOs, helping to solve difficult problems for farmers. But could there be another way?

The world moves so fast. Rather than understand all of the ramifications of choice, we sometimes move in a direction that can be narrow-minded, one that doesn’t look at the big picture. What if we had found ways to destroy bugs with other bugs? I see reports of farmers finding ways to tend crops with organic solutions. Climate change is a response to our decisions and the impact those choices place on the environment. The decision to buy fair trade coffee or not impacts the people who pick it and the communities they live in. Our decisions- the paths we choose in our oil drilling, animal breeding, crop growing, and automobile design, to name a few, lead us to where we are today.

GMOs are creeping into our crops, in such a way that soon it will be hard to find foods, especially processed foods, that are GMO-free. I know that we eat some GMO foods, even though I read my labels religiously, and when we do, I let it go because I know that we are in a process, one that will teach us to make it back to middle ground.

 

 

Organic Humor: Videos to Check Out, Share, and Enjoy

By Susan Lutz

The food wars rage on. Good things are happening. We as consumers are getting savvy about what’s in our food and the path it takes to get to our table. Here is a quick look at some of the funny, poignant, and entertaining clips I love. Humor gets the point across like no other. As Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

The more we share these clever ideas, the more it will reach an audience, open a door, and perhaps, start a conversation and a new way of thinking.

Cuke Vador? Ham Solo? My kids love this video and it makes me chuckle every time I see it. The Grocery Store Wars is perfectly timed to circulate again with the new (and old) audiences o Star Wars. The props are funny; the lines are cheeky and clever.

This video captures the ridiculous concept of marketing and the power of the written word. Every time I shop, I laugh and gasp at corporations’ claims that their product is “all natural.” After reading the ingredient list, there’s nothing natural about the preservatives, the dyes, and unpronounceable things that start with “p.” I giggle at the amazing pull of advertising and marketing to make us all feel better about paying for close-enough to organic products. Great script. Hilarious.

This video is clever. The satire is on the mark. Simply and with razor-sharp wit, it questions why we had to mess with nature at all. Guess the job just wasn’t up to Monsanto’s standard.

Genetic Scientists Develop Sheep With Brain Of A Goat – The Onion published this short clip showing the overall ridiculous world of altering life on the planet. I realized that I smiled from beginning to end.

Climate Change Deniers Anthem: Beau Bridges plays the Koch brothers; the singers gather to offer up an anthem, We are the World style, that we’re just fine. The climate’s not changing – polar bears are fine; Al Gore’s a liar; and the earth’s temperatures are not rising. We’re fine!

When something’s funny, it hits a chord. The power of video can spread consciousness in a way that isn’t so preachy. Humor may save us all, as nothing can stand against the wave of its assault. Watch and see.