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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006


the Omnivoire's Delimma
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on a denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris.

I'll try to avoid the obvious food puns but Michael Pollan's the Omnivore's Dilemma is a rich dessert of elegant verbal treats, sweetened with thoughts both philosophical and political.

(Quoting local food advocate Joel Salitin) "It's all connected. This farm is more like an organism than a machine, and like any organism it has its proper scale. A mouse is the size of a mouse for a good reason, and a mouse that was the size of an elephant wouldn't do very well."

Pollan's four meals (the industrial, the agrarian, the organic and the gathered) clearly delineate some of our possible relationships with food; what's more, it's clear that the most common relationships are the worst for us and the health of our shared biosphere.

Our food system depends on consumers' not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it's a short way from not knowing who's at the other end of your food chain to not caring--to the carelessness of both producers and consumers.

This lack of knowledge -- and indeed the (apparent) strong desire of the powers that be to deny knowledge, crush and impede the Freedom of Information Act, pretend that processed food is just like its real counterparts, distract us with (wonder) bread and circuses, and with fear -- is what worries me. I believe that people will do the right thing (most of the time, by and large) if they know what that thing is and if it's not too hard to do it and if doing it is visible and engenders positive feedback loops. Mass industrial capitalism does not support a human economy of scale.

Regardless of that, however, this is a great book and I enjoyed every minute of my reading!


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Copyright -- Gary Warren King, 2004 - 2006