“Plastic is killing the Earth, Mama”, my nearly 10-year old daughter said.
She learned that micro-plastics can now be found in many of the fish and sea life in the oceans. (And in humans, too.) Everything is about the UAE 2020 Expo right now and since it’s focused on sustainability and the environment, the class lesson was focused on this.
“Why can’t we go back to 500 years ago and do it differently? So what if it’s harder for humans? At least the Earth won’t be dying”, she said this, too.
I remember being about her age thinking similarly. I looked at the adults around me and wondered why they hadn’t done more to help preserve our planet, to keep it safe.
As an adult one comes to understand just how much gray there is in life, how little can be black or white. But does that mean we should do nothing?
We talked about what WE are doing to keep our planet safe. She went down the list:
use reusable water bottles
use cotton tote bags for our groceries and all other shopping
eat organic, local, foods from biodynamic and sustainable farming as much as possible (not an easy one for us geographically speaking)
buy clothes from companies that do good things for the planet
grow our own food (some of it)
use beeswax sheets, glass and steel containers to store our food instead of plastic wrap/bags
use reusable straws
“Is it enough?”, she asked, “Because I think we can do more.”
She wants to act. She wants to participate. She wants to see that her efforts can make a difference.
I wondered where this conviction went for most of us.
I wondered where our conviction (and interest) especially in our food went. Because it is precisely here where we absolutely can not afford to be complacent, where we should NOT be passive onlookers. It is all about our food. It always starts with our food.
My parents taught me this. My dad, who cooked Colombian meals, who wouldn’t let my sister or I ever eat fast food, who stressed the importance of our food as part of our identity, understood that handing over our right to feed ourselves well meant handing over our rights...and identity.
Let’s face it, once we decided that Big Agriculture knew how to feed us best, that’s when we decided to stop paying attention. So wowed were we with innovation and convenience that we just went along with whatever THEY decided WE should eat and feed our families. All while family farms went bankrupt, their land tossed into a heap of monoculture farming, and our environment was further abandoned.
My dad left and as a single mom doing her best, my sister and I ate almost what everyone else did. Almost. We were far from strangers to the processed food scene. But we also had the real food of our culture. Different. But it gave me perspective.
I’m not sure when we started believing that we had more important things to do and accomplish than cooking and eating real food together. In my house, where money was scarce and time was scarcer, cheap and convenient food was a thing of survival. But I know that if it wasn’t for my connection to our traditional food, I would have lost all connection to food and ultimately myself.
That’s where we’ve been for quite some time. Lost to our connection to our food and the natural world. We’ve become ignorant even about where our food comes from, who cooks it, what it looks like. And because shame often accompanies ignorance we turn it into indignation and shame those around us for choosing the less processed track.
The thing is, this ignorance has numbed our palates, it’s numbed us from the inside out so what most of us feel is apathy. That’s where our conviction went. It was numbed out of us after decades of foodstuff gracing our tables or cars or wherever we eat. And then it was numbed away because we started eating alone, mostly with our devices...A LOT. We numbed ourselves into isolation from others, then from ourselves.
I’m not anti technology or anti corporations or anti sugar or anti much actually. But what I am anti is being ushered along into a life where I’m meant to be a passive participant, when the very basics of what supports my human life, 3 times/day, is chosen by conglomerates, subsidized by our governments, and created in laboratories and assembly lines. I didn’t choose that path even if I had to cling to it for survival as a child. I knew then, even as a child, that there was a better way but we, as a society, hadn’t found it yet.
Now, in our pandemic times, we saw an incredible amount of collective effort halt the everyday functioning of the entire world. THE ENTIRE WORLD. Still we observe all kinds of rules and restrictions for our safety and the safety of others. If we can do this, we can take care of our planet which is the same thing as caring about our safety and the safety of others. If we proved we can actively engage in behavior to protect ourselves and others then surely we can keep doing it, extending it to where it counts for all of us.
Let’s connect these dots.
A healthy planet = healthy plants = healthy animals = healthy food = healthy people = a healthy planet, and so on.
We can’t separate that. Take for granted any of those dots and the whole thing collapses. The whole thing is collapsing.
I don’t want an uprising.
I want real food, free from harmful chemicals and pesticides, grown by farmers who can make a decent living while they remain the stewards of the Earth, making sure our soils retain integrity after each harvest. I want this for everyone. No more food deserts. No more irresponsible waste. If Big Ag wants to get on board and support this kind of farming, then great, get on board. Pesticides and more genetic engineering isn’t going to get us there. Real, authentic, honest farming will.
I want Big Ag to stop polluting our air and our waters so the Earth can stop dying, so it can go back to living. And so we can all look in our children’s eyes and tell them with all the truth in our hearts that we did everything we could. We didn’t care about inconvenience. We didn’t care about sacrifice. Because nothing is more important than handing over a planet that is in a much better place than the one handed over to us. I want this.
*Photo Credit: Unsplash @NarimanMesharrafa