“Only by safeguarding Nature’s resilience can we hope to have a resilient form of food production and ensure food security in the long term.”
– Prince Charles of Wales
We’re at a weird place when it comes to food. Between the latest fad diets, sensationalized scientific reports, and media exposés – Americans are more aware of what they’re eating than ever before. Yet, this awareness is generally limited to personal matters: “Will this food make me fat?” or “Does this vitamin fight cancer or cause it?” We care very much about food on the small-scale, but simultaneously we might be missing the bigger picture, with potentially terrible consequences.
As Prince Charles states in his speech “On the Future of Food,” there is more to our relationship with food than our own bodily health. Our methods of food production and consumption affect the health of the planet itself. The methods of industrial agriculture work for the time being, but they lack sustainability; It is this short-sightedness that has Prince Charles worrying, “for the sake of your generation…It is your future that concerns me and that of your grandchildren, and theirs too.” And again and again, he addresses the problems we face now or will face in the not-too-distant future.
Let’s look at a few of them.
“Yield increases for staple food crops are declining. They have dropped from 3 percent in the 1960s to 1 percent today…for the first time, that rate is less that the rate of population growth.”
By 2050, “the world somehow has to find the means of feeding a staggering 219,00 new mouths every day.”
We’re running out of water – “The Ogallala Aquifer on the Great Plains, for instance, is depleting by 1.3 trillion gallons faster than rainwater can replenish it.”
In the developed world, we throw away, “approximately 40 percent of the food we have bought.”
This, despite the fact that, “over a billion people—one seventh of the world’s population—are hungry and another billion suffer from what is called “hidden hunger.”
For a visual representation of our future based on these statements, please see the following examples:
Stills from George Miller’s documentary, Mad Max: Fury Road
Although I imagine there will be significantly fewer flamethrower guitars and a disappointing lack of Charlize Theron.
But in seriousness, that is a terrifying collection of quotes. And Prince Charles calls for a revamping of our current agricultural practices to address it. We need to utilize organic farming – abandoning the harmful methods of widespread pesticides, antibiotics, and industrial farming for smaller-scaled, sustainable systems that put back in the land what they take out.
I don’t disagree with the Prince’s assertions. I am neither a farmer nor an ecologist, but I trust the research he cites, and believe in the proposals he presents. But there is one practical issue I take with his speech, and it is this:
How do you make people care? And I don’t mean care in the modern sense of changing your profile picture on Instagram or sharing an infographic with your friends. How do you make people care enough about the future to actually do something about it? To research and elect officials that will put these kind of reforms into place, and to individually find and support locations that practice sustainability. This is an issue that needs to be solved with the cooperation of everyone.
People will certainly realize the water is running out when they turn on the tap and only a trickle comes out. They’ll recognize a food shortage when they walk into a grocery store and there’s nothing to buy. But we need to makes changes before we get to that point. And I’m not sure how readily people are willing to make sacrifices for something so long-term. The rhetoric of leaving a good world to one’s descendants is used in movements from combating climate change to choosing peace over war. And for good reason – the sentiment is certainly a powerful one. But we’ve heard that argument again and again, and its effect seems mitigated by repeated use.
I don’t have any answers personally, but I do think at least a few of the signs we see now are encouraging. The demand for organically grown produce is certainly a step in the right direction, although many are likely immediately motivated by taste or health-concerns rather than the Prince’s agenda. Perhaps we might strive to gradually introduce healthier, more sustainable habits into our daily lives, or to make responsible consumption “fashionable” in a way (i.e. the foodie trend of farm-to-table).
For my recipe I’ve chosen a simple home-made caramel dip to be used with fresh apple slices. It is a simple, sweet snack that uses some of the most basic staples for its ingredients – things we readily take for granted – but after this reading we might consider them and their production in a new, appreciative light.
I also chose it because, you know, puns.
Make-Me-Caramel Dip & Apathetic Apple Slices
(Warning: Name makes significantly less sense depending on your pronunciation)
From Jami at Anoregon Cottage
- ⅓ c. butter
- ½ c. brown sugar
- ¼ c. honey
- 1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and raise heat to medium-high, bringing it to a boil. Stir constantly for 10 minutes
- Lower heat to medium or medium-low to reach a low-boil, and cook for 3 minutes, still stirring constantly. Do not leave unattended as the caramel burns easily.
- Remove from heat, allowing it to cool for a bit before transferring to a serving bowl. Serve warm.
- Refrigerate any leftovers. Microwave a few seconds to soften before using again.
- Slice apples into wedges and dip.
Title Picture Source: New Zealand Defence Force on Flickr