Plant over Processed and Food Justice
I saw Earthy Andy’s “plant over processed challenge” on Instagram and it inspired me to actually write on this subject that I think so much about.
I think somewhere along the way we forgot what real food looks like. It’s messy, dirty, and imperfect like anything real. It is grown in the ground, not manufactured in factories.
Now people eat imitations of food. Products that are branded as edible chemicals (with a little sugar, oil, and flour). Most people don’t even look at what it is made of, but those that do search for a familiar term in the laundry list of ingredients.
I love and aspire to everything in this picture.
Chips, crackers, cookies, cereals, the list goes on has an ingredient list of natural flavors this and natural flavors that, but if Froot Loops actually were naturally “froot flavored” then the ingredients would actually include FRUIT.
There is nothing natural about natural flavors, but because of the naturalistic fallacy we believe that anything natural is good. Oddly, people want natural flavors without eating any foods that are actually naturally grown like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes.
People want convenience so we head straight to the pre-packaged, pre-cut, and processed sections of the grocery store. Instead of buying carrots that require work to cook like they required work to be grown; people buy baby carrots. These are cut and processed to be small, convenient, bright orange, and easy. Oh wait did I forget to mention they take a chlorine bath?
When food looks like the carrots in the first picture - raw and natural - I think it shocks people. Farm to table restaurants became a trendy hipster idea, but I think it’s how it should be. Real conversations connecting us with those who play the most important role in our world - giving us food, giving us life. Farmers sometimes get a bad wrap when people talk about climate change, but it’s not the farmers to blame, it’s the greedy people running large industries who value profit over people and the planet.
Food choices have an impact greater than you and your health, although extremely important. That is the most immediate and direct correlation so it is understandable that it is usually a person’s priority, but your choices connect you to people all over the world. Someone planted, picked, and packaged your food. That’s the good scenario - maybe multiple factory workers completed their step on the supply chain to prepare it. Then you decide where, what, and how you will carry your food - are you using all single use plastics? Then how you cook it, who you eat it with, and how you enjoy what you made. Then there’s the food you don’t eat - what will it’s fate be - landfill or compost? Most natural foods can be composted, although not many people do this since it is not well supported by larger structures. In a landfill when your apple core, for example, breaks down it actually ends up releasing more CO2 than it would have if composted.
Here’s a disclaimer though: I am fully aware that I am a privileged white person living in a big city who bought these carrots at Whole Foods. I fully believe in the power of a vegan lifestyle, although I do not consider myself 100% vegan, but I know it is not the be all end all solution to the worlds problems. The devastating Amazon fires began to clear land for cattle ranching, but if not beef, then it would be something else and the same workers would be exploited for a different practice. Going vegan would help, but it would not solve the root problem of a disregard for human life.
I know it sounds like I’m being very critical of a lifestyle I advocate for, but if we are going to hold others to a high standard I think we need to hold ourselves to one too. My disclaimer said, I know that me not eating meat and most animal products will not solve all the problems that comes with it, but I think it is a start. If we continue telling people it is not enough, or that a vegan diet is just a sign of privilege, then we are alienating people instead of educating them. I said earlier I acknowledge my privilege because it is true and because that is the narrative so often carried out. Yes, being able to buy organic, sustainable products can be more expensive, but that is a deeper economic issue and the terrifying notion that corporations are selling us our health. I think the real privilege lies in those who are ignorant and intentionally uneducated on the impact of their choices. However, I could turn this around and say that knowledge is power when combined with action and those who do so have the privilege of the commitment to their self and society.
Now I know I am talking kind of philosophically right now, but I think it is important to remember that any issue has layers and counter-counter arguments. In the end if you want to make a change, the choice needs to be yours - no one forced me to eat this way, in fact my mom tried to persuade me not to because it seemed unhealthy (and now I give her health tips). There is pressure to eat more plant-based now more than ever given the climate emergency, but look at it as an opportunity to contribute.
"No one person can do everything, but we can all do something, and that’s better than nothing."
The issue is presented as so disastrous and huge that since they can’t do everything they decide to do nothing. No change will ever come from this. Shame is not the most productive way to get people involved in your effort and there are different levels of environmentalism. Instead of telling people they’re a terrible person for still eating honey and not being completely vegan, how about acknowledging their efforts to cut out meat and dairy and support them for what they can do. No one person can do everything, but we can all do something, and that's better than nothing. I used to think you couldn’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat, but now I see how narrow minded that view is. People contribute how they can. Some people have solar paneled houses, some compost, some ride their bike to work, some are waste free, some spread awareness, and some are vegan. Each and every one is helping and for that I am thankful.