J500 Media and the Environment

Oil: It’s What’s For Dinner. by jkongs
April 14, 2008, 10:48 am
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , ,


Credit: geozilla, flikr.com

When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to leave the dinner table until I conquered my leafy nemesis: the pile of watery, steamy olive pulp my grandma called spinach. Her repeated references to Popeye had little to no effect, besides I was a little girl and didn’t want my arms to bulge into steamboats or anvils – gross! While my grandma tallied on her fingers the multitude of health benefits spinach would provide for my growing body, one thing she forgot to leave out was how much oil I would be eating – both literally and figuratively. She also didn’t mention that her ability to afford enough spinach to effectively torture me on a weekly basis was due to our oil-reliant agricultural system.

There is lots of information on the web about how far food travels from the fields to our forks, how our modern agricultural system is heavily dependent on petroleum-based chemicals and machinery fed by diesel, how our systems for processing food – i.e. corn and soybeans – into food products – i.e. potato chips and candy bars – expend tons of energy everyday. Even the plastic packaging that encases everything from baby spinach leaves to gallons of milk to chocolate chip cookies is made out of oil. Of the incredible amount of energy the U.S. food system uses each year (over 10 quadrillion Btu), 80% is used after the food has left the farm in transportation, processing, and packaging.

Credit: Stewart, flikr.com

This oil-based system has served us well since the Green Revolution, when modern agricultural practices were born: as long as oil stayed cheap, so would our food. So what happens now that oil supplies are purported to be dwindling, as oil prices continue to sky rocket, as political and military conflicts struggle to gain control over what oil is left to be had?

Our food security is now inextricably linked to our country’s ability to recover from its oil addiction. As the prices of oil continue to rise and our economy continues to feel the repercussions ( AKA the “Big R” – Recession), economic necessity could result in an increased consumer interest in local foods. Sustainable agriculture and local food markets, good for the environment and our health, are now important for our future ability to buy food. As consumers and citizens, it’s important to remember we vote with our dollars and our ballots to decide how we want our world to look. Plus, if you want those Popeye-esque anvil arms, the local farmers’ market currently has spinach for sale.

Credit: lawrencefarmersmarket.com

–Jennifer Kongs


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Comment by jkongs

Thank you for this thoughtful post! There is so much embedded in the products we consume that we don’t think about. Perhaps the one “blessing” in this food crisis is that people will start to better understand the hidden costs of food. However, the dark cloud of GMOs also looms larger, as a result.

Comment by j500

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