This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things. I originally started eating this way to heal from chronic health problems and...it worked!
I've seen a lot on social media the past week about boycotting Chick-Fil-A because they support organizations that aim to restrict gay rights. This is amusing for me because I grew up in Marietta, Georgia, eating Chick-Fil-A all the time. And I even went to Camp Winshape, which was started by Truett Cathy, Chick-Fil-As founder. Back then I was a fast-food-fried chicken Southern Evangelical. My life has changed since then, but I admit my mouth still waters a little when I think about the Chick-Fil-A fried chicken breakfast biscuit with tater tots. Oh, and the light as air lemon meringue pie. When my family moved north when I was 15, I missed such things sorely and ate at Chick-Fil-A whenever I went back South. But the love affair fell flat when I started cleaning up my diet. I remember I planned on making some exceptions when a Chick-Fil-A opened on the University of Illinois campus. I eagerly devoured my sandwich one bright Illinois morning. And felt absolutely awful for the entire rest of the day. It felt a lot like a hangover. I fell asleep in economics class. I told myself that wouldn't happen again. It wasn't worth it.
But a craving struck when I lived in Sweden. Obviously, it's impossible to get Chick-Fil-A there. So I hit the internet hoping to recreate it in my own kitchen. By then I was a lot more educated about nutrition, so the "top secret" recipe seemed a little horrifying to me. I wasn't about to coat chicken in sugar and flour and fry it in omega-6 garbage peanut oil. Of all the oils to chose, peanut is one of the worst. Extremely high in omega-6, which Americans consume in excessive amounts, it has a more unfavorable fat profile than even canola or soy oil, and is highly allergenic. Omega-6 is also not particularly heat stable and Chick-Fil-A is using it on fried chicken.
Also, god knows where their chicken comes from. I'm pretty sure it's not free-range or even organic. For a company whose ads involve animals pleading to not being eaten, it seems a little sad to think that their meat comes from an industry known for poor animal welfare, as well as community and environmental destruction.
So I don't need to boycott Chick-Fil-A for its current stance on gay rights. I already was boycotting it for serving garbage. I mean, nothing says family values like abusing animals, destroying the environment, and addicting people to fast food...right?
It's really disappointing to me to see friends and family members saying they are going to eat Chick-Fil-A to support "family values" and "business freedom." Go to your local farmers market and you will find plenty of farmers with good old-fashioned Christian values. I'm sure Joel Salatin and Cathy would find much to agree on, except Salatin is against using the government to enforce his values while Cathy uses his business to funnel money into groups that lobby the government to shape laws that restrict other people's rights.
As for Chick-Fil-A being a "clean" fast food option, thanks to HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) plans, food poisoning is pretty rare at any major fast food restaurants. Killing people with acute illness leads to lawsuits, it's perfectly OK to damage their health by serving food linked to chronic long-term health problems.
You know, it's kind of amazing to realize that you can get pretty good craft beer at nearly any convenience store in a city. You can even get it at a random mediocre bar your friend dragged you to for a birthday party or something. It's pretty much everywhere at this point. I wasn't allowed to drink when I was 5, but I hear that twenty years ago it definitely wasn't that way. I've often mused about what it would be like if you could get good grass-fed meat so easily.
But imagine if you went to a good bar and you asked what was on tap and they said "craft beer." You've heard good things about it. You ask what kind and they are like "well, it's artisan and it's certified craft beer." You order a pint and it's really really bitter. You decide to order a Corona next time.
Unfortunately that's kind of where grass-fed meat is now. It's a premium product, people are interested in buying it, but it's stuck in some kind of commodity purgatory. I'm often torn between thinking that it's great that some jerky in the store says "grass-fed" on the label and that there are "grass-fed" burger bars across Chicago, and kind of disappointed in them. Most of the time if you contact the companies that make those products or talk to the burger bar owners, they won't even tell you what farms the animals are from.
This is bad. I recall a conversion I had a few months ago with a guy at the gym. I told him I mainly buy grass-fed meat from local farmers and he said "yeah, I tried that, but it tasted so awful that I don't think I'll buy it again." I asked him where it came from and he had no idea.
Honestly, I've bought some positively awful grass-fed meat. It sucks to spend that kind of money on something that you end up having to drown in spices. Luckily I know that not all meat is the same. "Grass-fed" is a minimum premium standard that has nothing to do with taste quality. Taste is affected by diet, breed, age of animal, and butchering skill, among many other things. Yes, consumers buying these products often need to learn a few basic cooking skills, but that won't save them from meat that's just not very good (a meat tenderizer, added fat, tons of spices can sometimes save mediocre meat).
So the whole commodity attitude damages the product's reputation. I also think it stifles producer innovation (of course there are tons of things doing that, like regulation, this is just one of them). I was drinking some excellent Rockmill beer this weekend and I thought, what if niche meat were more like craft beer? What if people knew of certain producers and knew their product tasted different? What if stores stocked meat from multiple producers and labeled it as such?
I'm happy to say there are already some places in Chicago I know of that treat meat like this. The Butcher and the Burger is one of them. If you have been to the other burger bars in Chicago and didn't like them, definitely try this place. My main complaint is that they don't always get my order right (medium when I said rare) and they use peanut oil in the fryer, but the meat itself is very good and some of it is even from one of the owner's own farms. There are some exceptions on the menu, so I'd stick with the meat from specific farms, such as the Q7 beef, which is very silky and has a good amount of fat, and the La Pryor pork.
The good butcher shops I've been to are also pretty good about this. In NYC you have The Meat Hook and Dickson's Farmstand. In Chicago you have The Butcher & The Larder and Publican Quality Meats. Of course farmer's markets seem like a good option, but few allow consumers to taste before buying, which is an obstacle because why should I buy extremely expensive meat if I don't know what it tastes like? With craft beers, tastings are common. I had Mint Creek Farms lamb at a restaurant before, so that's how I started buying from them. With Meatshare I often worked with farmers new to selling to urban markets and they offered their meat at lower prices or offered tastings in order to gain a foothold. The cool thing about that is I can tell you exactly what their products tasted like. And they all tasted different. The pork from Spring Lake Farm, for example, had a high percentage of hay in the diet, giving the pork a delicious almost-beefy savory flavor. B&Y farms, a producer that later moved on to the farmer's market after working with us, produced Tunis lamb that had these fatty wonderful tails that braised up very nicely. The goat I would buy from Glynwood was the best goat I've ever had, not too fatty and not too lean.*
I've followed Carrie Oliver on Twitter for awhile and she does some events with beef tasting that seem like a promising model. I think we definitely need more of this- more emphasis on meat as a diverse producer-oriented product.
*that's the problem I have with Whole Food's lamb. The NZ stuff is grass-fed, but often is so terribly lean and gamey. The US lamb is usually too fatty and a little flavorless. I like balance.
Some people have occasionally asked me to comment on the Danish fat tax. I do have a background in economics, but I didn't comment at first because I don't live in Denmark and they won't let me live there even if I wanted to. Oh, and based on my time in Denmark, it seems like they are used to paying more for everything anyway and their consumption won't change much, except canola oil will be used in most commercial/institutional food, but that was already happening. Scandinavia taxes alcohol through the roof and makes it difficult to buy. When I studied abroad in Sweden I got an email from the UI Study Abroad office telling us that some American students in Italy were giving us a bad name by binge drinking. I laughed. There was no way I could out binge drink the Swedes. And alcohol there cost a pretty penny.
But I was naive. Of course people are going to look at the fat tax in Denmark and consider whether or not such a tax would have an effect here. Marion Nestle has a letter in New Scientist: "let us congratulate Denmark on what could be viewed as a revolutionary experiment. I can't wait to see the results."
Unfortunately it's not going to be a very enlightening experiment in regards to the fat tax because while the fat tax is getting a lot of press, it is part of a general tax reform program that is levying "sin taxes" on all sorts of things from sweets to tobacco.
I don't object to these taxes, sometimes portrayed as "sin taxes" or "pigouvian taxes", but I think they are usually quite disingenuous and do not do what they are supposed to do. As noted in Marion's letter, the powerful lobbies in Denmark (which have very little power compared to similar lobbies in the US) got their products exempted and it just so happens that these taxes encourage the consumption of canola, a crop that the government there has been promoting for years.
And it prevents us from talking about the fact that it's not sugar or fat per se that's the issue, it's foods that people overeat and those are almost all processed foods. And the government has put together an institutional and regulatory structure that is an effective (and sometimes outright) subsidy on processed foods. From school purchasing to regulations requiring expensive high-capital equipment and facilities in order to sell food to the public, the whole system is rigged. And here is where I'm quite unlibertarian (or at least traditionally)- most of these industrial farms and processing facilities are allowed to destroy things they don't even own. If you don't own a river, you shouldn't have any right to destroy it. The EPA has some regulations that sort of say you can only dump so much toxic crap into various bodies of water, but they are anemic and poorly enforced.
If you tax saturated fat, companies with large food-science departments aren't going to suffer. They are going to figure out how to get saturated fat low in their cookies while keeping other palatability markers high and people are going to continue to overeat them. Anyone ever try to eat the recommended serving size for Snackwells cookies or Skinny Cow popsicles? I certainly never could.
I usually despise the use of the word privilege, since it's often used as a way to tell certain people their opinions aren't valid, but I think it's very much true that the companies that make industrial processed food are operating from a position of privilege. The regulatory structure is made for (and often by) them, they control political discourse through lobbyists, and they have contracts with the government to provide food to our schoolchildren and military, our jobs and lifestyles are often based around the assumption we will rely on processed foods.
“They’ve drawn Michelle Obama into negotiations on improving the nutritional quality of processed foods,” he explained, “which is better than nothing, but her original, and to my mind, much more effective focus was simply on real food—fresh produce, cooking for your family etc. There is reason to doubt that ‘better for you’ processed foods will do us any good. Think about Snackwell’s—the same idea, during the low-fat campaign. It was ‘better for you’ yet we binged on better for you products and got fat on low-fat. The same thing could happen again.”
We can't fall into their trap, which is to reduce debate about food to "fat," "fructose," and other properties of food rather than to actually talk about the food itself. Food itself is more complicated and its constituents can act in unpredictable synergistic ways (like the economy).
I think we should recognize the immense privilege processed foods have in our society and acknowledge their negative impact, and consider how that can be dismantled, rather than taxing isolated properties of food. We should also end subsidies on processed foods, from agricultural subsidies to school food buying programs. I'm not hopeful about this being done on a national level myself though. I know it can be hard for people to let go of the idea that there is one right way to do something and we have to force everyone in the whole country to do it that way, but I think it would be better of more food policy issues were decided locally rather than federally.
Last night I gave a presentation at the Brooklyn Brainery about how anyone can save money on local pastured meat by buying in bulk, aka, meatshares. You can view it below and we are coming out with a more detailed booklet soon!
I'm going to call the paleo diet portrayed in the media the PaleoStrawman diet. It contains only lean meat and non-starchy vegetables. The meat comes from factory farms. The latest place it has showed up on is NPR, where anthropologist Barbara King contends that it is not the way to a healthy future for the world. She says she has interacted with paleo dieters online and has read Paleo magazine, but it doesn't show at all.
Paleo means more factory farmed animals
Paleo means more grains diverted from feeding the hungry to feeding livestock
Paleo has a dearth of carbohydrates
Paleo is a monolith
Paleo is bad for a crowded planet
I think there are only a few holdouts in the lean meat camp. The no-starch camp is in its death throes as we speak, embracing a doctor who believes anyone who eats carbohydrates has diabetes and drfiting further into denialism territory. There is not a single paleo book on the market that I can think of that advocates eating grain-fed meat. PaleoStrawman has gotten considerable criticism from within the ancestral health community.
But in the end, it doesn't matter, because even if the paleo diet involved chomping down on grain-fed steaks all day, it would have nothing to do with our ability to feed the world.
We all want to believe our diet has the power to change the world, but it does not. If every person in NYC chose to stop eating grain-fed meat today, it would not help people in Africa. When grain doesn't go to the feedlot, it doesn't get sent to Africa either. Farmers would chose to grow less grain or grow it for biofuels. We already produce enough food to feed the entire population of the world. What is hurting poor countries is political corruption and poor infrastructure. What poor countries need is good leaders and investment in infrastructure and education.
As for vegetarianism and factory farming, sadly, the worst offenders in factory farming are vegetarian products such as dairy and eggs. Vegetarianism is more efficient compared to grain-fed meat partially because the industrialization of eggs and dairy has made these industries very productive. However, they are the most cruel and environmentally destructive animal industries besides the industrial hog farm industry. Jonathan Safran Foer, certainly no paleo dieter, recommends in Eating Animals that if you care about animals, conventional eggs and dairy are the first foods you eliminate.
As for the anthropology, it makes little sense to worry about australopithecines being vegetarian, a hominid with significantly different morphology. Or to worry about the local context very much. Of course people ate diverse diets then. You can eat a diverse locally-based paleo diet now. And for those of us in the North, it makes absolute sense to eat meat rather than trucked-in grain products. Solutions for world hunger do not have to involve the same diet for everyone. Sustainable solutions will be local solutions.
Last weekend I visited my friend Ulla Kjarval and her family's farm Spring Lake Farm (they also have a blog) in Delhi, NY. I met Ulla on Twitter and I've been buying from her farm for my Meatshare meetup group. It was wonderful to get to visit and spend time with them and their wonderful animals.
The animals were hard to spot in the tall grass and their farm really was huge, at over 300 acres. Farmer Ingimundur has been steadily increasing the amount of grass the pigs are eating, so they are mostly grass-fed, which is rare even on similar locavore-catering farms. Because of the amount of grass in their diet, the pork has a delicious savory beefy quality.
Delicious spare ribs
Which is good, because I eat it a lot and so do they. Farmer Ingi says that because of all his contact with paleo/ancestral dieters, he has more fully embraced meat as healthy. He says he has lost considerable weight and has more energy than ever thanks to eating lots of pork belly for breakfast every day. That mirrors the experience Heath from Wooly Pigs, another pig farmer who has gone paleo with amazing results.
One thing I'll miss about NYC is my meatshare group. Small farmers have a lot of trouble marketing their meat and I'm glad we've been able to buy so much from Spring Lake Farm. Both the farm and our group have overcome many challenges and we've learned so much in the process (sometimes the hard way).
Wisconsin 2022. Things have gotten bad since 2011. The economy recovered somewhat, employment didn't. Outsourcing, automation, productivity per person, and general economic stagnation have produced a dire economic situation, particularly among young people. The dream of productivity gains allowing people to work less has turned into a nightmare. It's more productive to have fewer employees than to let people work less. Few young people are getting married. Fertility is dropping. Resource prices, particularly for fossil fuels and synthetic fertilizer, just reached an all-time high.
What do things look like? I think in 2011 we are at a crossroads: how to could we deal with a potential "Lights in the tunnel" chronic structural unemployment situation? More and more, this looks like a future reality. A full-time job might not be available to everyone in the future. The job system might collapse.
What will we rely on then? I think this depends on the regulatory climate. I think a favorable realistic situation would be that more and more people become self-reliant for basic needs such as food. For income they rely on various odd jobs and gigs. I see many people moving towards this system right now, including me. Young people with part-time jobs have more time than money, so they are more likely to engage in things like urban homesteading. They cook more at home and care more about things like eating good food, spending time with their families, and exercising. They are likely to live longer than their wealthier hard-working Boomer parents.
I wonder what sort of system that philosophy leads to? I'm afraid Martin Ford describes it in Lights in the Tunnel. It's a government-based economy where corporations produce everything and in order to keep the consumer system from collapsing (unemployed people are terrible consumers), people are supported by government subsidies that are tied to government-approved incentives. Ford isn't sure what those incentives would be, but thinks they might involve paying people to be eco-friendly or something. Sounds like a dystopia to me.
We are at a crossroads here. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a perfect example. I share OWS's distaste for the fact our government has largely been captured by a small number of elites and corporations. But what are we going to do about it? I have a feeling the government will put social programs in place to distract people from the fact it hasn't changed, that it's still captured. And those social programs are often cleverly disguised corporate subsidies. Notice they never fix the systems that are broken, they just pour more money into them. Universities fail to provide student with real skills, so let's pour more money into them so they can be the new beer and circus for the lost generation. Dairy farms failing? Put in place price supports and regulations that reinforce the failed high-capital industrial systems.
And then we have to "protect" people from everything under the sun, which is a great excuse for all manner of injustices. I wouldn't be surprised if by 2022 you can't buy non-irridiated raw meat at the grocery store because the government has to "protect" people who might not cook it properly.
I looked at it and thought that this is why my creativity is crippled. I am afraid. I am afraid to invest in the things I love, because I know they can be unjustly taken away. I'd rather just not have them in the first place than have my heart broken.
I've eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge and it has poisoned me. I've read Mad Sheep, which is about a farm family that worked hard to bring a rare breed of sheep to the United States and build a business around them, before the government seized and killed them all based on seriously doubtful science. I've read about Joel Salatin's struggle to build a business in a world of regulations designed for giant corporate farms. I've seen footage of armed raids on small farms because people sold things that the government doesn't approve of. I've had friends investigated by Animal Control and Ag & Markets, because someone reported them. Their business suffers no matter if the accusation is correct or not, and the accuser faces no consequences. They can't even know who the accuser was. I've known farmers who lost land to eminent domain because the government decided they weren't important enough.
Why should I bother to work hard? Or to plant walnut trees on our farm in Wisconsin that won't bear nuts for twenty years? What if in twenty years everything has been taken away? It's no wonder young people are occupying wall street insteading of getting out there and building new and interesting things.
So yes, I'd like to see the end of crony capitalism, but let's be careful what we ask the Leviathan for.
This is the first time ever that I'm writing a review without linking to the book in question. The book in question is Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, by Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and Aric McBay. Lierre Keith is famous in the "paleo" community because she wrote The Vegetarian Myth. That book had some bad science and some questionable anti-man/anti-civilization ideas, but as a whole it was a book that had many good ideas.
A few years ago I went to see Derrick Jensen speak at University of Illinois. At that time I was involved with non-violent activism, so it was a shock to hear that we should engage in industrial sabotage and blow up dams because they are killing the Earth NOW and we need to stop them NOW. Derrick talked about how evil civilization is, but it was clear there was more at play here. He talked about having been sexually abused by his father as a child. It seemed this undeniably horrible act had warped him into a human that could see nothing good in anything but his chosen refuge, nature.
I knew Derrick was Lierre's best friend, but I didn't want to tar and feather her on my blog based on guilt by association. I quietly stopped linking to her book though. Now that this book is out, it's obviously she has gone off the deep end. It's ironic because in the book she blame carbohydrates for making people crazy. What then is responsible for her unhinged nearly-unreadable rant that bears alarming similarities to the diatribes of the Unabomber? I suspect she hasn't been making speaking appearances because at this point she's probably on the terrorist watch list.
Based on the Amazon review, Derrick and Lierre have successfully recruited many youths to their cause. Based on the book's military-like operations manual that advocates killing disloyal members of your cause, I'm sure they will troll this post and accuse me of being some sort of capitalist pig. Au contraire- I am the "withdrawal" sort of activist (a "New Agrarian" I suppose, the most famous of which are Joel Salatin and Wendell Berry), which also gets criticized in the book, but I suppose is not classified as being as evil as teh rich capitalists. According to DGR, the withdrawal folks have some good ideas about non-participation in a messed-up system, but we don't realize that it's too late for the Earth and civilization needs to stop now.
"The goal of DGR is to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. It also means defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases. This is a vast undertaking, but it can be done. Industrial civilization can be stopped." It's clear that it doesn't matter how many poor people die as long as the rich people die.
The authors take as explicitly manifest that
a. civilization is the greatest evil and non-civilization is much better
b. ecoterrorism or not, everyone is going to die because the planet's state is so dire
So from the outset we have some questionable premises. You also have to wonder why the book is $13.50 for Amazon Kindle (TM) and not being distributed free like the Unabomber's works. I suppose if you asked them why this is they would mumble something about being forced to live under evil capitalism until the revolution.
Now my own background is in environmental and development economics. I do agree that there are some disturbing things happening in the world to the environment and to people. But there are enough things getting better that it's hard for me to advocate giving up on civilization.
Derrick and Lierre both have angry rants about how men abuse women and children, as if somehow this is related to civilization. In my studies of foraging populations, I have come across behavior towards women and children that would make you blanch. The "semen cults" of Melanesia, for example, involving making boys into men by having them ingest semen from older men. Overall foraging societies are quite diverse in their treatment of women and children, but there is no reason to believe that the natural state of humans somehow precludes abuse. There is no evidence that such societies are as accepting of lesbians like Lierre as our society is.
I think Lierre and Derrick know this though. Lierre mentions that Inuit women were expected to kill all children under three years of age if their fathers died. Somehow in her twisted mind, our society is more abusive because we have evil things like pornography involving anal sex.
But in the end, while Derrick and Lierre may have gone carnivore, that an endangered seagull is more important to them than your brother. Time and time again they simply dismiss any objection to their plot with sentences like "200 species today are gone forever." Such questionable statistics are staples of the book, like Lierre's absurd claim that " The number one perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse is called 'Dad.'"
Apparently, even today, all women are being totally oppressed. I didn't get the memo. I don't feel oppressed...I have a lot more rights and freedoms than a hunter-gatherer woman as far as I know. Apparently
With male entitlement comes a violation imperative: men become men by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the physical boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, or the biological boundaries of ecosystems. For the entitled psyche, the only reason “No” exists is because it’s a sexual thrill to force past it.
Yikes. It seems that the authors in this book are incapable of viewing humans as individuals, probably because they believe humans, particularly men, are an oppressive pestilence on the Earth.
Lierre claims that "Gender is probably the ultimate example of power disguised as biology. " Yeah sure, that's why you quote Andrea Dworkin advocating that women buy guns to protect themselves. You don't need a gun Lierre, you just have to stop being so oppressed and then the strength differences between you and men would disappear!
The oppression meme is strong with this book. Everyone is being oppressed, they just don't know it. Another group that's being oppressed are people living in the slums. As I learned in The Coming Population Crash, these people don't know it either!
Some fear the slums. They can be dangerous places. The biggest causes of death among young people in São Paulo are traffic accidents and homicide. A Californian urban geographer, Mike Davis, has written a book called Planet of Slums, an apocalyptic take on the huge slums that dominate many megacities in the developing world. It is terrifying. But his image is not what I see when I go to slums. They have their gangs and drugs and open sewers and heartbreaking stories. But slums are at least as much places of hope and enterprise and innovation. That’s why people move to them. For every gun-toting gangster or terrorist, there are a hundred romantic would-be slumdog millionaires. Hormones aren’t all bad. Even male hormones. I went to Dharavi in Mumbai, where the movie’s fictional slumdog was brought up. Often called Asia’s largest slum (in fact, that dubious distinction goes to Orangi in Karachi), it has 600,000 people crammed into a maze of narrow lanes and shacks covering less than one square mile, about half the size of New York’s Central Park. It is “a vision of urban hell,” according to Smithsonian magazine. Visiting businessmen shiver at the thought that terrorists hiding in Dharavi could shoot down a plane taking off from Mumbai International Airport right over the back fence. The municipal government wants to bulldoze it and start again. As do real estate developers, who lust to replace it with a posh estate of high-rise apartment blocks, like the one just over the river. The inhabitants? They want to stay, because Dharavi is a thriving community, entirely unlike the terrifying image.
But Derrick insists that even if most of them die, the urban poor will be better of if civilization collapses. The mind boggles.
The horrifying miserable life of people in Brazil's slums. Yes, I'm aware that not all slums look like this, but the vast majority of people in slums have living standards higher than most rich people in 1800. For example, many people in the slums have cell phones. Often people chose to stay in slums because government oversight is lower and they are more free to run their businesses as they see fit.
Ironically it's ancient human tribal instincts that subvert participation in her ideas. For millions of years humans cared about their own tribe and their own land and nothing else. It's worth arguing that civilization has increased our "tribal bonds" by bonding us through commerce and information to other people across the world. If civilization collapses you bet most people (including admittedly myself) would start killing anyone that comes within a mile of their family's property, the same way the Sentinelese tribe does.
Regardless, besides a few people damaged by horrible families, most people aren't going to sacrifice the welfare of their friends and family to save an endangered snail. Call us selfish if you like.
Q: How do I know that civilization is not redeemable? Derrick Jensen: Look around. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. Salmon are collapsing. Passenger pigeons are gone. Eskimo curlews are gone. Ninety-eight percent of native forests are gone, 99 percent of wetlands, 99 percent of native grasslands. What standards do you need? What is the threshold at which you will finally acknowledge that it’s not redeemable?
The anti-civ folks want us to believe that because the snail dies out, that the whole planet is dying, which speaks to an overwhelming arrogance considering that if a caldera volcano like Yellowstone erupted it would take out far more species. And life on Earth would go on, just as it has when similar volcanoes have erupted in the past. The authors of DGR also claim that nuclear warheads would not be a danger as civilization collapses, one of many fantasies the authors seem to have based more on sci-fi novels than on facts (I find it absolutely hilarious that Lierre cribs the word Patronus from the evil capitalistic Harry Potter books, written by an evil rich woman). There is also plenty of evidence that tribal people have also caused extinctions, particularly of the megafauna in the Americas and Oceania.
That's not to deny that there are serious issues to the world today. But advocating that we wipe the slate clean would require better evidence. The authors go to great lengths to totally dismiss people who are doing ecosystem remediation, making solar cells more efficient, and other things they claim are "technofixes." I suppose that if you believe technology is evil, you have to dismiss these things despite their merits.
This is a disturbing book and I fear that we will see many terrorist attacks on our already-crumbling infrastructure in the near future. The tactics advocated in this book range from assassination to blowing up dams and powerlines.
Dismantle the critical physical infrastructure required for industrial civilization to function. Induce widespread industrial collapse, beyond any economic or political systems. Use continuing and coordinated actions to hamper repairs and replacement. Operations: Focus almost exclusively on decisive and sustaining operations. Organization: Requires well-developed militant underground networks.
I for one will no longer recommend any of Keith's books and my next post will include alternatives.
I've tangled with a lot of opinionated folks since I started this blog. But I never expected the response I got to my post on Lierre Keith. It reminds me that as much as vegans and animal rights activists irk me, we are all trying to make civilization a better place, even if our ultimate visions are different. Anti-civilization people see the injustices of the world and can only envision tearing everything down, which is sadly based on a vision of pre-civilization humans that is doubtful and the idea that the earth is dying, which is also doubtful. If we are to tear down civilization, I'd think we'd want our tenets to be based on ideas that are true beyond a reasonable doubt. Besides that, the overwhelming evidence is that places that descend into anarchy see resource degradation accelerate. For accounts of this, see Jared Diamond's Collapse.
Overwhelmingly, my regular readers were supportive, but apparently my post was posted on an anti-civilization forum and they sicced their cult on me (not an isolated event, certainly, as can be seen on any blog post critical of Jensen & co.) there were several very disturbing comments and I had to turn on moderation. At some point I became so busy that the moderation queue got out of hand and so I closed comments. At that point I started receiving some disturbing emails. My mother said I should pull the post, arguing that even though it may be true it wasn't worth antagonizing people who embrace violence. I felt a little like The Voracious Vegan. Like her, I absolutely refuse to delete my post, despite being threatened and called a corporate shill (and worse). Don't feel sorry for me: I welcome this. It only confirms my desire to see people in the paleo/ancestral health community educated about Lierre's true agenda. That said, this is a blog about paleo/ancestral health and from now on I will delete comments unless they are constructive. Their forum is kept under lock and key, I have no obligation to keep mine open.
I suppose this is what happens when your evidence for your absolute convinction that civilization is evil and much be destroyed consists of a pitiably small sample set of bones, tiny groups of surviving foraging people who have been influenced by civilizations, and great apes, who are also impacted by modernity. There are more controversies than sureties. If great apes are any indication, life in the paleolithic was probably quite varied. Some people were probably warlike, others peaceful. In the meantime, anthropologists will continue to argue about the the significance bones with arrow wounds from 50,000 years ago, totally unaware that people have taken some isolated pop-sci fiction anthropology works and turned them into terroristic manifestos. That's not to say that I reject the idea that civilization has been a devil's bargain, but there is no way to know what we have lost and whether or not going back would make things better.
I did my undergraduate degree in agricultural economics, hoping to work in food policy. I don't know what I was thinking. I think most economics-types who work in policy must be saints given that they have been trained in logic and are forced to support idiotic inefficient ideas. That's where I found myself. The worst part was the move to reform school food, which consisted of mainly
a push towards more fruits and vegetables
a push towards less meat
funding for school gardens
The problem for the firs two, as always, is calories. Why are American children so unhealthy? Some studies showed that people who ate fruits and vegetables were healthier, but show me the study that shows that feeding unhealthy people fruits and vegetables makes them healthy.
People are unhealthy because the majority of their calories come from absolute garbage. Fruits and vegetables don't replace those calories.
And where are we going to get these calories if meat is so darn evil? Huh? No one ever wants to take about this. No one wants to admit that the answer for some food policy wonks is processed tofu burgers or that it might be a good idea to spend some more money on some decent meat. No one wants to talk about the real crap that's in schools that having fruits and vegetables won't make up for: the sugar and fried foods that are still on the menu.
As for school gardens, they sound really really nice, but again, how much can this food contribute to a child's food intake? What is the likelihood that these children will grow up and have gardens or that they will convince their parents to have gardens? How much money do these gardens really cost? To make a real impact, you need less glamorous interventions like home economics classes. I'm not saying gardens are bad, I'm saying they probably have a trivial effect, but I'd really like to see some studies on the matter.
But really, the whole matter of school and school lunches is depressing. It's so tragic that every day children are punished for where their parents happen to live. They have no choice what school they go to and no opportunities to chose the best teachers and avoid bad ones. Unless they are lucky to be born to parents who have the time, they will eat garbage for lunch. They will sit at a desk and learn standardized tests instead of real skills. This doesn't bother enough people in my opinion. If there is anything these schools are good at, it's producing people completely unwilling to question them.
Luckily, my mother wasn't in that mold. When she was told I had learning disabilities, ADHD for one, she didn't want me warehoused in our districts completely unengaging special ed program (most other kids aren't so lucky) or dosed with drugs (there is compelling evidence that those drugs are completely unnecessary and that diet can be just is effective). Not able to afford private school, I was homeschooled until I was 15, when she thought school would be more necessary since the subjects are more specialized and difficult (let's face it, it doesn't take a genius to teach kids basic math, and considering that my own IQ is so far above the average teacher IQ, I'm not worried about teaching my kids).
Am I an unsocialized freak? No one seems to think so, but that makes sense because I did tons of extracurricular activities with other children and played outside a lot. Like our ancestors, I had exposure to a wide range of people of different ages and to many of my relatives on a daily basis. I often finished my schoolwork before 11AM and spent the rest of the day outside. Maybe that's why these schools horrify me so much. I think it's time to fight for school choice and in the meantime opt out. Or start our own awesome school that let's kids be kids. Either way, the likelihood I'll have a second gen homeschooling family is very high.
Get ready for a foodie fight at the Museum of the City of New York this Friday, March 25th, as an all-star panel of food writers, restaurateurs, and farmers battle over the efficacy of the locavore and sustainability movements. At the table are Peter Hoffman, chef and owner of the farm-to-table, locavore proselytizing, beekeeping Savoy restaurant in SoHo; Gabrielle Langholtz, editor of Edible Manhattan; James E. McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly; David Owen, author of Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability; and Jennifer Small, owner and farmer of the Flying Pigs Farm. The group will debate the environmental and social costs and benefits of revamping the city's food culture in the contemporary age.
All during the panel all I could think about is that I hope these people aren't influencing policy much because most of them don't know that much about economics. At least most of them were willing to admit that, but James E. McWilliams continued to be a weasel. I mentioned him first on my Locavore-Animal Rights Cold War post. Since then, The Atlantic has given him a platform to spew his ill-informed opinions about food (he's a "food historian"). He plays himself as an advocate of low carbon footprint food and says he opposes the locavore movement because it's inefficient in that direction. In the beginning of the panel he says "any imported plant food will have a lower impact than any local animal product." Uh huh. How do you know that? He admitted later in the panel that there is really no way to know the truth of a food's environmental impact. But many economic analyses show that local meat has a lower environmental impact than most imported plant foods, including that done in Meat: A Benign Extravagance.
Any time anyone put forth evidence that local meat was a good food, he had something dumb to say, like that "well if everyone can't do it it's not a good model." That's a weird argument that I've written about before. It's almost like his knowledge of economics comes from Sim City. But at least in Sim City he might have learned that when a resource becomes truly scarce the price increases, thus forestalling his magic fantasy dystopia where everyone is destroying the world to have pastured pork.
Animal rights activists hate the local food movement because it threatens its propaganda. PETA and its ilk rely on videos of animals being beaten in industrial operations and simplified "meat is bad for the environment" stats. The local food movement comes along and let's people see that its animals are treated well. It lets locavores into the slaughter process, showing them that while it's not fun, it's not like in those videos.
Then it comes up to light that animal rights activists aren't angry about meat because it's bad for the environment or because the animals are beaten. They are against animals being used by humans in any way, whether for life-saving medical research or for milk. They don't like having to admit it because it reveals their philosophy for its ultimate anti-humanism. And it reveals that they aren't really interested in the true environmental impact of meat unless it supports their philosophy.