Years ago, on a cold winters day, I looked at the tomato I was slicing, and wondered about its origins. Central Highlands winters are remarkably harsh, there is no chance a tomato plant would survive these frigid temperatures. After a little research I found the fruit had either came from a northern grower (QLD) or was sourced from a Victorian hydroponic plantation (artificially fed and heated). It was one of those light bulb moments that set me on a path of asking more questions of my food. In fact, it's what drove me to start growing much of my own food like a 'prepper' gone mad.
My summer crop growing in my sunlight heated poly tunnel
Out of interest I asked permission to visit a local hydroponic grower where I got a tour of the enormous hot houses that where as hot as a tropical Queensland day. I was amazed by how warm the industrial sized hot houses where, and enquired if it was a result of the sunlight trapped in the hot house. I was told that it was in fact a large heater that was powered by diesel generators. When I asked how much fuel it used, he replied "don't ask". In the hot house, in long tubular rows, grew stunning looking tomatoes, eggplant and basil. In the middle of winter it was a real beautiful site, and the aromatics where mind blowing. Made me desperate for summer.
That farmer was a real nice bloke. Trying to make a living for his family. Providing food for the local community. All those things are admirable and great. The downside of what I witnessed on that day was the reality that the veg was growing in a fertiliser medium (man made and totally inorganic) and the hot house was powered by a carbon emitting generator, adding to our climate woes.
I was intrigued by the paradox of wanting to eat this delicious fresh food, but having an understanding of the underlying reality, that the food may not be that good for my health (grown with a fertiliser solution) and being grown in a carbon emitting hothouse, it was clearly adding to worsening climate health. This experience was just the beginning, from here on in I started asking more questions and researching where my food came from, how it was produced and what was in it. What I learnt was a bit crap.
I know it's really boring hearing the same old bullshit winging story about how todays food is so crap, and the world is fucked blah blah blah. Don't you think I know how annoying that is. It keeps me up most nights, thinking about what to do about it. And you know what? My voice is a tiny wave in the ocean. Insignificance personified. It makes no real substantial difference, and in most cases I think I'm preaching to the converted. Even if I did have a loud global voice I wonder what difference it would make. Personal food and lifestyle choices are very personal. Even if one is presented with the scientific facts, one may still choose a Big Mac.
As long as us westerners continue to produce highly processed foods, we will continue to suffer the medical consequences. We will continue to inflict environmental damage.
That is a reality, whether you agree with me or not, whether you hate me or love me, that reality will remain. It's simply a matter of cause and effect.
In my lifetime I have seen dramatic changes in what we eat, and the subsequent effects it has on our health. I started primary school in 1981, and like many people that I talk to from my generation, I (we) do not recall anyone having any food allergies. There was one kid out of a hundred that was fat (yes no denying it, he was fat) and there was one kid I remember that had an asthma pump. The remainder of my school years was the same, although more kids seemed to suffering from asthma into high school years.
20 years passed with the click of the finger. My generation are now the parents with kids at school, although things are dramatically different than in 1981. My children's school is strictly nut free, to remain safe for the kids with severe food allergies. In fact some parents have to carry around emergency injections just in case an allergic episode occurs. When I pick my kids up from school it's hard not to notice the many chubby kids that seem to be paired with obese parents. I'm not being mean. It's a blatant visual reality. I was, at one time, one of those obese parents too.
What happened? Why are autism rates in children off the charts? Why is it that seemingly every second person suffers from some sort of food intolerance, be it gluten or dairy or something else. Why is that many of my generation suffer from anxiety, depression, hyper tension or diabetes?
I know it's a pain to hear, but the reality that we're eating ourselves to poor health is putting pressure on our already struggling health system. The reality of our preference for packaged processed foods is continuing to have a detrimental impact on our natural world. These are things that should concern us. These are things that should make us angry, concerned, and actively participate in making change for ourselves, our families and our natural world.
I feel myself repeating this message like a broken record player.
I fond myself questioning my approach to communicating this message. Am I being to honest? Do people want to hear this reality? Should I just go away and shut up? But I can't. It's something that has personally effected me and damn it, I want to see some change in my life time.
How long we as a population will we happily eat food, of which we are blissfully unaware of the impact the ingredients have on our health (and the health of our offspring).
How is this chemically tampered food impacting on our gut flora?
Is it damaging our DNA?
It's clearly making us unwell in general.
There is an eerie similarity with this health crisis, to the realisation of health implications from smoking cigarettes. But just like that situation, there is a great deal of money to be lost in living healthy. Imagine how much less money would be spent on prescription medication. Imagine how much less money would be spent at supermarkets and take away chains. There is a lot to be lost, economically speaking.
I saw a packed line that overflowed out the door at a Subway Take away in Ballarat the other day. Even though the food isn't really a perfect healthy option, it's obvious that many people want a to make a healthy choice. Making the choices that are right for us as individuals can only be brought about with education, sharing knowledge and experience. I hope there is a brighter future.
In the meantime I retreat. I'll work in my garden growing food as it should be.
Grown in soil, warmed by the sun and fed by natural fertiliser of chicken poo and compost.
The fruit that helped change my life, growing like mad in my poly tunnel.