Thursday, October 4, 2018

Greenberg's Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

I stopped eating red meat circa 1992 when a woman made an impression on me with her statement that you could not be an environmentalist and eat meat.  I stopped eating all meat circa 1995 when I started graduate school—part economic incentive, part moral dilemma, part conservation.  And then a few years ago, I *started* eating Alaskan salmon periodically because it was alleged to be sustainable and because it seemed like there were a few health benefits.  But, ho hum, here is Paul Greenberg taking out one fish at a time, starting with the one I eat twice a month or so: Salmon.  Greenberg does point out what in my heart of hearts I’ve always known:  How can trucking a food across the world from one ecosystem to another really be sustainable—and shouldn’t the fact that you can buy a “family pack” at the Kroger for relatively little have been a red flag?  They are not priced in a way that reflects their rarity, as Greenberg suggests.  Even though one may have perfected the perfect recipe. 

I wonder as I read this if we can really expect to go back to eating locally—we can certainly aim for prioritizing local food to minimize our ecological footprint—but can we give up the panoply of entrees that can adorn our dinner tables: the quinoa, the oranges & bananas, year round strawberries & blueberries, the chocolate, THE TEA?  It is difficult to see the energy costs that go into our dinner, but our meals have connections around the world.  Each and every meal, for most of us.  And what does it do to the people who live in the places where the salmon run if we stop eating salmon (or significantly cut back if we want to be less radical in our approach)?  Do they lose their livelihood and, if so, in the long-run, how devastating, is it?

My grandparents grew their own food, largely, and though poor, there was typically enough to eat.  In that respect, those who can collect their own food or grow it are never completely destitute.  When people move into the cities, they can lose their jobs and then lose everything including their ability to feed themselves—a fate they might avoid if they have land on which to hunt or plant.  In a world of 7. 7 billion people (good heavens), can we feed ourselves locally?  Give a person a fish and they have a meal for a day; teach a person to fish and you will empty the oceans?    

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