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Mindful : April 2015
food system: We expend 10 kilocalories for every 1 we get.” As an activist chef, he’s part of a cohort that includes author Michael Pollan and poet Wendell Berry, who have sparked a movement, he writes, that is “highlight- ing the perils of our nation’s diet and exposing the connection between how we eat and our heav y environmental foot- print.” He doesn’t mince words: .. .our country’s indomitable and abunda nt food system, for so long the env y of the world, is unstable, if not broken. Eroding soils, falling water tables for irrigation, collaps- ing fisheries, shrinking forests, and deteriorating g rasslands represent only a handful of the envrionmen- tal problems wrought by our food system....Our health has suffered, too. Rising rates of food-borne ill- nesses, malnutrition, and diet-re- lated diseases like obesity and diabetes are traced, at least in part, to our mass production of food.... The conventiona l food system cannot be maintained. We’re at a crossroads, Ba rber says. If we continue down the industrialization road, we reach a dead end. Our tech- nology is powered by free ecological ser vices—cheap fossil fuels, abundant and patterns of eating and traditions evolved out of what peasants negotiated from the landscape a long time ago,” he says. “They didn’t understand soil health in a scientific way, but intuitively they knew not to plant one breed of the sa me plant in the same place over and over again, a monoculture.” Instead, “they tried to figure out what crops worked in rotation to produce food that was harvestable and nutritious and delicious. That’s how cuisines evolved, a negotiation between peasant and land.” → Barber celebrates the power of deep roots to reach far down into soil rich with minerals and microbial life (more than 10,000 species in one handful!). Dwarf wheat (on left)—the common in- dustrial wheat worldwide—has shor t stalks and shallow roots and is replanted every year. The wheat on the right is a wild perennial, taller and with roots reaching eight feet into the soil. It’s more energy-efficient as well, since it doesn’t require plowing or chemical fer tilizers. water, a predictable climate—and these are no longer constants. “Is this truly a sustainable future? Will our ecologi- cal resources keep supporting us?” he asks. “We’re entering an era of a vastly different food system: more regional, more local, and I believe we’re going to be forced to cha nge our diets.” This is the heart of Barber’s argument, his concept of the future of food. “The seven-ounce steak is not going to be fea- sible ecologically.” The economy is going to drive a shift to a new way of eating, he believes, because the ecological ser vices ma king cheap food so cheap will no lon- ger be sustainable. “ We’ll be forced into a different ecological paradigm,” he says. “ My good news prediction is that food will be abundant, but it’s going to dema nd we eat very differently. I also believe it’s going to be infinitely more delicious.” Look at countries like Fra nce or China or India, Barber says. They don’t have one cuisine. They have hundreds and thousands of cuisines based on regions and micro-regions. “All of those cuisines 38 mindful April 2015 mindful food revolution