I find that I know people whom I don’t like much when it comes to politics. This is not because I don’t agree with their political views on a given subject. I am a socially liberal environmentalist, who owns guns, and has no faith in the ability of the federal government to regulate the details of our lives. I end up arguing with folks on both sides of the aisle. What makes me angry is when that discourse turns into rancorous displays of righteousness. When people get to this point, all communication stops and any chance of solving the problem – whatever it is – swirls down the drain. If we as a country have the idea that ‘those other people’ are stupid or, immoral, or nasty, how can we be surprised when Congress can’t get its proverbial head out of the you-know-what? I prefer to focus on something that unites us all. Food.
Everyone has to eat, and what we eat affect our health, our environment, our relationships, our economic system, and our energy needs. Both sides of the political spectrum have skin in this game. Foodies, survivalists, gardeners, and nutritionists can agree that having access to local, quality food is desirable. All of these people want tasty stuff to eat. That kind of food comes from artisanal producers. Producers that are regularly hassled by government inspectors and choked by expensive, pointless, and unnecessary regulations. Environmentalists want fewer toxins being dumped into waterways and a much lower use of fuel. The sustainable food movement addresses the desires of all of these people.
How we produce food is the greatest change we can make in affecting the planet and our humanity. From pasture or field to table, the difference between food produced biodynamically and food produced with industrial farming methods is a gulf bigger than the Grand Canyon. One third of the oil use in this country goes to industrial agriculture. If I grow my own vegetables and some fruits and preserve them in a traditional manner with lacto-fermentation, drying, root-cellaring, I’ve saved the fuel needed for fertilizer and machinery and refrigeration, and skipped the herbicides. I’ve also made a substantial step towards food security.
If I purchase part of a cow, or a lamb or pig, from a local farmer who has fed that animal on grass, I have saved the fuel used for running manure pumps on a CAFO, not contributed to the manure that goes into waterways from manure pools, and contributed to the production of healthy soil. If I smoke that meat, I can also reduce the cost of food storage. Buying right from the farmer produces relationships, builds community, and supports small and local businesses.
The plight of small farmers is also an issue that crosses political boundaries. Corporations do everything they can to eliminate the small fry that are their competition, and Democrats are highly focused on the evils of corporate influence. That influence extends well into the federal government, creating more bureaucracy and government controls, something that Republicans revile.
Finding common ground is the only way to move forward in any conflict.