Monday, March 2, 2009

PowerShift 09: Take a Bite Out of Climate Change and Inequality: Your Plate, Fair Food and the Climate Crisis

This weekend I went to Power Shift at the Convention Center. When I told my friends why I wasn't really celebrating my birthday this weekend because I was going to Power Shift, they all invariably asked "What is Power Shift?"

Power Shift, to put it shortly, was a youth-led conference calling on Congress for immediate and effective action on climate change.

It was a really really awesome experience. But what I really want to talk about was this AMAZING workshop I went to about the interrelatedness of food, climate change, the economy, social justice, and workers rights (including some discussion about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers)...

To start off, I'm a huge fan of Micahel Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you haven't read it yet, DO IT NOW because he can explain these relationships infinitely better than I can. This book seriously changed the way I look at food.

As far as social justice goes... I met a student who works for the Student Farmworker Alliance as part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It kind of goes without saying that these migrant workers are constantly in danger, with all the pesticides and chemicals around them. I know that Georgetown sends some students to Immokalee as part of its Alternative Spring Break program, so if anyone going/who went could comment on this that would be great! Pollan also goes into more detail about social justice in his book.

Today, Americans are always in a rush and tend to eat fast food. We all know that fast food is unhealthy, but what about the implications of fast food? Basically, fast food is corn. A McDonald's chicken McNugget is mostly corn and pieces of chicken, which were fed on corn. There's a huge political implication concerning corn because most of America's farms are... you guessed it, corn farms. These farms are hugely subsidized by the government and inherently unsustainable.

Soil NEEDS to have differentiation or will be stripped of nutrients... which is why pesticides are needed on these huge farms. Then there's the problem of runoff from the pesticides, which ends up flowing down river or becoming acid rain, and ends up affecting America's impoverished more than anyone else.

Cows, a major component of fast food, are also corn fed. However, in nature cows are inherently grass-eaters. In order to allow cows to eat corn, farmers need to give their cows a bunch of antibiotics. Though previous government administrations refused to address this topic, it's common sense. You are what you eat and since American's eat a lot of beef, they're ingesting a ton of antibiotics as well. I don't even know if I need to say this... but there is NO possible way that these antibiotics are good for you.

Food is one universal necessity and it's one of my particular passions as far as the environment goes. What are your thoughts about this?


  1. That sounds like a really interesting panel!

    I remember reading in Pollan's book that the only item on the McDonald's menu that was not over 50% corn was the French fries--they were only fried in corn oil.

    Also, going off this point, I love to be able to know what is in my food. Just as we like to have transparency in governments and businesses, so, too, should we want it in our food. If you can't pronounce the names of half the ingredients, it is probably not good for you.

    Also, I highly recommend the book FOOD POLITICS--it's a fascinating look at the lobbying of the food industry and the way it works to change our perception on nutrition and diet.

  2. The Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance are amazing. They about to launch a big foodservice campaign - check out the SFA site and get involved:

  3. sorry this is about a month and a half late - but i definitely want to try and read that book... i'll keep that in mind!