Look Closer

11 06 2007

Columbus

By Jill Ettinger

There’s a story told in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know concerning the Native Americans that couldn’t see Columbus’ fleet, as they had no prior experience with such forms. They were unable to register these ominously significant shapes. Similarly, there are things in life that we’ve known for a long while, so obvious and clear that we look right beyond their merit, viewing them as part of the backdrop of life and not allowing such things to become a conscious consideration. At some point one or both of these situations have been true for all of us.  These lessons prove that although something may be present, until we know what it is we’re looking for, we’re blind to it, even if it’s been right in front of our eyes all along.

Actively participating in the organic food movement for more than half of my life, there are things that have become first nature. I do not question “paying more” for healthier options; in fact, I’m startled at the low cost of non-organic food in general. Just the other day, in my local supermarket, I was bombarded with a huge display of .49 mangoes shipped from Mexico. All I could think was that it cost me at least double in fuel just to drive a mile! How is this possible, viable for the environment, the farmer, the store?  If we’re not tracing the process by which food ends up on our plate – organic or not – we are missing the giant boats lingering just off shore. This recent study conducted by the University of Alberta reveals the impact of such practices. It’s one thing to be eating out of season foods, harvested prematurely and left to ripen in the back of 18-wheelers. But to call those items organic just because the soil was not doused in pesticides and growth chemicals is most definitely abusing the definition. Sure it’s nice to have the luxury of pineapples in Minneapolis, but doesn’t it seem a bit strange in the dead of winter to be eating a tropical fruit? The Macrobiotic diet  has been espousing people to eat locally, and seasonally, for thousands of years. Regardless of our genetic inheritance, we adapt to our climate and environment, with food intake playing a critical role. It makes sense to eat what is available in your own backyard. On a trip to Mexico? Eat the mangoes.

There are steps and stages to be had in moving into a more cooperative existence – this is understood. No one should expect overnight miracles whereby we wake up and all are fed, war is over and there are no diseases. To say that even in the best case scenario these issues will disappear completely is a stretch. But we can get ourselves closer to an existence where we are participating, engaged in a practice of compassion and understanding. We can think before we mindlessly shovel burgers and oreos into our mouths, before we push buttons on the remote past another suicide bombing in Iraq or genocide in Darfur to get to the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

America has gone from the land of opportunities to the land of well, something else entirely. The behavior of this country is so alarming that it’s no wonder we can’t seem to motivate past it. We ignore every warning, as environmentalists and scientists keep jumping up and down, waving their arms. Many people blend them into the background as noise. Soon enough we’ll have to realize these radical sounds are exactly the answers we’ve been looking for all along

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