It came to mind after reading an article by Michael Pollan in The New York Times.
A couple of weeks ago I hiked through the Painted Hills (part of the National Park Service) in eastern Oregon. It's a remarkable sight; it looks like a vast watercolor landscape. The hills are of various hues, colors sometime blending together and sometimes separate and distinct.
The reasons for this phenomenon are complex. The Painted Hills are made up of layers of hard claystones that were formed some 33 million years ago. Along with variations in moisture and light reflection, mineral elements such as Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Silicon, Phosphorous and other elements are mixed together. It is as inspiring as anything any human artist could conceive of.
Three days before I left for Oregon I wrote a column for the Kansas City Star on the upcoming November congressional election and the growing "rot" in America. It does connect, no matter how tenuous it first might appear.
Pollan's article entitled "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex" (10/15/06) discusses the outbreak of E. coli last month where some 200 Americans in some 26 states became sick from eating packaged spinach.
It is not the dreary news that food in America (meat and vegetables) has become industrialized and increasingly susceptible to more disasters and diseases, but Pollan's contention that "it's easier to find a technological fix than to address the root causes of such a problem. This has always been the genius of industrial capitalism--to take its failings and turn them into exciting new business opportunities."
If we Americans--out of indifference, avoidance or ignorance--choose to let our food be controlled by a handful of conglomerates, than we ought to be prepared for the consequences.
Animals crammed together on cement floors, standing all day in manure, and fed a steady diet of antibiotics are not "Little House On the Prairie." If we don't mind our vegetables ending up in large food processing factories with bacterial contamination more and more likely, then sit back and enjoy. Only about 70 million Americans each year get sick, or end up in the hospital--or die from the food they eat. But national regulations may not be the answer either.... Michael Pollan's article is worth reading.
A visit to the Painted Hills is worth doing but sadly most people won't be able to. This small section of the United States tells us a lot about the planet we live on and our place on it. It's deserving of preservation. Industrial agriculture also tells a lot about what kind of people we've become--something not worth preserving.