Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose
Photo: Journey Worker Productions, CC SA 3.0 (C)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Pangolins / Food Industry

(A leek and some chillis in the garden)

Here is a very depressing story about pangolin exotic-meat and oriental-medicine trade:

The good news is decent laws are in place in Vietnam  - the bad news is that the culture is simultaneously too barbarous and superstitious and status-obsessed for the law to make much of a difference.

But it is important not to think that the west is morally superior. Here's another glimpse of the whole puzzle that chills the bone in a way that anxiety about the poor pangolins does not -

Now consider both pictures - the pangolin-eaters and the western consumers eating industro-food...thats the world we have to live in and is plunging us into an environmental disruption.

Its interesting to think about the interaction of the pangolin eaters and industro-food - both can uneasily coexist, but neither can eliminate the other, but the result of their coalition, is that we dont have a planet.

Now consider the following paragraph from the second Guardian article (about industrofood) above:

But I would prefer that my bread was browned solely from the application of heat. I’m prepared to accept that it will stale over time, rather than eat something that owes its existence to ingredients and technologies to which I am not privy, cannot interrogate and so can never truly understand. Am I about to hand over all control of bread, or anything else I eat, to the chemical industry’s food engineers? Not without a fight.
This frames it as an information-disclosure issue - as if it were the case that it is only hidden manipulation of one person by another in a 'black box' process that is the problem, and some watergate journalists, a bit of Ralph Naderism and some American free Speech cabal-busting will fix it all. There is indeed an issue of corporate manipulation here, sure, but the more serious issue is that the problem is not the unintelligibility of the processes being applied, but...but..but...

How to put it?

the unnaturalness of them? the improportionate redesigning of nature implied in them? the reframing of the natural food into a totally-manipulable-food-object-within-human-control

Which one of these is the problem?

I havent got it precisely articulated.

I suspect the demand for 'intelligent and transparent industrial food processes' is very satisfying for journalists - they can have that 'watergate moment' they crave for against nefarious corporate powers. But intelligibility and transparency of process isn't the fundamental issue. We would still be in a degenerate and suboptimal system if we all knowingly ate the gunk.

I am still pondering how how frame what is the issue. I want to try out a comparison between the intelligibility of the food process and the new mass versus the old in Latin - it isnt the point and you have misunderstood what you are looking at if you think intelligibility/transparency of the 'mechanism' is the point. Demanding transparency in the Mass wont give you a better mass, it will just make the mass your controlled mechanism and your industrialized plaything.

The point is, that if you are already thinking of it as a mechanism and fighting over a transparent-back-face of a watch so you can peer at the mechanised-controlled workings of it, you have already framed the Mass, or in this case: food, wrong. (Perhaps there is also a loose comparison to sex and sexual technique - the failure is to think of sex as just technique and search for the optimisers, rather than as an exemplification of intimacy).

There are several different theses bouncing around in these oppositions that I should sort out. But I do not think transparency by itself is the solution.

Onto the practical implication - you can start resolving the intractable-meta-mess by growing your own food. Its possible to grow 20% without much effort; one ideally could get up to 40%. Start by replanting the base of a leek you have bought. It will grow back, like the one pictured above!

(Some parsnips from winter 2015 from the garden)

A place to start at a micro level is Michael Pollan's Food Rules: an eater's manual. (2009)

You can read it in 15 minutes. Its a list of rules that are 'food for thought' items. If you contest a rule, puzzle out 'why not'? and think about your principles.

See detail on it here -

It is very good indeed.

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