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Global Food Crisis - A Macrobiotic Solution
by Bill Tara


What the Headlines Say

Watching the news of TV or reading the morning papers it is no wonder that an increasing number of people feel they are living in apocalyptic times.

In addition to the never ending stories of war and revolution and the dire warnings of ecological disaster that occur during every news cycle we now have the image of food riots in Haiti and Asia and food related violence in 14 nations.

An increasing number of the worlds poor are facing starvation
due to the dramatic rise in the cost of basic foods.

In Mexico, the cost of corn has doubled in the past year forcing up the cost of tortillas, the principle food in the region and in many parts of Asia rice prices are matching this rise. This increase in food costs is most damaging to the urban poor throughout the world and the end is not in sight.

The price of Rice has risen 74% in the past year, the price of Soy 87% and Wheat 130% during the same period. International Aid agencies are deeply concerned about the impact of these prices on their ability to feed the 200 million starving poor who depend on direct food aid for their lives.

The official reasons for these radical increases in price are most recently placed at the door of rising oil prices, drought and - in some quarters– an inefficiency in farming practice. The disastrous environmental con job of adding ethanol to gasoline has certainly come in for rightful criticism as well as the problem deepens. All of these factors, while important, deflect attention from the deeper issue of the way that food is thought about in contemporary society.

The Affluent Diet and other Eating Disorders

As with most environmental and social justice issues, distance provides the buffer to effective action. Sitting in the comfort of our living rooms watching the news the sight of starving children may be heart rending and sad but we can always turn of the set. What would it be like if we were exposed to the reality of the situation. I can assure you that the sight of starving people up close drives the problem deeper.

Just image the suburban family of four sitting on the front lawn with a barbecue fired up and ready to cook up some juicy burgers being faced with several hundred starving women and children across the street. Now imagine that they knew that the very burgers they were ready to flip on the grill could feed themselves plus about thirty of the starving if they converted them back into grain. What would the response be?

I must believe that the conversion would be made – if not, what have we become. Wasting food by feeding it to animals or using it to fuel our cars when people are dying of starvation is a crime against humanity. The refusal of society to accept this fact shows how divorced we have become from the effect of our daily actions.

I prefer to see this lack of consciousness as not as result of a meanness of spirit or a disregard for the value of human life. It is a result of bad education and insensitivity nurtured by cultural values. It is a direct result of accepting the doctrine of insatiable consumption as a sign of superiority and affluence as the mark of success. Our attitude regarding food is the dark shadow of this spiritual dementia.

Food is one of the principle ways that we receive nature into our bodies, when that link is broken or perverted the effects are wide spread. A cultural addiction to foods that are energy inefficient, environmentally destructive and chemically processed produces sickness not only in the individual but also in society as a whole.

One of the lessons of Macrobiotics is that when we live in a way that honours nature, nature honours us.

Nature demands a certain respect and our very existence in this paradise we call earth depends on our humility and gratitude for the gifts we have been given. The gifts of clean air, clean water and healthy food to eat are given freely not just to the chosen few but to the whole tribe of humankind.

Availability of air, water and food should be the minimum of human rights. When some are denied these rights through the actions of others there will be a price to pay – we are starting to pay the price now and the next generation will pay it even more. This is not the judgment of an angry god this is cause and effect.

Crisis Management 101

A fact evident in health care is that often a person is unwilling to make changes in lifestyle until a crisis is upon them. When the diagnosis is severe and the conventional treatment isn’t working the mind is often brought into sharp focus on alternative solutions. Many now feel that this phenomena will emerge to change behavior regarding environmental issues (including food). We should not dare to wait till the crisis gets worse. Governments, business and science all thrive on crisis management.

Fear creates an environment where common sense gets put on hold and desperation allows the worst solutions to prevail. The promotion of GM crops and artificial foods are being talked about as a solution to the so-called food shortages. The food crisis is a business opportunity for some in the same way as complex and expensive treatment for preventable diseases pulls attention away from prevention.

It is worth noting that GM crops are not simply foods they are products protected by patent. Aside from any environmental damage they may do they are not part of the free exchange of seeds that can help small holding farmers in poor countries.

They are the property of the same multinational food industry that has been responsible for much of the problem. The search for the silver bullet that kills the specter of world hunger denies society the opportunity to reflect on daily actions that everyone could take to alleviate the problem.

It is the cowardice of governments that the agribusiness, food manufacturers and meat producers are not brought into line with human needs and that farming quotas are not enforced that promote environmentally sound practices.

A Macrobiotic Solution

For over fifty years the Macrobiotic community has promoted and refined a way of eating that enhances health and has a solid environmental rationale. We have focused on eating locally when possible, using organic foods, avoiding overly processed foods and eating low on the food chain. These factors are fundamental to a diet that reflects not only healthy living but social and environmental justice.

Together with others such as Francis Moore Lappe we have pointed to the connection between hunger in the poor world and disease in the rich world. Maybe we haven’t done enough.

While the focus on the healing aspects of food are important and need to be pursued, larger social issues have taken the backseat. I sincerely hope that the next generation of Macrobiotic advocates focus as much on planetary healing as on personal healing.

It is the practical application of our principles that can help society realize that quantum shifts in daily food can be done with a minimum of effort while still providing nutritious and delicious meals. I can think of few other acts that would shift public perception of Macrobiotics in a more positive way.

A question I am often asked is how to tell people why we eat according to Macrobiotic principles. I am committed to telling people that among the many reasons I eat this way is that if more people did there would be less starvation on the planet. It should lead to some interesting discussions and I look forward to them.

'Natural Body - Natural Mind' by Bill Tara
will be available later this summer 2008.

Also read a follow-up to this article:
The Very Nature of Hunger by Jeffrey Reel


wow! well put and very easy to read this article is nice because I could give it to anyone to read and not worry about sounding like a radical wing nut. Thank you for your thought provoking article. Wendy from Canada


Posted: May 2008


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