Back to Earthbodies

“We come from the earth and return to it, and so we live in agriculture as we live in flesh…It is hardly surprising, then, that there should be some profound resemblances between our treatment of our bodies and our treatment of the earth” –Wendell Berry

This quote sums up much of what I am trying to convey in talking about earthbodies. Despite the uniqueness of the human mind, the inventiveness of humans, the “wonders” of technological advancement and the alleged productivity that a competitive capitalist economy creates, our bodies are intricately connected to the earth and we, as humans, must recognize the importance of this basic foundation of our being if we are to be able to nurture and take care of our earthbodies.

The importance of thoughtful consumption: “The household that prepares its own meals in its own kitchen with some intelligent regard for nutritional value, and thus depends on the  grocer only for selected raw materials, exercises an influence on the food industry that reaches from the store all the way back to the seedsman” -Wendell Berry. One of the most important ways to think about ecofeminism is through food. One of the most basic and vital connections between our bodies and the earth is nourishment. At base, humans need shelter, food and water to live (as it turns out, these are seemingly not enough and for many, hard to come by). We take all of these things from the earth; each one deserves thoughtful consideration, and I would like to focus on food. The far-reaching impact made by individual thoughtfulness in relation to food can be abstract, but it is momentous.

Until very recently, I never put a lot of thought into the food that I ate. Food was as simple as knowing to eat when you’re hungry, trying to make sure to balance nutrition and delicious taste for a healthy diet. Last semester I read a book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. As I learned more and more about factory farming, meat consumption, treatment of workers in the meat industry, calamitous environmental impacts, and the silence that surrounds all of these issues, I began to realize that I was a complicit perpetrator of these acts of violence. “Our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerlless, to the most distant, to the voiceless–it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one oway or another. Consistency is not required, but engagement with the problem is” (Foer 267). My first reaction was to cut meat out of my diet entirely, which I did. As I continued learning more about food and agriculture, I was again forced to think critically about the food choices I made. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver beautifully illustrates the importance of thoughtful, local eating. She and her family commit to eating only food that is grown or purchased locally. Slowly I began to realize that the reasons I had for not eating meat had further implications. If I resolved to simply stop eating meat entirely, but I put little or no thought into other products I consumed, I would not be upholding the values that sparked me to stop eating meat in the first place. Foer says,  “When we lift our forks, we hang our hats somewhere. We set ourselves in one relationsihp or another to farmed animals, farm workers, national economies, and global markets” (Foer 261).

My point can’t be said more eloquently. If we are fortunate enough, we interact with and consume food every day; this food comes from the earth and is cycled through our bodies and back to the earth. If we stop to think about it, this is an intensely intimate interaction between our bodies and the earth. Thus, this interaction deserves thoughtfulness. If our food industry was more thoughtfully organized, the benefits would be monumental. Imagine a world in which food was grown by passionate individuals who have a stake in the continued nourishment of the earth, where every animal slaughtered was appreciated for its sacrifice, where instead of being expected at every meal in great quantity for little cost, meat consumption required thought and thankfulness, where instead of demanding, expecting and consuming vegetables that are not in season or fruits that come from half-way around the world we ate locally and seasonally, where we made it a priority to make sure every mouth is fed rather than make sure we have an incredulous amount of meat being sold in every store and restaurant. If this were the case, workers that grow food would have a better quality of life, animals would have a better quality of life, there would be less chemicals in our food, in our bodies, in the earth, there would be less death caused by starvation, we would be healthier, there would be less pollution, and the practice of thoughtfulness would spread to other areas of our lives. “We eat as sons and daugthers, as families, as communities, as generations, as nations, and increasingly as a globe. We can’t stop our eating from radiating influence even if we want to” (Foer 261).

It takes time, commitment, energy, and even privilege to make thoughtful food choices. But if we have the means, we must challenge and demand better from ourselves. Willful ignorance cannot be the standard once we know the powerful influence food choices have. One vegetarian, one farmer’s market, one farm cannot fix everything, but that is not a reason to say individual food choices needn’t be thoughtful. Thoughtful eating can change the world.

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