A Thumbs Down Media Review
Michael Pollan on What ’s Wrong with Environmentalism
Reviewed by Tim Boyd
This is not really a DVD but an audio along with transcription available on the web at http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2031. Michael Pollan makes a number of great points in this interview. He talks about the two food chains in this country—the fuel-based (industrial) food chain and the solar-based food chain. The industrial food chain burns ten calories of fossil energy to produce one calorie of food energy. Cows are fed grain and given growth hormones, so they need antibiotics. Obviously, this is not good for the environment and is not sustainable. Pollan advocates moving toward the solar-based, organic and local food model. He points out that if we properly rotate animals and crops, we can get the food we need and leave the land better than we found it. I’m pretty sure that comment was inspired by his observations at Polyface Farm.
But the interview is marred by sweeping generalizations, such as Pollan’s assertion that Americans eat too much meat, an “obscene” amount. This pronouncement paves the way for yet another airing of his aphorism “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan implies that our diet should in fact be grain-based, and he believes that subsidies for corn ethanol production should be reduced, when I believe they should be eliminated altogether.
The simplistic notion that eating less meat will remedy health and environmental problems has been ably rebutted in these pages on more than one occasion. So despite the several important observations raised in the interview, I must nevertheless give it a thumbs down.
As a side note, a WAPF member recently sent us an interview of Michael Pollan by Charles Stuart Platkin, the “Diet Detective,” published in a Florida newspaper August 6, 2008. When asked about his favorite breakfast, Pollan replied, “Fried eggs and bacon. Ideally, from pastured chicken and pigs.” So much for “Mostly plants.”
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2008.