A MID-WEST CALL TO ACTION
This paper has demonstrated that the American crop subsidy system is broken. This is not a black or white issue but dwells in a gray area in which unhelpful policies could further hurt farmers, yet reform will undoubtedly have an effect on prices that will have to be carried by consumers at the grocery store. When it comes down to it – cheap food is dishonest food. Subsidies distort the true cost of food and the external impacts on the environment and human health are simply wrong.
We are currently living in a cultural climate of frustration with the “business-as-usual” practices of corporations. One corporate CEO, Ray Anderson, has begun to reform his business practices out of fear of being labeled a “plunderer” of resources. Individuals aware of the system’s injustices are continually speaking out – are they being heard? The time might be ripe for some significant strides towards a sustainable future in our agricultural practices and industrial food system. As noted above, the Cargills, ADMs, and Monsantos seem to intellectually “get it” even though their practices aren’t wholly reformed yet.
Ultimately, it is not up to the big agribusinesses or the US government to fix this broken system. It is up to you and me. We MUST start voting with our dollars by buying local organic food at an appropriate price, produced by honest, transparent farms. If this is not enough for you, then perhaps you might feel inspired to grow your own food. This is also a must. Due to the reality of oil depletion, there could soon be a day when your local grocery store truck will no longer be able to afford the gas to deliver. What will you do then?
This is not just a communal concern that I have, it is also a thoroughly personal concern. I am from the Mid-West myself and in my youth, found tremendous beauty in the wide swaths of corn during the summer, and marveled at the enormous combines as they plowed through the fields during the harvest. Since the majority of the current agricultural practices have been happening during my lifetime, most of my generation remains woefully ignorant of the problems caused by the industrial food system. Now, instead of finding beauty in the corn I find myself asking the question of how we got so far into this hole without ever actually realizing that we were in hole. But it is a hole that we have dug for ourselves, and the only way out is to realize what a sustainable agricultural future would look like.
In theological terms, sustainability equals salvation. In practical terms, sustainability equals salvation. If we are to have a future in which our children can breathe clean air and eat healthy food, we MUST begin making the right choices. Failure to do so could plausibly lead to the extinction of our species if we cannot save ourselves.
It is true that we are at a turning point to a sustainable future. The cultural gap between liberals and conservatives can be bridged by the food issue. Food is no doubt the key to sustainability. To continue to slap mother earth in the face with our arrogant and greedy behavior will come at the cost of the perpetuation of the human species. Of course the most moral act we can attempt in tandem with the preservation of earth, our island home, is the gift of a future generation. Surely the continuation of the human species is something that conservatives and liberals can agree upon. Indeed the current cultural climate is one in which there is enough support from justice oriented people on the East and West coasts that a farmer uprising in the Mid-West would be completely supported. It should be clear that I’m not advocating revolution. But I am advocating Restoration. The only path that I see toward restoration is one of unity between the people agriculturally married to the land and those of the rest of us that are dependent on their success for our survival. The farmers can do their part to bring agribusiness to its knees by refusing to grow as much corn, by diversifying their crops, and by staying true to their community by selling the food they grow right back to the community. Save your seeds! People on the coasts can refuse to purchase any more products produced by big farm.
Personal responsibility in this issue is unique for all of us. Yet the interconnectedness is impossible to avoid. Before making claims or commands of others, one must first do the personal, interior work of motive examination, reflection on past actions, and evaluation of future goals, in addition to whatever other subjective meditations that one might feel necessary to their further moral development. For myself this includes becoming a vegetarian. Buying local and organic food. And as a musician, I am compelled to use my music to help the biomass of this world. This can sound crazy, I know, but the facts are that there have been studies that show the positive effects that music can have on plants. Indeed, I wouldn’t even be the first musician to do this as there is a Korean musician that spends the majority of his days singing songs of prosperity to the trees, rivers and stones. For those musicians among us, I can’t think of a more moral act than serving our mother earth through song.