Kale. Kale smoothies. They do matter.
I woman I spoke to had a very different opinion on kale, poverty and the food crisis. She expressed that her consumption of kale had nothing to do with poverty in Asia or Africa. Instead, the poverty that was festering overseas has only to do with their farmers lack of knowledge, no access to modern technology and not knowing how to cope with climate change. Fair enough. I see her point, which reflects the opinions of many. At the same time, however, what she didn’t realize is that our global economy doesn’t only mean that businesses are transnational. It means that our consumer behavior, our conditioned assumptions about other societies, and our politicians all have a global impact—we are globally interconnected. Is it a spiritual connectedness or are we entrapped in a profit-driven market economy?
I believe it’s both, and I also believe that our interconnectedness to through the market economy is hindering our spiritual connection, namely because in pursuit power, we have been taught to shame and devalue the wisdom of others. In Part 1, I looked at how our society’s refusal to learn from rural cultures simply because they haven’t adhered to modern views of civilization has in fact caused environmental degradation and socio-economic injustice.
Being indoctrinated with a belief system that belittles rural practices and confuses those practices with poverty and “backwardness” has done nothing other than pave the path for multinational corporations’ profit-driven agendas disguised as efforts to tackle poverty and hunger. The introduction of the Green Revolution was presented as the panacea for these “third world” issues that would destabilize global access to food, as it would increase food production, improve yields, and solve the world’s “imminent” hunger crisis (see Part 1). Instead however, what ensued was a new era of modern day colonization where Green Revolution proponents have and continue to force their new technologies upon agricultural communities whose traditional means of farming have been undermined, denied, and replaced by systems that do not work with them, nor for them—it works in favor of profit-driven companies.
Green Revolution only benefits Monsanto and the multinational food and agro-industries. As these conglomerates have set out to genetically modify plants to increase their yield and their resistance to pathogens, specialized pesticides and fertilizers have also been created, allowing Monsanto to fully control all aspects of agriculture, subsequently, supplanting the traditional farming methods and breaking down the fabric of old farming cultures.
If the mission to fight poverty was real, then today we would be living in a world free of poverty. Instead, poverty is increasing and so is hunger—and it’s not because smaller holder farmers who have been cultivating their land for generations do not know how to farm; it’s because profit-driven industries are seeking to monopolize the world’s resources; not fight poverty. As such, traditional farming communities are being stripped of their rights to these sought-after resources that would otherwise allow them to live prosperously. These farmers have the know-how and for generations they have been able to pass down their knowledge on how to observe geological patterns, sew, harvest, save seeds, share seed, mitigate natural disasters and live in harmony with nature by only using what is necessary. They have passed down knowledge on which foods to eat for maintaining optimal health as their farming practices were founded on a spiritual understanding of plants’ nutritional and medicinal value. Supplanting these old farming traditions with modern agriculture is cultural theft and is robbing them of their right to food production and food—foods that were culturally appropriate, foods that made them sing, dance and celebrate life…foods that sustained their life.
What does this have to do with us, how does this affect us and why does it matter?
This silent war over resources involves us because, sadly, our day-to-day activities—namely our daily economic transactions (what we consume)—support these agro-industries, these multinational corporations, giving them more leverage to continue dominating over others under the guise of “fighting poverty”. We are affected because the push for agricultural growth has led to the creation of GMOs, which not only pose a risk to our health, it unleashes a modus operandi that is destabilizing all areas of our life, and is trapping us in a vicious cycle of dependence where it’s:
Causing social injustice- The plight of farmers stems not from a lack of know-how as we are repeatedly told: it stems from not having land ownership, rights, or access to resources. This is what causes hunger and instability.
Accelerating environmental degradation- unlike traditional framing methods that worked in harmony with nature and the ecosystem, agro-industries pump fertilizers and pesticides that are toxic to the environment: their chemical makeup kill the micro-organisms in the soil that are necessary for sustaining a normal plant’s life. The pesticides create more resistant strands of pathogens, which then require harsher chemicals. All these chemicals wash off into nearby bodies of water affecting aquatic life and other animals.
Threatening our health- While it is hailed as bio-technical and biochemical engineering advancements that can fight the fate of a depleting food source, the simple fact is that the process of inserting genes into the DNA of a plant random as scientist actually do not know where the gene goes and how it may interact or disrupt other genes, causing the formation of new proteins that are completely foreign to both the plant and to us. This can trigger new toxins and allergens. As Professor of Genetics, Richard Lewontin of Harvard University said:
“An ecosystem, you can always intervene and change something in it, but there is no way of knowing what all the downstream effects will be or how it might affect the environment. We have such a miserably poor understanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I would be surprised if we don’t get one rude shock after another”.
A holistic lifestyle means that we live in peace—yes, finding inner peace can be a life-long journey, but living in peace with others needs not to take that long. It’s strange but somehow true. Here are five ways we can influence policy and practice that will help honor the lifestyles of some of the most sacred people on earth: those holding the key to environmental sustainability.