Differing interests have been converging for me in recent weeks. The carbon tax issue in Australia has highlighted to many the need to plan for a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels. I have also been patiently awaiting a harvest for our balcony babies that sadly receive too little sunlight. The plants and herbs do add colour and character to the balcony but I wish I could grow more of our own food. Lastly, I’ve been reading about past societal collapses and ways in which we can avoid doing the same to ourselves.
All of these interests have magically wound themselves together in one bundle called permaculture. My introduction has been through a friend whose friend is a permaculture junkie, and then through further investigation in the form of reading; and watching a few documentaries – the foremost being “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”.
The premise of the movie is that we don’t need to wait to see what impact an oil-less future will have on our lives; an example already exists in post-Soviet era Cuba – whose oil supply was dramatically cut with the fall of the Iron Curtain. They had no oil to power their agricultural machinery and very quickly the big cities were facing a food shortage crisis (amongst other major problems). Havana today, a city of about 2 million people, grows 50% of it’s food within the city limits through permaculture techniques – doing away with those oil-sucking machines in the process.
The goal of permaculture is to mimic patterns that occur in nature to create interwoven relationships that grow the majority of a household’s food supply on their own block – everything within walking distance. The thinking that formed the techniques was that nature has evolved these relationships over such a long period of time and therefore she, and not humans, knows the most efficient ways to do it.
I have only read one book on the subject, but just 10 pages in I knew that I had potential to become an addict too. Stay tuned for more confessions.
A curious question indeed, and certainly not one you would have been asking in your childhood! Next time you buy a can of coke though – or any other soft drink – satisfy your curiosity as well as your thirst and check out the ingredients label. The first item should be water in some form, next should either be sugar, high fructose corn syrup or HFCS, then a bunch of flavourings. But the interest lies in the second item, because most of our sugar – the little white granuled stuff, has been replaced by corn. Yes that’s right, corn – the cobbed yellow stuff that is most delicious in a roast but also fun to dip into guacamole.
Recently we watched an upsettingly interesting documentary called King Corn, about two guys who became interested in food ingredients and decided to grow an acre of corn and follow it’s path through the food chain. There were not many new things to learn if one has already watched Food Inc, one of the most popular food doco’s in recent times. Food Inc seems to be a movie amalgamation of the books An Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, and is an absolute must to watch to discover more about how your food gets to your plate. I was so intrigued that I watched it twice, and there’s so much to understand that it’s probably worth re-visiting time and again.
I did however learn one mind boggling fact from King Corn – 70% of all the antibiotics in the USA are given to cattle!! Why? Because they’re fed corn, of course. Makes sense to me! Cattle have evolved to eat grass, but because they get fed corn the poor fellas get all sorts of troubles, and therefore their feed gets supplemented with antibiotics. Seems just a little arse-about to me, why not just feed them grass? The EU has banned antibiotics in animal feed since 2006, but does this happen in Australia? Bet your last grocery shop on it – http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/antibiotics/agriculture.htm.
Back to the can of coke – curiously, I discovered yesterday that Sweden coke ingredients list sugar and not HFCS. I’m reckoning on that sugar actually being HCFS – which does not bother me so much for the coke because I buy one as often as I have jam with eggs, but concerns me for the other products that include ‘sugar’. I try to avoid sugar as a rule, but when I choose it I want to be ingesting little granules, not syrup of engineered cobs.
Small habit change – watch Food Inc. That’s not really a habit but it’s the path to many other roads of knowledge about your food. If you’re interested wink wink then send me an email and wink wink I might know how you can get the movie wink wink.