Eating with our Eyes Open

I don’t know if we are exactly what we eat, but how we choose to eat certainly has a lot to say in framing who, and how, we are.

And we face some big challenges: with an ever growing global population and resource crunches of every kind looming, we need to think carefully and creatively about how we feed ourselves.

This theme was picked up by and excellent episode of the BBC World Service programme “In the Balance”.

Sadly I think the recoding of the programme is no longer on line, but the webpage still has the summary of the show. Looking mainly at the technological options for meeting our demand for more. Where on earth is all this food going to come from?  With the population set to top 9 billion by 2050, and almost 1 billion currently going hungry, what hope is there?

Starting with a reminder of the ever present threat of population outrunning food supply, as Malthus predicted in the late 1700s, Colm O’Regan explored a number of technologists setting out to create tomorrow’s food solutions.

Broadly solutions were seen in these areas:

  • Chemically fabricated foods: essentially astronaut food and nutritional shakes
  • Creating new growing areas using seawater evaporation cooled greenhouses
  • Improving wheat yields threefold by 2040
  • Using entirely untapped plant species currently outside the human food chain
  • Improving practices: using advanced technologies like “precision farming using GPS” and simple technologies like social media
  • Eliminating waste: about 50% of food is wasted before it gets to market, and more is wasted afterwards
  • Edible environmental packaging

I was most hooked by Joshua Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek HC webpage
Talking about using a wide range of plants not currently used or underused, he discussed how factory farmed chicken could be replaced by a plant substitute used for everything from baking to scrambled eggs.

And then there’s Wikifoods, http://quantumdesigns.com/wikifoods/
a company working on using natural skins (such as peach skins) to create edible food packaging, making food more storable and transportable without environmental impact.

This whole theme It certainly brings up front and centre the question of how to eat wisely.

The decisions we take on how we eat impact very deeply on our health, the societies and communities around us and the natural world of which we are part.

ur decisions also play into the balance of power between local players and global food corporations. It is a major systemic intervention every time we have lunch.

So how do we even begin to think about all of this?

I have been very impressed recently by the straightforward good sense of Julian Baggini’s book The Virtues of the Table: How to Eat and Think.

It’s not a polemic, it’s not a how to do it book, it’s not a cookbook ….It’s a guide to some really good questions to ask about food and eating based on qualities we might aspire to in ourselves and in society.

I see it as a kind of action research outline for a self-guided reflection on food. Where we get it, how we choose it, what we do with it, and how we form the right relationship with it.

We are planning to hold a GameShift supper, to explore the relationships between food, leadership, business and society … If you’re interested, we’ll send you an invitation. CLICK HERE
But for now, eat wisely, eat well.