Thursday, September 27, 2007

What are you, a meat eating vegetarian heathen from the future? (Warren Belasco)

It usually takes a lot for an author to really impress me with their writing. Many people often just put words to paper by "throwing up" what is in their brain. This style of writing is not all that exciting to me, as it doesn't relate to reality quite often because in order to relate to your audience the writer needs to find a common ground with the reader. So in comes Warren Belasco (you know that guy I talked about a few days ago, if you forget go back and look) to conduct a discussion with two of my graduate classes and then he went through a lecture on his current book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food for an audience at the Metropolitan University at Boston University.

The main premise of the book is, will we, or will we not run out of food someday? To portray this idea he uses the Thomas Malthus’ Malthusian theory, Marquis de Condorcet’s cornucopian theory and William Godwin’s neosocialist theory, which he uses to address the “future” concepts of food scarcity and abundance from the past two-hundred years.

You may say, thats all fine-and good, but who the hell are those people, well that is not so much important as their theories are. The Malthusians look into the future and see that, man we are all going to run out of food one day, we better change the way we eat, this meat stuff uses up too much grain that we could all be eating so lets change this now. The Cornucopians say that everything is just fine, all we have to do is just grow more food, if we can't grow it here, let's irrigate the desert (see the irrigation of Los Angeles, CA) or let's grow food on the moon. The neosocialists look toward the reeducation of the population with an equal distribution of the food between the haves and the have-nots (see socialism).

The first part of the book is a historical discovery of what the people who follow these theories thought would happens to the world. The Malthusians thought that we would all become vegetarians, referencing the "coolie" diet of countries like India, China and other Asian countries. The Cornucopians said, well ya know all we have to do is grow more food, but ya know our women are getting tired of cooking, so how about meal in a pill? The neosocialists, well do you believe in birth control?

Part two is an investigation of popular media. This was my favorite part of the whole book. Do any of you remember reading The Time Machine by HG Wells, or even seeing the movie? You had the happy peaceful people on the surface of the Earth with a prosperous vegetable sustenance which required little or no work and they did not question a single part of their lives, they were fit, beautiful and docile.... and to the under dwellers, oooo so tasty, as the opposite extreme was that the mutants under the surface of the Earth were cannibals that at the docile humans on the surface. What's the point of this you ask? Extremes, one should not live under extremes, as per this story (I'm not saying I support this or not, and neither does Dr. Belasco). Other stories include, Food of the Gods, War of the Worlds, Soylent Green, 1984. Many of these feature humans eating synthetic food (Soylent Green, well some of it was recycled people) or sludge, (remember that part in The Matrix? The Matrix is what is known as a dystopian future, with crappy food, well not for the machines, we are their food.)

Part three is about three different looks on the most popular look on food now, which is the Cornucopian outlook. Part one is the "classical" outlook, everything will be okay if we just grow more food, here, there, in space, on Mars, hell can't we just grow food anywhere if we work harder? The "modernist" version is all about using science. This involves a bit of Malthusian though, which means, you know we can grow it anywhere but it may not grow all that well here which means people will starve as it will run out, so instead lets chemically enhance the ground, splice this gene with that gene and this corn field which once fed one community now feeds three communities, year round. Then eventually this organic food becomes synthetic and we grow synthetic food stuffs and the food we once knew as food doesn't matter and science is the only way.

The third way is recombinant which is a joint venture between the two, lets use science to gorw more food, but make it seem organic (see the future of Moosewoods). Funny enough, Walt Disney World plays heavily into this chapter. If any of you have ever been to EPCOT in the past, you would recall The Land Pavillion with it's Listen to the Land ride, along with GM's Horizon ride and then The Living Seas, Sea Base Alpha under water community. You could've also gone over to Future World at the Magic Kingdom and seen the Carousel of Progress. What do all of these utopian rides have in common at Disney? They have all been removed, hrm suppose dystopian culture is more popular now (The Matrix, Land of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Children of Men, Running Man, Escape from New York, Escape From LA. Remake of War of the Worlds, Battlefield Earth, Minority Report, I could go on for awhile with this).

So where does this leave us now? I say I'm happy with the way I am, but Warren Belasco would agree with me because he states that so many of us in our culture think we are doing well, but others in the world are not. This brings up many thoughts on how we should consider our "space" her on Earth. Are we here to help the world prosper, or just fend for ourselves. I myself do not have the answer here for you, neither does Dr. Belasco. He gives you the information for you to process and come up with your own conclusion which is what I propose you all do. Pick up Meals to Come: A History of Meals to Come and I promise you won't be sorry.

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