Friday, April 16, 2010

Help! how do you talk to your Waldorf 8th grader about "Food, Inc."?

[As I sat and tried to collect a few thoughts before writing this posting, I began to wonder whether there is something of Horace's "The City Mouse and The Country Mouse" underlying the American debate about food and agriculture].

Last week my 8th grade Waldorf educated daughter, Isabella, and her class sat through Food, Inc. As it's viewing did for so many adult audiences, the movie hit a nerve with her and her classmates. And, as I try to sift through her questions and emotional reaction to the questions raised by the book, I am forced to re-examine certain questions and decisions I have made myself.

I had spent the last year researching the emotional fall-out, and rising criticism that has pummeled the GMO movement (Monsanto in particular), the poultry, cattle, and hog industries. I thought I could sit with my 13 year old and learn a lot from that conversation.
Her first 3 remarks were along the lines of "I'm never eating chicken again" and "why does Monsanto fight with farmers" and "what if Monsanto has it wrong"?
I have written about how destructive the rhetoric and "the noise of the special-interest groups", calling for a return to civility, for using "words that work", and for creating metaphors that move us towards civility once again. My personal library has grown to include numerous studies about seeds, the climate, soil use, tillage practices, and the future. Every author has an answer or a gripe, or some combination of both.
Sadly, I do not have "the answer".
Perhaps there is not one, single answer. In fact, how could there be just one answer!?

I have come to realize, however, that the underlying complexity of safe food production and of how American Agriculture feeds, clothes, and supplies the world is not as widely understood as we Americans need. Moreover, i've also come to realize that this subject matter: feeding and clothing the world safely - will only grow in importance as the planet races to embrace 9 Billion people by 2050. We need to talk about food production and future without all the rancor that controlled the health care debate.

To begin to grasp the complexity of the questions surrounding food production, safety, and availability, I encourage everyone to adopt Peter Senge's view of systems (c.f., Fifth Discipline) so as to begin to understand that whatever changes we make in one area necessarily have an impact on another area of the system.

Tonight is Jamie Oliver night at my house: my daughters' choice of programming!
So : what did you tell your teenager after s/he saw Food Inc. ?
Did, in fact, s/he see it? Did it cause a visceral reaction?