There are No Vegetarians in a Famine   12 comments

An entry in the How To Be Poor series

To better understand the distorted viewpoint of our culture that I wrote about in the last post, I want to talk about food and diet. As I tend to reference my own experiences in these posts, I want to write initially about my own changing diet over the years.

I have spent a good portion of my life attempting to eat in a moral and ethical manner. This has boiled down, as often as not, to a focus on eating certain foods and not eating yet other foods. For sixteen years of my life, this approach underpinned my vegetarianism. I ate dairy and eggs during that time, but didn’t eat meat of any kind. I came to that diet while living in Arizona as a teenager and it was greatly influenced by the New Age community I found myself interacting with there. I became vegetarian largely for moral reasons and partly for health reasons (ironically, considering how poorly I ate as a vegetarian.) I even believed at times that eating meat would lower my body’s vibration level. Looking back, I feel a bit ridiculous about that.

As parenthetically noted, I didn’t eat well during my vegetarian days. Having never learned to cook much and rarely having anyone to cook for me, my diet tended toward prepared, processed and packaged foods. Boxed pasta mixes and frozen pizzas were staples and spaghetti made with jarred sauce constituted my primary culinary adventures. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I would think a diet of processed foods was a more ethical and healthy way of eating simply because it didn’t involve meat. That seems the very definition of blind reductionism, but it was a blindness I suffered.

Upon reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I began to warm to the idea of resuming my meat eating ways, but with a focus on eating sustainable and well raised meat. I eventually made that change and, not long after, discovered Nourishing Traditions and the Weston A. Price school of dietary thought. I read Nina Planck’s Real Food. I found a source of raw milk and started consuming it with abandon. I experimented with fermenting veggies and soaking grains, though I never integrated those foods into my diet on a regular basis. Finally, a few years ago, I read The Vegetarian Myth and reached the peak of my infatuation with a diet focused on the eating of healthy animal fats and proteins. I found myself convinced by Lierre Keith’s book, which argued that the healthiest, most ethical and most sustainable dietary choice was eating a good amount of animal fat and protein from animals raised well, as well as a certain amount of fresh fruits and veggies and minimal grain.

In conjunction with my focus on well raised animal products, I also had started to farm. This lifestyle greatly improved my diet, significantly boosting my cooking skills and knowledge and providing me plenty of abundant, fresh vegetables with which to work. I became more familiar with making simple, sustaining meals—the sorts of meals I should have been eating during my vegetarian days. In tandem with the increased physical labor of farming, I felt healthier, dropped some unnecessary weight, and began to see the joys of a local and seasonal diet. Not that I ate such a diet exclusively, but I moved much closer. And that has continued up until this day. I probably ate better and more local and seasonal this last year than any other, with much help from the fantastic people I lived with and our communal meals.

With all these different changes in diet over the years, a common thread starting with my vegetarianism (and, really, before then—I remember calling McDonald’s as a child and asking them to stop using styrofoam for their packaging after watching a 20/20 report with my parents) was the idea that what I ate played a large role in my moral and ethical well being. I couldn’t help but feel that my diet was important—that I influenced the world, its health and happiness, through what I ate. Of course, that’s true. Our collective diet plays a massive role in how we live in this world. Yet, I couldn’t stop looking at this effect through the prism of what I ate rather than how I ate.

This perhaps shows itself most clearly through my vegetarianism. I boiled my moral decision down to meat and failed to look at any of the other implications of my diet. Later, when I became convinced by The Vegetarian Myth that eating animal protein and fruits and veggies was the way to go, I looked at it with something more of a holistic viewpoint—questioning what kind of an agriculture could truly be practiced sustainably and realizing the destructive aspects of monoculture grain production, even if done organically—but I still boiled it down to a set diet with rigid guidelines, creating an ideal and only then trying to figure out how I might meet that ideal locally.

Our society, furthermore, is filled with these ideals. There are thousands of books laying out rigid dietary guidelines that promise you the world: a healthy body, a better environment, long life, good sex, happiness, joy, moral satisfaction, so on and so forth. What these diets typically have in common is that they have all kinds of guidelines that they attempt to apply to everyone, with little to no regard for local circumstances, the climate you live in, your particular body, your childhood diet, your likes and dislikes, the kind of work you do, or what kind of agriculture exists locally. The assumption is that you can eat whatever you choose. And this is an assumption that can only exist in the context of massive luxury. It’s, in other words, one of the very distorted viewpoints of our society borne out of a globalized, industrial economy floating on the warm waters of cheap and abundant fossil fuel energy.

Most of human history has not seen such luxury and personal diets formed accordingly. Most people have been constricted by their local agriculture or local wild foods, with minimal or no trade providing non-local foods. Most people, furthermore, have been limited by their own means of acquisition. Plenty of people have been subsistence farmers, eating largely food they have produced themselves and whatever they can acquire in trade using that same self-grown food. Others have eaten on a strict budget, unable to purchase a wide variety of luxury foods even if those foods have been available. It’s a unique circumstance in the history of humanity that we find ourselves in today, in which a significant portion of the populations of industrialized nations have access to food from across the world, throughout the year, and have enough money to buy most any of that food and thus craft whatever particular diet they should want.

This is where we need to make a sharp distinction between necessity and luxury. Necessity is having something to eat—having enough to eat. Luxury is being able to eat whatever diet you decide you prefer, whether that be for matter of taste, health or ethical concern. In a world in which luxury is taken for granted, the morality of eating easily can be transformed from how you eat—by the care you take in eating the foods that are available to you—to what you eat, with little regard for your local circumstances. If you’re living by necessity and therefore feeding yourself within a very limited range of available foods, then moral concerns about your diet have to skew more toward the “how” side of things. What are the traditions of eating? How do you relate those traditions to your larger moral framework? How do you go about acquiring your food? How much do you eat? What kind of thanks do you give for it? What care do you take in the eating of it, the growing and raising of it if you have any control over that? If you’re living in luxury, then it’s much easier to skew your moral concerns toward the “what” side of things. Am I eating grass fed meat? Am I not eating meat? Am I eating grains that are destroying the prairies? Am I eating organic produce? Is my food locally produced? I’m not saying these questions are irrelevant or unimportant, but they are often borne of luxury.

If you find yourself in a famine, chances are you’re going to eat whatever food becomes available to you. If you’re starving, it’s unlikely that moral convictions about not eating meat are going to keep you from eating some goat meat stew if someone should offer it to you. Furthermore, if you’re someone who can’t seem to comprehend the idea of eating grains and vegetables as the core of your diet, then you better change your opinion real quick if you find yourself in the midst of a famine because you’re a lot more likely to get your hands on a meal in that dietary realm than you are a juicy hamburger. Do you think that grain production is inherently destructive of natural ecosystems and that a diet of grass fed meats, eggs from pastured poultry, raw dairy and a smattering of fruits and vegetables grown in rotation on farms incorporating animals is the most sustainable diet? Well, you might not find any such diet available to you a few decades from now, when constricted fossil fuel supplies and an overcrowded planet have greatly increased hunger rates and—in the rough and rocky crash following our current overshoot—grain staples are far easier to come by than pastured meat. The above diet may be one of the more sustainable ones available to human beings—and I don’t know if that’s true or not—but that’s going to support perhaps a tenth or less of our current population. If a few decades from now our governments and local economies are struggling to feed seven or eight billion people on a planet no longer sporting the sort of fossil fuel supply that can support such a population, you’re far more likely to gain access to a ration of grains or potatoes than a nice grass fed steak.

What this comes down to is the necessary imposition of limits and constraints. Much of the challenge facing us in terms of a transition to a more sustainable—and thus, much more poor—way of living is the fact that we have access to this luxury. It’s no surprise, then, that we take advantage of it. That’s pretty standard behavior for any species. If we can eat most anything we desire, it’s not a shock that we’ll eat foods that otherwise wouldn’t be available to us and it’s not a surprise that in determining the moral ideals of our diet, we’ll tend more toward what we eat than how we eat it. That’s the foreseeable outcome of having access to this level of luxury and functioning within the context of the distorted viewpoint that luxury affords us. We make our choices by working from the context of having everything available to us and then trying to come up with an unconstrained perfection. If we were working outside of this odd level of luxury, we would instead be looking at what our limited resources were and then trying to make the best of what was available to us.

We can’t live outsized, overabundant lives if we don’t have an abundance of wealth available to us. In the future, we’re unlikely to have the sort of abundance available that we do today. This, as I’ve said many times, is one very good reason to attempt to start living on less, so that we adjust to this way of life and figure out some of the better ways to do it—how to make the best of what’s available to us—before we find ourselves thrust into that poorer way of life. But if we’re going to figure that out, we’re going to have to change our context. We’re going to have to try to see more clearly, to remove some of the distortion, and to reintroduce limits and constraints into our lives. We’re going to have to craft a different context for ourselves—one rooted more in poverty than wealth, in constrained resources rather than abundance. This idea, of crafting a new context, is going to be at the root of several of the forthcoming posts in this series. I’ll write more about it in the next entry.


12 responses to “There are No Vegetarians in a Famine

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  1. Overall I agree with the thrust of your article, we can’t continue being half-ton people. Even if we weren’t facing fossil fuel shortages, getting rid of the excesses would be a good thing.

    I do have issues with several points, though. First, simply returning to an agrarian lifestyle will probably limit the variety of foods available. But a Permaculture lifestyle can provide an abundance of variety, and a foraging lifestyle an even greater variety. Seasonality will be a consideration, of course, but the true variety of edible plants and animals that Nature provides is astounding.

    Second, once you take away fossil fuels, grains no longer are necessarily easier to come by than pastured meat. People need to do all the work for raising grain, livestock will go out and feed itself, if allowed to.

    Third, designing a diet around health will probably yield relatively much more in a post-oil future, as access to advanced health care technologies becomes restricted. (Unless of course you’re deliberately trying to reduce the population through increased death rates.)

    Again, though, as you say we will have to adjust to the parameter of reducing energy use, living off current solar income rather that using as much fossil fuels as we wish.

    • You surely know more about permaculture than I do, John, but I have a fairly intensive interest in it and do think permaculture principles will play a large role in future, more sustainable agricultural practices. Well, they do now play their role in many sustainable farms, but I mean that I think the influence will grow. I actually think that agriculture needs to move in the direction of mimicking crude ecosystems for us to eventually create a widespread, stable agriculture that can feed whatever the world ends up being able to support without fossil fuels.

      So yes, livestock will likely have a big place in that. And yes again, grain production is certain to drop quite a bit once fossil fuels go the way of dinosaurs (sorry.) Of course, a very large percentage of that grain production will naturally fall away as we stop feeding so much grain to livestock and return to putting them on grass and eliminating some of the unnecessary steps between sun and meat.

      Now, whether or not I’ll be around to see these principles in widespread agricultural use, I don’t know. I’m not terribly optimistic, but it sure would be nice to see—and if the food movement has shown anything, it’s that major change in that realm can happen quickly.

      I also agree on the link between health and diet. If it’s an option, being smart about our diet is going to be the first line of defense for staying healthy in the future as our intensively industrial medical system falls apart. Hopefully a good diet will be available. And I remain sympathetic to a lot of the Weston A. Price sort of views, though I think they can take their argument to too much of an extreme. I think humans are pretty flexible in terms of what kind of diet can be a healthy one, so long as that diet’s rooted in actual food rather than processed food substances.

      So I guess I pretty much agree with you on all points. I mainly didn’t want to delve into an argument in this post about what kind of diet is healthiest and most sustainable because: I don’t feel any certainty on those subjects, I know without question that there isn’t a blanket answer for everyone, and it wasn’t the thrust of the argument here. I’m glad you chimed in with your thoughts to help cover that gap.

      (And I actually will be writing a post sometime in the not too distant future about raising and eating animals, which will probably hit on some of these points.)

  2. Hi Joel,

    A very thoughtful article on a very inflammatory topic. It looks as though you have travelled on an interesting journey in your life and I tend to agree with your insights. We are all on a continuum in terms of the ethics of food and that kind of works as a good analogy. For example, I have a neighbour that hunts rabbits and wild boar, but eats them too, so I have a great deal of respect for that. He is a very competent individual too, a good person to know if you are ever in trouble.

    Your journey has a lot of parallels to my own. I reckon it is not until people become involved with food production that they understand the implications of their individual food choices. As you wrote, I also wonder about food, peak oil, because it is not until you have to actually produce your own food that you properly respect and understand it.

    Do you have any experience with dairy goats or small cattle like Dexter cows? Your reference to raw milk was interesting, the powers that be, get a bit funny about it over here, but people sell it as bath milk! You’d have to buy a lot of it to fill a bath though… Oh well, one bit of craziness (ie. the legal system), begets another as they say.

    Had to interrupt the comment because a big storm is rolling in (and no rain was expected for today) although it was very hot still here. Apparently tomorrow is a 90% chance of 80mm (3+ inches) of rain. Not much for you given that you get 100 inches per annum, but it’s pretty significant here and will test all of my water collection / infiltration systems. Anyway, we ended up sitting on the veranda watching the rain and lightning, listening to the thunder and drinking port. Most fun, although typing is more difficult now!

    I spent this afternoon in the hot sun moving all of my fig trees to a new sunnier and more exposed location as they have not done very well where they were originally planted. It takes about a decade to understand the plants and systems that you rely on if you want to become self-sufficient (I’m no more than half way). Food for thought – please excuse the pun.

    Regards and respect.


    • Hi Chris,

      Not much experience with dairy goats or small cattle. I milked a goat once, to mixed results. It was interesting and I really do like goats. They’re very smart and playful animals. If I find myself with a milking animal at some point, a goat may very well be it, though I do enjoy cow’s milk more. I always thought that if I had a milking cow, it would be a Jersey. I really love them and their milk, with its high butterfat content. But looking up Dexters, it seems they might be a good option too, with similar fat content. Thanks for putting me on to them. I think I’ve heard of the breed before but was unfamiliar with it.

      Do you have any experience with Dexters or other cattle? Your current place doesn’t have the water needed to support cattle, correct?

      I don’t know what you know of the raw milk situation over here, but let’s just say that the PTB get a lot more than funny about it. The FDA is on a scorched-earth mission of shutting down raw milk producers left and right. They consistently libel the stuff and eagerly put out completely over the top press releases when the slightest hint of someone getting sick from raw milk consumption rears its head. I think my favorite recent moment (“favorite” meaning “infuriating”) was last year when they announced a bust of Rawesome Foods in California—a private raw foods buying club—for not having a license. They put the owner in jail and shut down the business, despite the fact that no one had been sickened and the owner had a compelling case that he didn’t need to be licensed due to the private nature of the business. The best part, though, is that same day they announced a recall of 3 million pounds of ground turkey from Cargill, which had sickened over 50 people and killed at least one all across the country. The biggest turkey recall in history. And, of course, while the Rawesome Food owner was cooling his heels in jail and had had his business shut down, without a single person sick, Cargill was still operating unmolested and no one was in jail over the multiple people sickened and killed by their tainted turkey.

      Ahh, the FDA. Let’s just say they’re not subtle in their support of corporate ag at the expense of small and private farmers.

      So anyway, raw milk is a tricky subject here and subject to high tensions on both sides. State laws vary, from it being able to be certified and sold in stores to on-site sales only to outright illegality. Here in Oregon, you can buy it on the farm, from someone who has 3 or fewer milking cows or 9 or fewer milking goats. So I’ve been able to get my hands on raw milk fairly regularly, though it can be a challenge at times. When I first started drinking it, I got it from a certified dairy in Washington that delivered in Vancouver, a town just across the Oregon-Washington state line from Portland. Transporting raw milk across state lines for human consumption is illegal, though, so we had to get a bit more stealthy about the club when the FDA started threatening to shut down the Washington dairy for selling milk to the private citizens who would then bring it over to Portland.

      America, where we cherish our freedoms.

      Okay, that was a lot of rambling. 3 inches of rain in a single day is pretty good for us, despite our 100 inches a year. That’s generally spread out over 9 months, so while we certainly have our share of very rainy days, 3+ inches is still a nice storm. We just had quite the stormy night here Friday evening—pounding hail, strong winds, thunder and lightning. Always a joy, those sorts of storms. Sitting on the porch with some port and the entertainment of nature sounds like a fine way to spend it, indeed.

      I hope at some point I’ll be able to settle into a piece of land so I can begin the long and unending process of learning it, as well as the various plants I end up planting. We’ll see. We have a fig tree here that never has been planted. We just don’t have a good spot for it with our climate.

      A final question that I was wondering about the other day. Do you feed your chooks any purchased feed, or is it all food scraps and forage?

      • Hi Joel,

        “A final question that I was wondering about the other day. Do you feed your chooks any purchased feed, or is it all food scraps and forage?”

        That’s a loaded question, that is! Over here the commercial feed that you can purchase at a stock feed business contain pellets of protein. Now, I could be wrong, but it is very likely that the pellets of protein are made from recovered animal product so you can end up feeding your chickens, well, ground up chickens. The commercial feed is very cheap at about $14 per 25kg bag which is why I assume that this is the case. The stock feed lady was very edgy about this subject when I quizzed her about it and finally admitted that she didn’t feed her chickens this feed either. The lady in question is a vegetarian and tried to feed her chickens a vegetarian diet which is not impossible, but very hard.

        The chickens however, wouldn’t have any problem eating dead chicken – they’re not vegetarians after all, but it’s pretty bad from a disease point of view.

        Speaking of turkeys (intensity of farming practices is our collective undoing), a duck farm not far from me in New Gisborne, Victoria was shut down by the authorities after a bird flu outbreak. 10,000 ducks were offed. They often sell duck manure outside the farm gates and I have been tempted in the past to buy some manure for the food forest because it was cheap, but no longer!

        Back to the feed though. I now buy a more expensive mixed seed / grain mix for the chooks. 16 chooks eat 50kg of this per month which sets me back about $40 per month.

        They also eat every undesirable plant (some people refer to them as weeds) and at the moment they are feasting on dandelions by the bucket full. It is apple season here too and there are literally dozens of uncared for apple trees by the road sides which I pick for them (about 8 apples per day). Outside of apple season, I buy boxes of seconds apples (pink lady / granny smith varieties) which are really cheap here as I’m not far from a major apple growing district. I tried soy grain for protein, but they hate it and kick it all over their house and run. I also mix in shell grit which they really appreciate and their own egg shells are very hard so they regulate their own requirements nicely. They eat all the field mice that I can catch (inside the house and also the strawberry beds) and this is their favourite food. I also grow a huge variety of greens for them which I chuck in every day (at the moment it’s coriander, dear ears lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet 3 colour). On the odd occasion that I mow, I chuck in a catcher or four of fresh grass. They also get all of the house scraps, which the dogs don’t want – anything else goes to the worms. The woody mulch in their run gets moved out every two to three weeks into the orchard depending on how much it has rained. Oh yeah, we use sugar cane mulch (rather than lucerne / straw) for their bedding as they find it harder to kick all over the place and it’s cheaper. Lastly they get a feed of fish cat food every day for protein (seriously). Phew – what a mouthful.

        I add Apple Cider Vinegar to their water as it is a natural source of anti biotics.

        If access to the purchased grain ever disappeared, well, there’d be less chickens for a start, but they’d have to free range and I’d have no choice but to become a chicken shepherd (if there is such a thing?). Still, you get a lot of eggs and fertiliser and all sorts of interesting plants have begun growing about the place coming from the chook food and manure. There was even a small stand of wheat earlier this summer! Now it seems to be sunflowers and brassica’s.

        The longer I’m here, the more I realise it is all about having systems. What I call systems, the old timers probably knew as local knowledge / stories and learning.

        The dramas with raw milk your way sound like a massive headache. There is this double standard driven by fear and trying to kill off the competition. An artisan cheese maker on Bruny Island off the coast of Tasmania (which is an island itself at the very bottom of the country) spent 7 years fighting regulators to get approval of a raw milk cheese and they finally got it recently. They are the exception rather than the rule though and they mostly export a lot of their product. It is a beautiful Island but very remote – if you have any Internet bandwidth to speak of have a look and see if you can obtain a local program called “Gourmet Farmer” – season 1 was pretty good and you’ll see all manner of interesting Australian farming stuff. I wouldn’t recommend season 2 as it is a bit more of the same with a bigger budget.

        Over here the two main retail suppliers have driven the price of milk down to $1 / litre which is below cost. I’m guessing, but their ultimate aim seems to be – and I could be wrong – to get people off the habit of drinking fresh milk across the country and onto UHT long life milk. My understanding is that this seems to be the case in mainland Europe where fresh milk is reasonably hard to come by. Small farmers are currently exiting the dairy industry here which is why I’ve been thinking about Dexter cows. Early mornings though and what do you do when you want a break? I may have to end up paying the neighbours kids? Oh well, that’s life.

        The other reason cows have been on the radar is because the cheapie milk tastes fine when un-heated but if you heat it up for a coffee, it gets a very sour taste which is no good for coffee. The reason for this is that they have also been adding permeates which is a cheese by product to milk here to bring the cost down and this is all allowed by the regulators. I am now buying organic milk which is about $2.70 / litre. First I was angry, then acceptance and resignation kicked in.

        Figs love the sun. Lots of sun and very well drained soil. Given you get 100 inches, how well drained is the soil there? Do you find root rots are a problem? This is the first year that some rhododendrons died from too much water and we have had a record breaking 55 inches (1,400mm) for 2 years in a row. They shrugged off the drought of 2009 easily, but not the rain….


        • Hi Chris,

          Thanks for all the info on the feed situation! Those protein pellets do sound a bit scary. I’m not sure if we have anything like that over here or not. We feed pellets that are a grain mix and they cost about $15 for a 50lb bag, so I guess that comes out a little less than what you pay for your feed. I would guess it’s something similar.

          Yeah, we always keep the leftover chicken out of the chicken scraps and throw it in the woods instead. Otherwise, we have one compost bucket for chickens and one for the worms, which is basically just whatever the chickens won’t be interested in. It’s pretty impressive how many different things they’ll happily eat. As for the apples, that’s a pretty great idea. I was throwing a couple old apples I had forgotten about to the chickens recently, actually, and they were going crazy for them. As the growing season gets going again, we’ll (or they, I suppose, as I’ll no longer be up here) will definitely pitch some of the pulled crop debris into the run for them to have their way with. I remember pitching in huge mounds of brassica plants late last season that the chickens would end up perched upon as though king of the world.

          Oh, we also would sometimes pitch them crab and fish remains after Brian brought home various catch. They enjoyed eating on those.

          That apple cider vinegar bit is great. I hadn’t heard that. Will have to keep it in mind.

          As for the milk, it sounds like you’re paying about what I was paying for raw milk when I lived in Portland. That cost me $5/half gallon. Now I’m getting it in trade, but it would other cost $5 a gallon, which is a ridiculously good deal. That’s cheaper than what organic milk costs in the store (though I suppose the milk I get isn’t technically organic, as the cows get a bit of conventional grain feed, but they’re mostly just out on grass and the pastures aren’t sprayed. The hay they’re getting this time of year might be sprayed, though—I’m not sure.)
          UHT milk strikes me as one of the more horrid things I’ve seen. The first time I glimpsed one of those little antiseptic-packaged single serving milks (organic, ironically!) I shuddered. That milk must taste absolutely disgusting. Ultra pasteurized is bad enough. I can’t even imagine UHT. And it’s obviously 100% dead and probably pretty terrible for you. Ugh. Let me just say that I count myself as extremely lucky to have regular access to fresh raw milk.

          The permeates bit is interesting. I’ve never heard of them. Perhaps I’ll look into that.

          I think that commitment to milking would make me hesitate to get a dairy cow. Being able to go in on one with a group of people who could split the milking duties sounds like it might be a good deal, though. Any possibility of something like that for you around there?

          The soil here on the farm is not well drained. It’s heavy clay—we’re basically in the midst of forest and the open land we do have was cleared at one time or another of that same sort of forest. So yeah, this probably just isn’t the place for a fig tree.

        • Oh, and thanks for the “Gourmet Farmer” recommendation. I’ll see if I can track that down and watch it.

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  4. I am a vegetarian and for myself this made my health and fitness much better. I dont want to go back ingesting those meat with lots of unhealthy fats that clogs your arteries.

  5. You have some good points here, but (like most people who don’t have to deal with them) you’re not taking into account food allergies and intolerances which make some restrictions a necessity for some of us. I’m severely intolerant to gluten and corn. If a famine came along and all I had to eat was corn and wheat, I’d have a choice between starving to death, and starving to death while having diarrhea and vomiting. Sorry to be gruesome, but that’s the unfortunate truth. And with grain intolerances and celiac disease increasingly common in our society (possibly due to genetic modification of grains), I find statements like “Well, you might not find any such diet available to you a few decades from now, when constricted fossil fuel supplies and an overcrowded planet have greatly increased hunger rates and grain staples are far easier to come by than pastured meat” to be disturbing. A world in which I had access only to grains and not meat is a world in which I would not be able to feed myself. For some of us, food “choices” are not a matter of philosophy but of survival.

    • Hi Hilary,

      You’re correct in that I don’t have any major food allergies or intolerances. As such, I didn’t write about that in this post, and honestly didn’t think much about it, either. I don’t think I would be the best at writing about it anyway, seeing as I haven’t had that experience. I would be interested to read someone’s thoughts on food allergies and intolerance in an age of scarcity!

      I should be clear though that the philosophy behind this post is indeed rooted in survival. I think that in the future, we may find far greater restrictions on our diet than we do today. I doubt we’ll have access to the abundance of food choices that we can find in the supermarket (though much of that “choice” is an illusion, of course) or the ability to source our food from halfway across the world at all times so that seasons, local climate and soils, and the functioning of local ecosystems mean nothing. In such a world, survival will mean finding a local diet that can sustain you. If you can’t do that, you may well be screwed.

      I know if I had major food allergies or intolerances, I would be thinking long and hard right now about how I might go about providing my own specialized diet in a future sporting far more constricted supplies of energy and wealth. (Much as I think quite a bit now about how I might provide my own food and other resources in such a world.) With luck, it would never come to that. But if it did, at least I would have some idea of how to proceed—though no guarantees of success, of course.

      Anyway, I hope you didn’t take my post as my desired future scenario. It’s not; I simply think something along those lines may be the case. If so, I don’t suspect exceptions are going to be made for people with food allergies or intolerances, simply because exceptions won’t be available. That’s why I would be putting in some thought as to how I might be able to provide my own food in such a future.

      Thanks for the comment.

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