What stops us from stay­ing healthy

Post - - Opinion -

Nir­mala Nair, the founder of The School of Prac­ti­cal Sus­tain­abil­ity, in Cape Town, is the key­note speaker at a com­mu­nity di­a­logue

on The Fu­ture of Food at the Entabeni Con­fer­ence Room in Dur­ban on Satur­day, Au­gust 5, from 9.30am to 1pm. Nair and other ex­perts will dis­cuss the agri­cul­tural land­scape

of South Africa, food se­cu­rity and yo­gic farm­ing among other top­ics. She writes about: What stops us from stay­ing healthy? The

pol­i­tics of food, farm­ing and mar­kets

IN AN IN­CREAS­INGLY glob­alised world, life has been re­duced to a mere act of con­sump­tion.

Along with this ob­ses­sive con­sump­tion, life-sus­tain­ing acts such as farm­ing and food have been sub­jected to the on­slaught of con­sumerism.

We no longer pro­duce food in a life-en­hanc­ing way that un­der­stands na­ture, farm­ing and food pro­duc­tion as an in­te­gral part of life.

In­stead we pro­duce for the mar­ket, empty-calo­ried, junk­food that keeps us on a per­pet­ual low-en­ergy mode.

It is a hid­den truth that the food we con­sume no longer sus­tains a whole­some life as most food is de­signed to cre­ate more hunger, so peo­ple will be forced to buy more.

It hardly sa­ti­ates hunger. In­stead it sus­tains the mar­ket.

Food ad­dic­tions and crav­ings are thus very much part of the new food fad, cul­ture of man­u­fac­tured junk food.

To­day, food is sim­ply a pack­aged com­mod­ity, a means of con­ve­nience, a “grab-and-ea­ton-the-go’ prod­uct.

When food is re­duced to a “com­mod­ity’ and pro­duced on a large-scale, a glob­alised and in­dus­tri­alised man­ner, there is some­thing at stake – our health.

While we are be­ing brain­washed that we need to mass pro­duce to feed in­creas­ing mil­lions of starv­ing peo­ple around the world, we are not be­ing told the real truth.

We need to change the way we pro­duce food.

We need only a frac­tion of land to pro­duce all the food we need to feed the world.

Mas­sive ex­panses of land for food pro­duc­tion are nec­es­sary only if we con­tinue to pro­duce in the cur­rent in­dus­trial scale techno-farms.

So the real ques­tion is, can we change how we pro­duce our food?

In­ten­sive in­te­grated food forests can be a di­verse and abun­dant source of food and lo­cal liveli­hoods, while re­gen­er­at­ing our forests and soil sys­tems.

But such pro­duc­tions will not serve the forces that are mint­ing prof­its through scaled-up in­dus­trial food pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing along with their min­ions – the global re­tail food chains.

The toxic chem­i­cals, fer­tilis­ers and in­sec­ti­cides used widely in farm­ing, add an­other layer of com­pli­ca­tion to our ever de­clin­ing health sce­nario.

If cur­rent farm­ing meth­ods are de­plet­ing our soils and wa­ter re­sources as well as our di­verse eco-sys­tems, the food pro­cess­ing in­dus­try is slowly de­gen­er­at­ing hu­man health through reck­less use of colourants and preser­va­tives.

Glitzy su­per­mar­kets use the “sales” gim­mick to at­tract vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions to spend money on food that does lit­tle to help health or hunger.

Sales tac­tics are de­signed to psy­cho­log­i­cally ma­nip­u­late in­no­cent con­sumers, play­ing havoc on their senses through ar­ti­fi­cial smells and chem­i­cally con­cocted fra­grances that tempts con­sumers to buy prod­ucts that are not re­ally needed or wanted.

Take-aways, sweet drinks and sug­ary prod­ucts served with meals have be­come a sym­bol of af­ford­abil­ity and class.

TV din­ners are be­com­ing the stan­dard food rit­ual, re­plac­ing food rit­u­als that have, across hu­man his­tory, been a way to con­nect and strengthen com­mu­nity ties and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

With no real food to feed, no real so­cial con­nec­tion other than so­cial me­dia, no won­der peo­ple of to­day are in­creas­ingly alien­ated, de­pressed, ad­dicted and ex­press vi­o­lent be­hav­iours.

We are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing the vic­tim of our own mod­ernised, glob­alised food cul­ture.

While we can be proud of our tech­nolo­gies, mod­ern de­vel­op­ment etc, the in­creas­ing in­ci­dents of ill­ness – dis­ease and patho­log­i­cal be­hav­iour is a con­stant re­minder that some­thing is not right – our food habits, along with our farm­ing prac­tices, are slowly un­plug­ging us from a life of true well-be­ing.

While we can­not change such a per­va­sive sys­tem overnight, be­com­ing aware of the per­va­sive­ness along with our role in this de­cep­tion drama is very crit­i­cal.

Each and ev­ery one of us con­sume food.

Can you imag­ine how pow­er­ful a role we can play, if only we are able to act as agents of change.

With one step at a time, what we put into our bod­ies by be­com­ing aware of many things, not sim­ply the brand of supermarke­t or what is writ­ten on the la­bel.

Sim­ple acts such as grow­ing food or sup­port­ing lo­cal food grow­ers are within the means of ev­ery­one, if only there is a will to change, take our power back, be on the road to well­ness and well-be­ing of our own choice (not im­posed by health and nutri­tion ad­verts).

The brand of pack­aged well­ness sold to us from global well­ness in­dus­tries, sim­ply mak­ing us stay dis­em­pow­ered and dis­eased.

Can we imag­ine the ground-break­ing change or­di­nary peo­ple can have on turn­ing over a new chap­ter in the an­nals of mod­ern food his­tory if we take our power back to eat healthy and eat lo­cally?


Start­ing our own gardens and sup­port­ing lo­cal farm­ers is a recipe for a healthy lifestyle, says the writer.

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