On Tuesday, authors Joan Gussow, Michele Owens, and James Howard Kunstler joined Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally in a conversation about the state of our environment, our national politics, and our natural landscape. “Prophets of Bloom” contextualized these topics within our present political climate and debated the possibility for a return to a more sane and happy existence.
“Prophets of Bloom”—instead of doom—suggests that the greater systemic problems with our environment and our food system can be confronted and opposed by more sustainable efforts to keep our lifestyles reliant on local economies and land use. That’s the suggestion at least, but for the panelists of this evening’s conversation, the current reality was undeniable: We’re facing a progressively “disabled culture,” to use the words of Kunstler. Each author shared an opinion on how to navigate within our larger societal framework. Read more
Like many of the women I admire most, Joan Gussow has a bit of an edge to her. One gets the impression that she doesn’t gladly suffer fools. But as an avid gardener and longtime professor of nutrition at Columbia University’s Teachers College, she is also a world-class nurturer and a mentor to many, including Michael Pollan, whose quote on the back of Joan’s latest book, Growing, Older, reads:
Once in a while, I think I’ve had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first.
Joan is also a practice in dichotomy–though she bemoans new media for its “misinformation pollution” and is known best for her expertise in that old-timey tradition of subsistence farming (though on an extremely small scale), she is also an unrepentantly radical thinker and the first person I ever heard speak coherently about nanotechnology. Read more
Few would argue that Joan Dye Gussow is the mother of the sustainable food movement. For more than 30 years, she’s been writing, teaching (she is emeritus chair of the Teachers College nutrition program at Columbia University), and speaking about our unsustainable food system and how to fix it. (This excellent article by journalist Brian Halweil showcases her work in detail.) Now more than ever, her ideas have wings. Michael Pollan, for example, has said, “Once in a while, when I have an original thought, I look around and realize Joan said it first.”
Gussow lives what she teaches, growing most of her own food year-round in her backyard. The New York Times profiled her last spring as she was rebuilding her garden after it was destroyed by a flood. When I asked her about her newly rebuilt garden, she said, “It’s given me 10 additional years of life, at least!”
I spoke to her recently about how far we’ve come, the future of the food system, and her new book, Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables.