The Food Crisis Is Our Energy Crisis

Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD., is an Arab-American writer, lecturer, food and farming advocate, rural lifeways folklorist, and conservationist whose work has long been rooted in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region he affectionately calls “the stinkin’ hot desert.” This poem was written for Slow Food Nation and will be read at Changemakers Day.

The Earth has grown tired of making fossilized food
Tired of having to pump fossil fuel as well as
Ancient groundwater up from her very innards
To let them spill onto our fields & orchards
Where frantic crops are forced to suck it all up.
What oozed out of the aquifer and oil well
Now bleeds with additives, fertilizers & pesticides
So that we might eat.

We too have grown tired
Tired of all those so-called “fast” foodstuffs
That are all actually frozen in time
While being freed from their attachments to place
So that they might be flung
Half way across the hemisphere
To fly into our mouths
Like so many stones shot from a catapult.

Our bodies are tired of taking in
Anything in need of thawing out, that is,
Anything micro-waved in a frigid plastic sack
Anything cloistered in a rigid sealed box
Anything taken off the range & locked in a feedlot
Anything with a patented genetic modification
Anything once wild that has been captured & broken.

Instead, your bodies are desperately searching for
Any food brought to you live
Plucked straight from the vine
As the golden crookneck squash blossom has been
The one that had been sunning among
The twining tendrils just moments before
Or like those plucked from the teeming tidepool
As the athletic octopus has been, limbs all akimbo
Shifting its shape and its colors
Even as it dives into ever warmer water.

There are many among us who want to be sure
That food makes it out of this century alive
Alive like the vinegar mother looming in the shadows
An amorphous banshee waiting to transform
One more glass of spoiled wine or mug of dubious cider
Into something sour, but sharper and finer.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Our bodies want our distracted minds to remember this:
It is those slow foods,
The ones which have moved the least
      From field to feast
That move us most deeply
For they have remained dynamic & delectable
So as to dance in our dreams forever.

Our dirt-tired Earth Mother is asking us to step outside
For she is angry that some of us can barely see or smell
Just what it is that is growing in our own backyards.

She is asking us to stop—stop—
Before we drill and pump another drop
Of that greasy petrel that has settled
Way down deep in her bowels
Since way, WAY back in the Pennsylvanian,
When tons of marsh plants fell, then died & fermented
For she is tired of burping & farting up gas for us
As if countable kilocalories
Are all that we know how to eat.

Every morning of your life
You can choose to break fast
With the dead, or slowly browse among the living.
Every sundown from now on
You can commune with the fresh & local
Or do rarified dining with the distant & the fossilized.
Watch out, you had better get ready:
Some sassy, salt-of-the-earth waitress is lurching
Toward your table: she wants to know whether
You have finally decided what you really want to eat.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Avatar

Gary Paul Nabhan is co-founder of the farmer-based Make Way for Monarchs grassroots alliance, and was present at the White House Pollinator Summit in 2015. He grows dozens of species of fruit trees, spice crops and milkweeds on his land in Patagonia, Arizona, and is author of the new book, Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands and Communities, from Island Press.   Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Rosemary Melli
    Bravo Gary!! You have done it again, captured the heart and soul of the Slow Food movement in yet another medium.
    I can't wait to read this at a Regional SF event. You are indeed an artist as well as a thoughtful eater, advocate, and intellectual. I have enjoyed all of your work and look forward to so much more.

    -Rosemary Melli, Governor - Slow Food, New England Region

More from

General

Featured

Popular

Taking Ancient, Wild Crops from Field to Table

Rob Connoley in the Bulrush kitchen in 2019. (Photo CC-licensed by Edsel Little)

Op-ed: We Don’t Need a ‘Moonshot’ for Faux Burgers—We Need To Hold ‘Big Meat’ Accountable.

beef cows grazing instead of investing in a fake meat moonshot

The Rise of Guaranteed Income Programs Could Offer a Lifeline for Food Workers

A waiter pours wine during dinner at Galatoire's Restaurant on May 22, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Carbon Markets Stand to Reward ‘No-Till’ Farmers. But Most Are Still Tilling the Soil.

no-till corn planting in Albany, Missouri. (Photo CC-licensed by the University of Missouri CAFNR)