Be Selfish, It Hurts No One

How do you help yourself without hurting your friends? That is a really profound question, if you give it some serious thought. There are a lot of my friends, whether I know them or not, that make their living creating foods that I should not be eating if I want to live to a ripe old age in my full health. I have a relative making pasta, I have friends that have family that grow corn and soybeans, I have family raising confined hogs. None of these foods are healthy, most of them contribute to inflammation when eaten, contribute to unhealthy weight gain and chronic diseases.

You know, though, I am in the same boat as my friends in the food industry. While I don’t make foods that are bad for my friends and neighbors I do make electricity, out of coal. My industry is a perfect example of good people innocently working in an industry that is bad in some ways. My plant tries very hard to limit the bad outcomes from burning coal. We spend a fortune treating the gases from coal combustion to take out the causes of acid rain and global warming. We produce carbon dioxide, though that we can’t do much about. When President Obama was elected lots of the men I work with were afraid that he would regulate coal out of business. Even though that would affect my livelihood, I would support that. Coal burning on this scale IS bad for the planet. If we need electricity after coal, we will still produce electricity, and therefore I will work in that plant instead of this one. Food production is exactly the same. People have to eat, and if my relative did not make confined pork, he would make the kind of pork that people will eat. If my relative did not make pasta from refined flour, perhaps he would make pasta from fresh ground flour, whole wheat flour instead.

If we choose to eat only foods that are not processed, then the jobs processing foods and dreaming up artificial ingredients would dry up, but there would be an entirely new industry born to get the increased amount of real foods into your kitchen. The people who make their livings providing the old system with raw ingredients would switch to the new. The people whose jobs were to package in the old pipeline would find equally important work in the new one.

Our demand for food will direct the food supply system. Us coming to the realization that our foods are unhealthy and poisonous over the long term will lead us to quit eating it and that in turn will lead the people producing those foods to stop that and pursue healthier things to cook. What we have to avoid is falling for labeling tricks. If it is in a bag or box and claims to be healthier, it is still processed imitation food. If it looks like food your great grandma cooked with, it is real food, whether it is organic or not.

You could fairly say that our nation’s food system is fueled by corn. You would be correct. Corn feeds your food animals, corn is broken down into myriad components and re-added to your processed foods. Only about thirty percent of the corn grown in the US is in our processed foods, though. About forty percent is now being turned into alcohol for cars, and about thirty percent is being fed to our food animals.

The economics of farming are such, these days, that about ninety percent of all of the farmland in Iowa is now being used to raise corn and soybeans. Soybeans are the compliment to corn because corn takes nitrogen out of the soil and soybeans put it back in. Fertilizers are also used to put nitrogen back in, but fertilizer costs money and soybeans make money. Both soybeans and corn are guaranteed to make the farmer money because of the government subsidy on these crops. Even if the price of corn and soy fell to zero, the farmer would make enough to cover his expenses and provide a living. This system encourages planting more and more, no matter what the market does. You and I can make this system less expensive to us, the taxpayer, by stopping immediately the purchasing of processed foods. If corn usage drops because we are eating naturally raised beef, chicken and pork, then–and only then, will farmers quit raising so much corn and soy.

Someday the nation may come to it’s senses on energy and quit subsidizing the energy-wasting ethanol industry. Probably not, but at least that use for corn is not leading to type two diabetes for half of the teenagers in the country. If we stop eating corn and corn products, the farmers who are right now wasting the nations energy and treasure making it would instantly flip to producing products that we DO want. It is all the same to them. I am not hurting my farming friends by eating only foods that maintain my health and avoiding those that harm it.

I can see where farmers, soft drink makers, processed junk food makers do not want laws that force people to avoid their products. I don’t really want that either. I prefer laws that force TV networks to offer for free as much air time for heathy food and anti-sugar ads to equal the number of minutes that they currently advertise sugary foods and sweetened drinks. This would probably lead to kids cartoon programs with zero of these commercials, as advertisers tried to limit the kids seeing anti sweet ads.

If our country would just admit that our imitation foods are bad, that low-fat was a mistake, that real foods are good and begin educating doctors and consumers it would be a gigantic leap forward. Educating people is a great objective. Confusing them with ‘conflicting science’ or claims that the science is somehow ‘incomplete’ is a horrible policy. Until our nation gets it’s act together it is up to us, individually, to defend our families from processed and sweetened foods.

images-3

Here is a picture of a facility that makes either food or power, maybe both. Everyplace that food is made industrially is bound to look unnatural. If you eat foods out of boxes and bags then you have to go back many weeks and many many miles to get to a farm. Some of the ingredients in those foods were never on a farm, especially the parts that taste like food. All of the things that taste like food in your processed foods are man made ingredients.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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2 Responses to Be Selfish, It Hurts No One

  1. Sarah says:

    “If we need electricity after coal, we will still produce electricity, and therefore I will work in that plant instead of this one. Food production is exactly the same. People have to eat, and if my relative did not make confined pork, he would make the kind of pork that people will eat. If my relative did not make pasta from refined flour, perhaps he would make pasta from fresh ground flour, whole wheat flour instead.”

    I agree with 99% of your points in this post. Great post. The one simplistic idea in your piece is that you, or let’s say a farmer – personally, as an individual – could simply switch to something new when the times change. If we abandon coal in our lifetime, there may not be other forms of electricity production in your area, or you might not be able to move to take advantage of them. Depending on your age & personal connections (yes, sad), salary history, and skills, you might not be hired at the new generation facility a few counties over that crops up to replace the current coal plant. Similarly, a farmer may not have money, timing, training, equipment, or desire to make a change in his crops. People get very firmly attached to their livelihoods – it is a part of identity and a major shift in consumer patterns is not usually as simple as making a small change in existing methods. Yes, if people stop buying currently offered products, SOMEONE will lose a job and SOMEONE else will gain a job making new products that people want. But they probably won’t be the same people, and thus there are losers and winners. Back in 1925, a 37 year old blacksmith probably didn’t just put his finger to the wind one day and decide to become an auto mechanic and refit his shop. More likely, his 20 year old apprentice moved to Detroit to work on the line and worked his way up to foreman at Ford over many years — while the horseshoeing business died out with that blacksmith still at the anvil, resenting what happened to him. In big advances, like modernizing the American food industry to a system that considers consumers’ health to be important, there can be a painful transition where some people make it and some don’t. The overall change will be good, and I am fully with you in going against leaders who say we can’t stop doing harmful X as a country because people will lose their jobs. But those of us on the side of progress do need to admit that when things change, people who are firmly entrenched in the old ways will be left behind – as individuals – while society forges ahead.

    In short, you described the modernization process well and correctly, but added a feel-good message that isn’t necessarily accurate for individual workers in dying industries. They suffer demoralization and decline in their standard of living. They don’t all simply get another job doing the new thing.

    I love your blog. I think that flour and sugar are slow, addictive poisons (not that I have given them up completely, but I try to) and I am really happy I found you. I hope more Americans catch on. If that happens, and large scale food production methods change, we will need to acknowledge that some workers in the old industry will suffer as individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dcarmack says:

      Wow, great comment and if i were not on my phone id give your comment the reply it deserves. I agree 100% with your criticism too. I know my argument was superficial in detail. I was insipred by the reveption that mark bittman and muchael pollan got to their initiative from mudwestern farmers who agree wirh their goal. Its difficult to set and listen to your product get bashed on. I am trying to provide the rationale fir ME to change for MY benefit despite the effect on my friends. Ill say mire latet.

      Like

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