Homekeeping: What Can We Do?

By on November 26, 2012

For 10 years the heartland of the U.S. was plagued with walls of dust as a result of farming practices that ripped the topsoil from the earth.

Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, I had several opportunities to think about and discuss some important issues of the day.  Is the Earth on a viable, sustainable path?  Are the recent weather events – i.e. Superstorm Sandy – a bellwether of things to come, or simply a fluke?

I had two informed, lively dinner companions for Thanksgiving dinner.  One is a Nobel Prize winning scientist whose posture is that scientific discovery suggests we must accept genetically engineered crops as a way to feed the world and a sign of progress.  On the other side, sat a conservative journalist, who writes for The National Review, and who takes a jaundiced view of many common shibboleths of our time.

“Recycling is like prayer to liberals,” he says, with a mad glint in his eye. As a liberal who does not recycle glass bottles but who does who put kitchen remains on the compost heap to help out my organic garden,  I count myself a practical sinner. What’s the harm in glass?  And since I don’t really eat processed foods that produce acres of cardboard boxes, I figure I get a pass on the recycling chit.

Remember the 1980 South African comic movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, when the guys carelessly tossed an empty coke bottle out of a two seater airplane and when it landed,  the Bushmen saw it as a sign from God?

I don’t want to be a Pygmy here, and read meaning where there is none, but I have to tell you, the evidence does seem rather compelling.  As I said the other day when I noted that Mother Nature has sent us a message delivered by Sandy, and the message is this:  “I am pissed.”

Additional evidence is presented by the acclaimed director, Luc Besson, with aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand who made a 58 minute documentary called – simply – Home which gives us a bird’s eye view of the earth and the true facts of what is happening in many places. Released for Earth Day 2009, its message grows more important every season.

You can see it HERE:

Just before the holiday weekend, Ken Burns two part documentary, Dust Bowl, showed the man-made ecological catastrophe from the 1930’s when the great bread basket of America was plowed up, causing a natural disaster that lasted for ten years.

You can see it HERE:

Add to that the new farm bill passed in the House which ok’s the use of a new, more powerful herbicide that is a grandchild of Agent Orange which defoliated Viet Nam and now promises to “improve” chemical farming.

Can’t you just hear the loudspeakers on the helicopters playing the Flight of the Valkyries in the 1979 Nam movie, Apocalypse Now with Robert Duvall leading the charge and praising the smell of napalm in the morning as they rained down damnation on the poor farmers below.

Take this in. A variant on that chemical has just been approved for use on American farms.

Earth on Fire

Are we all those farmers?  Is the world as we know it going to come to an end?


In its Environmental Assessment of the “drought tolerant” Monsanto corn, the USDA conceded that gene flow of corn pollen is likely to occur. It is well-established that corn pollen travels, and pollen from genetically engineered plants will contaminate natural corn plants.

And as I try to explain to anyone who will listen.  The real issue with GMO is what it does to the earth itself.

“The irony, of course, is that organic fields and crops are much more drought tolerant, because common sense and field trials show healthy and biologically active organic soil retains moisture much better than tired and depleted soil on conventional monoculture farms, and organic crops are healthier and more robust than conventional crops,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia.

So I just don’t know.  If you can accept that popular culture including films and documentaries can be an artist’s way of sounding the alarm, I say, we should all give over an hour to see and attend to Home.  They say we’ve only got about 10 years to turn this thing around.  I certainly hope we can do it.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss some practical things each and every one of us can do: and I’m not talking about filling the landfills with glass bottles.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”