Michael Pollan is the author of several books about food and agriculture, including The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. His most recent book is How to Change Your Mind. He teaches writing at Harvard and UC Berkeley, where he is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism. (June 2020)
“Only when the tide goes out,” Warren Buffett observed, “do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” For our society, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ebb tide of historic proportions, one that is laying bare vulnerabilities and inequities that in normal times have gone undiscovered. Nowhere is this more evident than in the American food system. A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food.
Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front
by Joel Salatin
All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?
by Joel Berg
Where many social movements tend to splinter as time goes on, the food movement starts out splintered. Among the many threads of advocacy under that rubric we can include school lunch reform; animal rights; the campaign against genetically modified crops; organic and locally produced food; efforts to combat obesity; food safety; farm bill reform; and nutrition labeling. But there are indications that these various voices may be coming together. Viewed from a middle distance, the food movement coalesces around the recognition that today’s food and farming economy is “unsustainable”—that it can’t go on much longer without courting a breakdown.