So I’m minding my own business walking home from an evening meeting in Park Slope and who should I meet by accident than my bud Kathleen Stansell. For those of you following her on WBCR these days, you’ll know that Kathleen has been leaning toward a different flavor of activism–food activism as exemplified in the stand against Monsanto and genetically modified food, veganism, and now–voila! The Dumpster dive.
Sex And Politics, the informative and fun radio show out of Brooklyn College (fair warning–I do a weekly stint for them), has created a place for Kathleen’s activism called the Dumpster Dive. For those of you who aren’t savvy, Dumpster Diving has a somewhat storied history. Groups like the Catholic Worker and other non profits have long utilized the act of rooting through a supermarket’s garbage to find edible food (though in recent years, most such groups have turned to programs such as City Harvest). Much of the food in the average food store or restaurant dumpster is edible and safe but is being thrown out for other reasons–newer, fresher produce has come in (which is easier to sell), some products have passed their expiration date, and/or packaging has been damaged in ways that make the products hard to sell. And now it’s earning its place as a political act, even though for several years now it has been a growing reality for the people who’ve been downsized since the Bush Crash.
Some politcal realities:
* The US throws out some 40% of its food every year.
* Wasted food is wasted oil and energy: thanks to our bloated distribution system and its over-reliance on food imports and diesel trucking to bring products to market, Americans are ‘consuming’ some nine calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of food we eat.
* Food decisions are not simply about personal health and cultural acceptance–they have profound implications for the environment. The American Diet’s heavy dependence on animal products makes us more dependent on refrigeration and energy usage. And every pound of beef represents upwards of fifteen pounds of feed grain that had to be grown. Eating lower on the food chain also means we’re not concentrating the toxins absorbed by our feed animals.
As peak oil writer James Howard Kunstler has pointed out, we are having problems with energy supply that have to do with our having picked off all the ‘easy’ oil and coal and natural gas. Increasingly, the American paradigm of what Kunstler calls ‘the five-thousand mile Caesar Salad’ is coming to an end. Dumpster Diving has its caveats: people who are interested should take in a teach-in first. But we need to look at our food landscape through new eyes–that also means urban gardening and local sourcing of our diets.