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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

What We Eat Matters

The act of eating, a task in which the entire Animal Kingdom engages, integrates within and influences the complete spectrum of earthly phenomena. From an individual perspective, what we eat directly impacts the physical vessel's immediate and long-term health. From a macro perspective, what we eat drives economic markets, commercial agriculture-crop choices and practices, societal justices and injustices, species extinction, and a myriad of other subtle and overt scenarios.

In his superb Intentional Eating MasterClass, renowned journalist and author Michael Pollen substantiates how the act of eating is integrated within establishing healthy water and soil systems and addressing the Insect Apocalypse; in a market-driven economy consumers vote with dollars spent. The Regeneration in ACTION (RiA) article, SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, introduces the Insect Apocalypse and gives an overview of the Intentional Eating MasterClass.

Within the Nature Prevails platform, Elemental Impact (Ei) launches the What We Eat Matter (WWEM) focus area; WWEM topics align with work inaugurated during the Ei Era of Regeneration (June 2017 to current.) Initial topics include Personal Well Being, World Water Pollution & Depletion, and Diversity Reduction. 

Personal Well Being
Healthy soils with active, balanced microbial communities and fungi networks are the foundation for growing nutritious, tasty food that supports mental, physical, and emotional health.

Nutrition
Conventional agriculture practices apply manmade fertilizers and "cides"* to fields and crops. Additionally, conventional farming practices include mono-crop agriculture, often minimal to no cover crops and crop rotations, and livestock separated from the produce fields. This farming protocol compromises and often kills the underlying soil ecosystem resulting in food lacking in nutrition and taste.

Healthy, nutritious meal
 Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
Future articles will explore the importance of organic farming, regenerative agriculture, along with the current controversaries surrounding the terms and practices. Additionally, future articles will delve into the impact of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on diminished food nutrition.

The RiA article, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity, explains how WWII was a catalyst for an era when unforeseen consequences of high-tech development would create toxic environments and devastating scenarios across the globe.

From the article: though it was introduced in the 1930's, synthetic-pesticide use became widespread after WWII. According to LivingHistoryFarm.org:

World War II was the first U.S. war in which diseases – many like typhus and malaria carried by insects – killed fewer people than bullets and bombs. The reason was DDT. The insect killer – or "insecticide" – had been discovered in 1939 and was used extensively by the U.S. military during the war. So, it is no wonder that the postwar period saw the dawning of the chemical age in pesticides.

Then, as today, agriculture uses 75 percent of all pesticides. Between 1947 and 1949, pesticide companies invested $3.8 billion into expanding their production facilities. They were rewarded by huge profits.

Many historians have called this the golden age of chemical pesticides – effective new chemicals were available and of all of the risks and dangers to human health and the environment were not yet known.

* "cides" are defined as herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. 

Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health
The health ramifications of farming with chemicals, in lieu of using Nature's perfected biological systems, are severe. Recently published, the Gut Biome MasterClass explains in simplistic terms the impact of chemical farming on the gut biome and its implications on the body’s endocrine system. 

In his September 2023 Rev On Air: The Power of Regeneration for a More Beautiful World interview, Zach Bush. MD shares in a scientific, medical vernacular the role soil health and chemicals (glyphosates, "cides," etc.) play on human mental, physical, and emotional health. Autism is specifically discussed and the dramatic role diet plays with individuals on the mental spectrum.

Tasty Food
Food grown in soils with healthy, vibrant ecosystems are tasty, often in contrast with the bland grocery-store produce from conventional farms. In his The Real Organic Project’s The Power Of Deliciousness interview, Chef Dan Barber sets the stage for emphasizing the importance of delicious food. Chefs have a powerful voice with consumers and may educate and influence the public on WWEM.

Tasty, healthy food
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
Over the decades Ei worked closely with chefs on zero waste and later regenerative practices, and is one of eleven Collaborative Partners with the World Chefs Feed the Planet initiative.

If consumers invoke their power of demand for toxic-free, nutritious, and tasty food, the agricultural industry will respond and conventional farming will segue into organic and regenerative practices. 

World Water Pollution and Depletion
As water and soil are in a sacred marriage, conventional farming practices equally pollute soil, aquifers, and waterways.

Chemical Farming
In addition to causing nutrient-deficient food, the "cides" and manmade fertilizers rich in nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, used in conventional farming seep into the soil. Eventually the toxins and excessive nutrients flow into the aquifers and/or waterways. Heavy rainfall and melting snow wash the "cides" and nutrients from the farmlands into streams, rivers, and other waterways. 

In the U.S., the Mississippi River transports the "cides" and nutrients from the Midwest and Southern farming belts into the Gulf of Mexico. The excessive nutrients cause massive algae blooms that deplete the shoreline water of oxygen necessary to support marine life.

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone
Photo credit: Ocean Today
According to the 2021 article, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Happening Now: Dead Zone in the Gulf 2021,  Larger-than-average Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ measured, River discharge and nutrient loads contribute to size:

The Mississippi River is like a drainage system for your street, but it connects 31 U.S. states and even parts of Canada.These nutrients are ultimately funneled into the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes traveling more than a 1,000 miles downstream to start a chain of events in the Gulf that turns deadly.

The nutrients fuel large algal blooms that then sink, decompose, and deplete the water of oxygen. This is hypoxia, when oxygen in the water is so low it can no longer sustain marine life in bottom or near bottom waters—literally, a dead zone. And it happens every summer.

When the water reaches this hypoxic state, fish and shrimp leave the area and anything that can't escape like crabs, worms, and clams die. If the amount of pollution entering the Gulf isn't reduced, the dead zone will continue to wreak havoc on the ecosystem and threaten some of the most productive fisheries in the world.

Time-Released Fertilizers and Pesticides
With the common use of time-released fertilizers and pesticides in conventional farming came an unintended consequence: the flooding of micro and nanoplastics into the soils from the time-release capsules. ... and what goes into the soils eventually ends up in the aquifers and waterways.

In May 2022, the Center for International Environmental Law published a report on the plastics in the soils, Sowing a Plastic Planet: How Microplastics in Agrochemicals Are Affecting Our Soils, Our Food, and Our Future. From the astonishing report:

Plastics are everywhere in agriculture, from greenhouse films and landscaping fabrics to crop coverings and product packaging. Many of these uses provide pathways for plastic contamination. But the application of plastic-coated agrochemicals to soils and crops directly introduces microplastic into the environment and potentially into the food supply. It also compounds the health and environmental hazards posed by agrochemicals themselves.

One of the least known and most concerning sources of microplastic pollution is their deliberate addition to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in industrial agriculture.

Microplastics disintegrate into nanoplastics that are capable of segueing through cell walls. Thus, plants may join the animal-protein food contaminated with plastics.

As they use compost and other natural substances for crop nutrition and generally abstain from agrochemicals, organic and regenerative farms do not contribute to the tremendous plastics in the soils from plastic-coated capsules.

Water-Intensive Food
According to the New York Times (NYT) December 2023 article, How America’s Diet is Feeding the Groundwater Crisis, depletion of once abundant aquifers are due to America's increased consumer demand for cheese and chicken, mainly pizza and chicken wings.

In addition to an increase in exported chicken and dairy products, Americans ate an average of 100 pounds of chicken in 2022, doubling the annual consumption from 40 years ago. Beyond the water necessary for livestock-farming practices, water-intensive animal-feed crops, mainly soybean and alfalfa, are grown on the most arid lands in the American Midwest. Thus, once bountiful aquifers are nearly depleted. 

With water-scarcity challenges in California, many dairy farmers moved their California farms to high-dessert states like Idaho where regulations were less stringent on water usage. Before the dairy-farm migration in the 1990's, Idaho enjoyed a bountiful aquifer that supported life in the arid climate. Yet, over the past decades, the dairy farms along with animal-feed crops severely depleted the aquifer to a dangerous, cautionary state. 

According to the NYT article, "Idaho recently joined Wisconsin and California in an elite club: States that produce at least 1 billion pounds of cheese annually; each pound of cheese produced requires, on average, 10 pounds of milk. And the cows producing that milk need to eat high-protein foods, including water-intensive alfalfa."

While Idaho's water woes are caused by dairy ranching, in Arkansas, America's chicken headquarters, once bountiful aquifers are stressed by the expanding chicken farms and the related row crops to feed the fowl. Over the past decade, the value of the state's largest agriculture commodity doubled to an estimated $6.3 billion.

Additionally, the vast amount of chicken waste often pollutes local water.

 As quoted in the NY Times article:

Food choices have long led to debates not only about personal health, but also animal welfare, cultural expectations and the role of government regulations in shaping people’s diets. The damage that animal agriculture is doing to fragile aquifers, while less documented, is particularly important: The decline of the aquifers could affect what Americans eat, and potentially become a threat to America’s food supply.

Facts in the Water-Intensive Food section are directly or paraphrased from the NYT article, How America’s Diet is Feeding the Groundwater Crisis.

Diversity Reduction
For a myriad of reasons, the number of species facing extinction increased dramatically over the past decades; thus, there is a severe reduction in the diversity of species living on the Earth.

Insect Apocalypse
At the base of the prey hierarchy, insects are food for fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In addition to recycling soil-system nutrients, insects play an essential role in the decomposition portion of nature’s circular-life cycle.

Red-bellied woodpecker 
feasting on insects

Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
Since the 1970’s, the Earth’s insect population suffered from severe population declines as well as loss of diversity.

The prolific use of pesticides in commercial and residential landscapes, corporate and municipal-grounds maintenance, and industrial agriculture is a strong contributing factor in the severe decline of insect populations.

According to the November 2019 Somerset Wildlife Trust Insect Declines and Why They Matter Report by Professor Dave Goulson, 41% of insect species are threatened with extinction.

Thus, the Insect Apocalypse is well underway.

By choosing to eat organic food grown on farms who use regenerative practices, the consumer gives economic incentive for farmers to grow crops in a manner that supports insect populations.

The RiA article, SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, introduces and gives additional details on the Insect Apocalypse.

Holocene Extinction (sixth mass extinction)
According to the November 2019 Science Alert article, Are We Really in a 6th Mass Extinction? Here's The Science, current conditions indicate that the Earth's Holocene extinction, or sixth mass extinction, is well underway. From the article:

A mass extinction is usually defined as a loss of about three quarters of all species in existence across the entire Earth over a "short" geological period of time. Given the vast amount of time since life first evolved on the planet, "short" is defined as anything less than 2.8 million years. 

... The Earth is currently experiencing an extinction crisis largely due to the exploitation of the planet by people. 

The World Wildlife Fund 2020 Living Planet Report states:

A 68% average decline of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since 1970.

The findings are clear: Our relationship with nature is broken.

Biodiversity – the rich diversity of life on Earth – is being lost at an alarming rate. This loss effects our own health and well-being. Today, catastrophic impacts for people and the planet loom closer than ever.

The above is an excerpt from the RiA article, Urban Carbon Sinks: Rewilding Urban Carbon Sinks.

Conventional agriculture practices across the globe are a strong contributor to the Holocene Extinction.

Reason for Hope
As Michael Pollen encourages in his previously referenced Intentional Eating MasterClass, if enough consumers vote with their food dollars, market forces will shift conventional farming to organic/regenerative agriculture. Thus, many of the challenging scenarios featured above will mitigate, disintegrate, and/or lessen the damaging impacts. There is a movement underway to eat healthy, nutritious food.

Additionally, there is movement underway for consumers to grow their own food at their homes, in community gardens, and in other urban environments. Beyond building local food security for humans, the increased gardening provides nutrition for urban wildlife, including the insect population. The Ei Rewilding Urban Pilots at Ei Founder & CEO Holly Elmore's home serve as an inspiration for "what can be done" at a residential home.

In his two-hour filmed interview, The Future of Human & Planetary Health, on Rich Roll's podcast, Zach Bush, MD emphasizes the cardinal importance of healthy soil ecosystems to regain human and planetary health. As with Michael, Zach encourages the consumer to get to know their farmers and use their food dollars to influence shifts in current agriculture practices.

Within the esoteric realms, Zach shares the validity of invoking collective consciousness to create a new healthy earth based on human intentions from the heart. The recent RiA article, Collective Consciousness, a movement, a solution, introduces the power of collective consciousness as a pathway for regenerating an Earth where life as we know it thrives.

It is important to understand the far-reaching, global impact of our eating choices. The preceding only touches on several of the impact areas. Remember WHAT YOU EAT MATTERS!

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Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 

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About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area. What We Eat Matters is an emerging platform that intertwines within the three focus areas.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

MISSION:
To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

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