On Monday April 20th, just two days before Earth Day, the Students Engaged in Green Activism (SEGA) hosted a talk on sustainable food and the ethical issues surrounding it. The guest speaker was Jay Weinstein, a renowned culinary instructor and writer/journalist.
Alison Guzzetti ’17 and Sara Mitsinikos ’15 helped to organize this talk and found the speaker to be very knowledgeable. Weinstein had a lot to say about the current state of the food industry in America. He emphasized the fact that our generation has inherited accidental problems caused by expanding the food industry.
Weinstein said, “We have to start recognizing that the food system in our county is broken. [After WWII] America, with its industry methods, became the world’s breadbasket because we could make more food with a given amount of land than anybody else. It seemed like a good thing at the time.”
He believes that this system has caused problems to this generation in the form of pollution, overuse of resources, and cruelty to animals. Weinstein illustrated this through the interesting example of America’s use of very strong fertilizers.
“Every time it rains, excess fertilizer runs off and goes into [streams and then] the ocean. This causes algae populations to increase,” Weinstein said. “This makes areas that were once breeding grounds for fish, tremendously polluted. There’s plenty of light for algae to grow in the sea, so now there are algae blooms the size of whole states due to this extra nitrogen.”
Weinstein explained that this process, which is called eutrophication, could have even more serious effects once the algae dies. “When [algae] decomposes it deoxidizes the water. These breeding grounds now cause the little fish to suffocate as they are born. The Gulf oil spill has not done nearly as much damage as eutrophication.”
Weinstein also covered a broad range of topics including the dangers of mass farming causing droughts, the positive changes that can come from eating less meat and issues with genetically modified crops.
Weinstein outlined three specific ways to make an impact: individually making a commitment to eat and buy better, increasing awareness of such environmental issues and political lobbying.
“I really appreciated him encouraging us to take initiative and contact our senators, as whatever issues we bring up are experienced not just by ourselves but our whole community and beyond,” Mitsinikos said.
Weinstein stated that change is possible and provided an example of how lobbying against the insecticide DDT helped stabilize the Bald Eagle population that it was affecting. “It’s about priorities,” Weinstein said. “There is just so much proof that when people are concerned and rise together for a cause, change from lobbying can have an amazing influence.”