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Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved


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Today’s post is brought to you by Dan Grifen,  a reader who got in touch with me to discuss biodiversity. To take a complex issue and reduce it to the basics, he is concerned about the loss of many species of food that we used to consume, an issue which can put our food resources in peril.

In order to maximize qualities important to distributors who treat food as commodity, thousands of varieties of grains, vegetables and even animal breeds have been discarded as less-than-desirable for their variability. We’ve bred tomatoes that ship well and look uniform at the expense of flavor and nutrition, bred super-chickens that put on breast meat at the expense of walking, and there is hardly anything in the supermarket that is not subject to the same loss of overall quality. When people lament the taste of food from their grandparents’ garden, they are often lamenting a variety that is no longer around at all.  But thanks to a reader that cares, there is a message of hope for the future.


Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved


“In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage,” – US Ecologist Gary Nabham

Since the beginning of the green movement, there has been a rise in the number of organizations and businesses that are doing their part in the promotion of sustainability through conservation. As human beings, we’re told to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less unhealthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let’s take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabham strongly suggests.

Gary Paul Nabham, phD., is a Arab-American writer/conservationist who’s extensive farming work in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region has made him world renown. Specifically speaking, Nabham is known for his work in biodiversity as an ethnobotanist. His uplifting messages and attitude towards life and culture has granted us access to multiple beneficial theories including his latest of eat what you conserve.

According to The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of crops been vanishing over the last century and that a dozen species now gives 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just 4 crop species supply half of plant based calories in the human diet.

Nabham claims that by eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save, we’re promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species. But this goes beyond what we typically buy in supermarkets, particularly because of price and abundance. We must remember to try new things and immerse ourselves in the very concept of diversity. Keep in mind; the benefits of splurging for that costly fruit/vegetable supremely outweigh the cons. Not only are you promoting biodiversity and further eliminating the needs of farmers to remove rare, less purchased crops off their agenda, but you’re also effectively encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero mentioned that “biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change.”[1] With sustainable crop efforts being lead by the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) and the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) the duo plans to provide a more sustainable crop, untouched by natural disasters, much like the ones experience in Haiti and neighboring areas. Contiero goes on to state “We need to ensure this is the basis for the future…” – This is exactly what Doug Band, the CGI, and the IRRI are doing by engaging in sustainability efforts.

So remember, next time you’re in the supermarket picking out navel oranges or strawberries, turn your attention to something that’s a bit more “out of season,” or exotic in nature. The same goes for salads/salad ingredients; shop outside the norm, picking spices and vegetables that you wouldn’t normally incorporate into your everyday diet. During such economic downtime it isn’t always easy to maintain the same level of grocery shopping intrigue, but we must also not forget that in this sundry of foods we can find fun!

Dan Grifen – Supporter of all things green and progressive.


3 comments to Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved

  • Oh, I can’t wait to quote this post the next time I’m at the store with my frugal husband. I’ll pick some exotic fruit and tell him how we need to be more biodiverse and then just watch the penny pitching side of him argue with his green-loving ways. It should be very interesting!

  • admin

    Oh Marly, I’d love to see that too. 🙂 But the best compromise for me is to buy heirloom varieties of local fruit and veggies, and seek out new (forgotten) veggies that are native to your area. Then each one of us can take care of our own backyard and all areas will benefit. But I’ll totally use that myself next time some pricey passion fruit is calling my name…

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