right now. You’re going to see high increases in grass-fed, humanely treated animals.
You are going to see hemp seeds that are
upwards of twenty dollars a pound. So, if
you’re going to change your steak into a
seed, in that example, how many seeds
would you need to make it equivalent to
the steak that you would have been eating? There is some level of classism there.
Again, if you take money away from it,
like in the previous example, and you put
more of your time and energy into something, you could be actually gaining money by feeding yourself properly, because
you’re recognizing that food and medicine
don’t come directly from a grocery store.
They come from outside. There is this
wonderful place called nature that instantly provides everything we need if we’re
willing to receive it properly. I think there
is some inverse relationship between money and time and energy spent on the thing.
Capitalism provides us convenience without necessarily having to think of the consequence of that. The
overall consequence of convenience is that convenience isn’t a
sustainable mindset or mentality for the entire world to have.
The entire idea of capitalism is classist in itself, and I don’t
think it is a classist system that anyone wants to afford right
Does privilege come into play?
[People are] so busy trying to sustain their basic survival
needs of food, water, shelter, and some sort of love. That is why
[Ashkers] is in an interesting location here. Part of our mission
is not going into [the neighborhood] to provide education, but
to provide education right here; it is a free and open source to
everybody. Classism has a lot to do with access to not only food
and other resources, but also the ultimate resource, which is
information and education. I think that is exactly what you’re
talking about and I agree 100 percent with that. If you don’t
know something, you wouldn’t ever look for it.
The idea of an actual sustainable and regenerative agriculture would be: how can you survive without someone giving you something? Are you your own middle man? Can you
go directly to the source of understanding where your food,
water, shelter, and clothing comes from? That would demand
more time from our day and more education and sharing that
education. We would have to start looking at things a little bit
Single moms working full-time jobs, trying to keep their
kids off the street, and managing after-school activities often
don’t have the time to think about where their food is coming
from. They’re more concerned with making sure there is food
for their children to eat.
All you can think is “they need food, they are hungry now,
and how can I feed them?” I understand that this idea of
spending more time to give yourself what you need is inherently at least “accessist,” because many don’t have the ability to do so. That gets into welfare programs and this idea of
assistance, which, to a certain extent, should provide education, not just a safety net. We’re getting into the entire politics of what food, food deserts, and fundamental access to
resources is even about.
Shifting the conversation, there is the argument that our teeth and
digestive systems were built to break down meat. Some argue this isn’t
true. What are your thoughts on this?
To a certain extent, the more you do something, the more
We hear about how animal agriculture contributes to an increase in
you’re building your proclivity to do the same thing in the
future, which I guess is the basis of evo-
lution in the first place. I’m not sure that
I feel one way or the other about it. Look-
ing back at most of human history, we’ve
been opportunistic generalists for the most
part, saying “Hey, are plants available,
then let’s eat the plants. But what if plants
are not available, or we can’t get the fats
and the necessary proteins that maybe an
animal could provide?” Throughout histo-
ry, however, you do see that about seventy-
to-eighty percent of the food was gathered
or scavenged rather than hunted. Very few
tribes are able to survive just on a carnivo-
rous diet. However, the ones that are pure-
ly on a plant-based diet seem to be at the
other end of the outlier spectrum. The fact
that we have so many teeth is suggestive of
an omnivorous diet combined with a plant-
based diet, which is where eighty percent
of the food is naturally coming from. If the
hunters come back with a kill, the animal
is appreciated and all of it is used, but it is
known that it took a lot to get that bear or that elk, or what-
ever it may have been. It’s a different kind of intelligence to
think “those berries are there every spring, or, when the winter
thaws, those are edible.” I think it is both. Looking at the whole
spectrum of teeth that we have, we’re looking at a long histo-
ry where we ate whatever we needed to survive. We were doing
a lot more scavenging than we were doing hunting. We were
prey animals for most of the dawn of humanity. Out of the tens
of thousands of years bone structures were changing, bone was
density changing, and the intelligence of different hominids, the
best adapted were the ones that came out on top. When humans
stick to just one thing, that is when they’re getting themselves
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But making almond milk is
incredibly wasteful, for instance, because of the amount of water used.
Which is the lesser of two evils? What’s better for the environment?
Anyone trying to enforce the argument of wholesale
being-ness is selling themselves short and maybe hasn’t
understood how you would actually integrate and apply
that belief system. We need to look at each geographical
region and the people therein. What is your best way to
adapt and relate to your environment? If you’re living in
the high Andes, alpacas are there, and you can still grow
quinoa and other grains and produce, then do that. I also
understand that having thousands of acres of a wheat/corn
monoculture (not common previously in the history of the
planet) has a huge body count behind it—just like the body
count of Tyson’s chicken factory.
Ultimately, the question comes down to: how much of an
energy input are you getting for the energy output? If your
input is greater than the output, then you need to rethink
the process. This is why I always go to tree crops and tree
foods that have grown civilization since the beginning of
time. The average chestnut, butternut, hazelnut, or oak tree
is going to drop thousands of pounds of nutrient-dense, gluten-free, heart-healthy proteins. Entire cultures would actually migrate from oak tree to oak tree, just like people would
follow buffalo herds. They didn’t have to set up monocultural soya fields or cotton fields. I think people need to know
what is readily available in their environments and be able
to understand how that can be most efficiently utilized.
Sara Ali is a case manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County by day and a
journalist by night.