Brook Le Van, Guest
None of us easily comprehends how much a trillion dollars is, or a trillion anything, for that matter, but as taxpayers we are investing more than 2.3 trillion dollars into our current health care industry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us three quarters of health care spending goes toward treating “preventable chronic diseases.” Obesity is costing us $147 billion, diabetes $116 billion and hundreds of billions more are spent to treat cardiovascular disease. It is clear that we are an unhealthy people and that health care must be reformed.
But first we must reform the way our food is produced and the way we eat. Even the most efficient health care system still would not confront the rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.
The real solution to all our health care issues stems not from government oversight, better health industry deals for us or even universal health care. The real and, inevitably, the only solution to our health care dilemma is right under our feet, in the soil. Yet nothing in the Health Care Reform Bill addresses the food we eat, the way it is grown or the very health of the soil from which our food comes. The health-giving properties of the things we choose to eat are determined by the soil they are grown in and by how close to the raw source they are when we eat them.
The U.S. government subsidizes America’s fast-food diet through the Farm Bill, which promotes the production of commodity crops, corn and soy. These agro-industrial, genetically modified miracles are then turned into the unpronounceable ingredients put into the so-called “food” that dominates our grocery shelves.
We need access to real food. We need to subsidize the production of fruits, vegetables and a host of whole foods produced in healthy soil. And we need to subsidize the distribution of real food well enough to reach all the food deserts in our country — urban and rural. We need to get specific nutrients and trace minerals from food so our bodies can handle living here. To put it another way, the vitamins and minerals under your feet also need to be in your body.
We live and eat at the top of the food chain. By eating the best of the best and the highest of life forms, we gather all that they gather. Minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals that have found their way into our waterways and the toxic agro-industrial chemicals used to produce most of our food eventually build up in everything we eat. Toxins added to the environment ultimately accumulate in our fat cells, muscle tissue and bone marrow, and at some point they trigger a reaction in our immune system. Our body is no longer able to tolerate the levels of toxic build-up, and our health degrades.
How we treat our soil is how we treat all life forms and how, in the end, we care for ourselves. One of the surest ways to ensure healthy soil is to pass policy, develop local code regulations and support, through government subsidies and our individual purchasing power, the reestablishment of local food systems in our immediate communities. We also need regulated systems of production, processing and distribution. And we need 50 million small farmers dotting our national landscape. Yes, we need all those farmers for genuine food security, but we also need them because they are the surest way for us to rebuild health in our soils and waterways, and to help clean our air.
If we do not address the source of our health, then the whole debate to solve the current health care crisis is just a Band-Aid. This business-as-usual strategy will continue to fuel our ill health while continuing to fuel the growth of profits for the corporations that now control most of the country’s food production and that rule our country from their board rooms.
So, health care reform? Yes. But a whole new and systemic look at health care is required for us to truly find health. Soil health is the root of our health, and the maintenance of it is the only answer to health care for generations to come. I’ll take my medicine as real food, thank you very much.
About the Author
Brook Le Van –Co-founder and Director of Sustainable Settings since 1997.
Along with running Sustainable Settings’ research, demonstrations, and educational programming, a working ranch and whole systems learning center, Le Van lectures, writes, and organizes for community-based events, regionally and nationally, on re-localized sustainable food and energy issues. He is a green development, sustainable agriculture, and native riparian systems consultant and green development and whole systems charrette facilitator. He advises and writes the Food for Thought column for edible Aspen magazine and hosts Sustainable Solutions a 30-minute television show on Aspen Grassroots TV. Le Van is a certified Permaculture designer and consultant, an alumnus of the Kansas City Art Institute and NYSCC, at Alfred University, the Institute for Social Ecology and taught college and university for six years. Grants and fellowships include Fulbright Research fellowship for research in Ghana, West Africa, a Durfee Foundation Fellowship for his research expedition navigating the entire Yellow River in China in 1996-97, National Endowment for Humanities, and Pollock-Krasner Foundation fellowship.
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