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There Is Hope For The Future Of Food

By Raj Patel

14 August, 2012

The good folk at Canada’s Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece called “What I Did This Summer.” Never having written one before, I thought I’d channel my inner 12 year old.

Cuzco, Peru: This summer I started to write a book and film a documentary with my hero. His name is Steve James. He filmed ‘Hoop Dreams’ which was about basketball and hope and disappointment and race and inequality and America. Our film is called “Generation Food”. It is about how we will eat in the future.

So I went to Japan. People used to live long lives in Okinawa because of the traditional diet. Lots of people lived until 100. Now grandparents are burying their children. They don’t eat as they used to. When the Americans came with their military base, they brought fast food for the GIs. Everybody eats it now. I visited farmers who plant crops on US bases. They did it so often that the Americans gave up and just let them do it. I ate goat sashimi because it would have been rude not to.

Then I went to Cuba. I saw where Hemmingway pickled his liver. I learned why the US bans Cuban rum. If they let it in everyone would drink it. The food isn’t very good. The Cubans blame the Spanish for making them want to eat beans and rice and pork. This is a shame. Cubans have some of the tastiest fruits and vegetables on the planet. I talked to Cuban cooperative farmers. Some of them talked about money in ways that would make a Wall Street trader blush.

We have been trying to raise money for our project. I learned why they call it ‘a campaign’. Every hour every day we work on finding new ways to share the things we have learned. I discovered that crowdsourcing isn’t about money but about building a community. Not many Canadians have joined in. I don’t know why.

Now I am in Cuzco in Peru. It is cold in the shade and hot in the sun and the air is so thin that the stars fall every night. The weather has changed. The indigenous people have lost quarter of their growing season because of climate change. Because we’re not in America any more, it’s ok to talk about climate change without people thinking you’re crazy. Indigenous farmers have figured out ways to grow food despite the weather we have made. They are scientists but people think they’re backward. The government likes the Incas because the tourists come to see the ruins. But they don’t like the indigenous people because they want to control their own land, and don’t want mining companies to evict them.

I have learned that: People are kind. Everyone has contradictions. Raw goat tastes funny, but it’s not as bad as Cuban food. The world is more beautiful than I imagined. There is more hope for the future of food than I dared to believe, against impossible odds. And it comes from unlikely places.

And after the summer, I was never the same again.

Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist, and academic. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing, a New York Times best-seller. He blogs at rajpatel.org



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