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Interdependence Has No Religion

"There will come a day when a carrot, freshly observed, will spark a revolution."

--Paul Cezanne

Where's that from? A buddhist blog? An arts blog? No: an unexpected ally in the move toward awareness of interdependence in food consumption and production: a Conservative Jewish alliance called Hazon.

As a member of the Interdependence Project, my practice includes the intention to "investigate personal consumption habits and bring awareness to how our personal activity ripples outwards into our communities." (IDP Apply Your Practice page)

Turns out a lot of people are doing exactly the same thing, in a very different context.

I've done our Responsible Consumption Month. Wow. Now I eat locally as I can, reduce my packaging use, reuse, and recycle more. Like most New Yorkers, I rely on public transportation; driving less isn't an issue. Like most Americans, I find it easy to focus on food; a lot of my responsible consumption practice centers around that.

Turns out I have some allies in responsible consumption in an unexpected place: the observant Jewish community.

A growing movement among Conservative Jews focuses on sustainablity, ethical treatment of workers in kosher slaughterhouses, humanely raised meat, and Community Supported Agriculture. Hazon.org maintains an extraordinarily informative blog, The Jew & the Carrot, on sustainable, responsible food, and it has an enormous focus on biking, too -- all interdependently connected issues in sustainablity.

A new book: Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority, by Sue Fishkoff, observes:

Jews aren't the only people with a tradition of sacred eating, although our laws are the oldest to have survived into the modern world. How we sow, how we harvest, how we slaughter, how we prepare our food, how and when we eat it — Jews are hardwired to link our food choices to moral and political beliefs, which is probably why so many Jews are active in the organic, locally sourced, and vegetarian movements. What we put in our bodies has a lot to say about who we are and what we value.

Kashrut is different in America than it was in Europe. For the first time in history, Jews have a choice as to how we express our Judaism — we are neither pushed into it by outside pressure nor complelled by internal religious authorities. And in that choice is contained all the complexity and nuance of modernity.

"Fishkoff interviews food manufacturers, rabbinic supervisors, and ritual slaughterers.Through Fishokff, meet eco-kosher adherents who go above and beyond, sip boutique wine in Napa Valley, talk to shoppers at an upscale Brooklyn supermarket, and chant protests alongside unemployed workers at the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant."

Interesting stuff. The Islamic dietary laws of halal are similarly concerned with ethical behavior toward animals, the Qu'ran stipulates that all animals be treated respectfully and that halal slaughter limit the amount of pain the animal will endure.

Interdependence is ecumenical. And it's pretty tasty. I like carrots.

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agrarian societies

ellen thanks for this post, that is very encouraging to hear about a Jewish movement towards a more nourishing diet.

at heart we are all agrarians - this whole movemeent to get back to basics is fascinating, because nutritionists, industrial food, hydrogenated anything, organic food, high fructose and artificial ingredients did not exist until about 100 years ago.

there was just food, grown by you or your neighbors, or imported at vast expense and trouble, for the first 190,990 years of our existence.

industrial shit-food is just a by-product of the unhappy alliance of greed and technology. there is no "population explosion" argument that justifies it - we have the means to grow food locally and healthfully in any climate anywhere any time.

I am hopeful and pretty certain that the industrial artificial food feed lot factory farm industry will come to be seen as one of the most criminal enterprises of the 20th century, and will be viewed in the future on a par with slavery and Stalinism. the EU is already taking steps in this regard but even there the genetically modified industry is getting a foothold so they can make money on the sudden "need" to fuck with nature.

if we need two basic things to survive as a precursor to thriving - a healthy environment and a healthy body sustained by something more than just calories - the mega-food industry violates both of these in a knowing, calculated fashion, buying laws and advertisements that allows it do so, and creating artifically cheap products for people who don't have the money to participate in the "real food luxury lifestyle" that people (like me) in higher-income areas have access to.

empty calories and food bathed in a desperately efficient bath of artificiality and chemicals should be a last resort for battlefield, spaceship, and when-the-shit-hits-the-fan scenarios, not a regular source of energy for huge segments of the American populace.

if you don't see the link between what we're feeding ourselves as a nation and what's going on the world right now, take a closer look.

on a personal level, a quick read of a label, or a ten second question in a restaurant, is all you need to take some step towards being mindful of where your food is coming from.

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