Lately I've been working on a couple projects with some folks at the Presidio School of Management Sustainable MBA program. When discussing the terms "sustainable" and "green," one of the women commented that we need a new word to explain the concepts, because these words have become the buzzwords of our time, and have thereby become devoid of their true meaning. I countered by stating that yes, I believe the word "green" is overused and misused, but the concept of sustainability is timeless and simply needs to be explained and defined in a way that people get it.
In his recent NYT article, Michael Pollan writes:
When pesticide makers and genetic engineers cloak themselves in the term, you have to wonder if we haven’t succeeded in defining sustainability down, to paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, and if it will soon possess all the conceptual force of a word like “natural” or “green” or “nice.”
Confucius advised that if we hoped to repair what was wrong in the world, we had best start with the “rectification of the names.” The corruption of society begins with the failure to call things by their proper names, he maintained, and its renovation begins with the reattachment of words to real things and precise concepts.
On Friday evening at one of the many Christmas soirees I've attended, Jessica (not only a fantastic artist but also a very knowledgeable nutritionist) argued that our food source in this country is contaminated due to the use of GMO, antibiotics, pesticides and artificial fertilizers. When the very food we depend on is causing epidemics more rampant than the AIDS virus in our country, we have reached a point where our food production has become unsustainable. In this article, Pollan writes about the unsustainable mass production of pigs and use of bees in almond orchards and explains sustainability as such: "What it means is that the practice or process can’t go on indefinitely because it is destroying the very conditions on which it depends. It means that, as the Marxists used to say, there are internal contradictions that sooner or later will lead to a breakdown."
On another semi-related note, Saturday afternoon I attended the cookie exchange at the Farmer's Market, to which I contributed my mom's famous lemon bars. I met Jacob, a 10-year old food impresario who offered adorable little meringues in the shape of button mushrooms. In addition to cookies, I was gifted with the leftover root vegetables from the cooking demo that day. So last night I feasted on locally grown, organic parsnips, beets, sunchokes and rutabaga, dusted with some chopped tarragon. Yum yum.