Thursday, September 14, 2006

Diet for a Dead Planet (2006)

By Christopher D. Cook
259 pages (and ~80 index)

Here we sit at the conclusion of my third week of college. Such an adjustment has caused me to not see anything in the way of new movies or anything else worth review, but my Social Problems class has forced me to (gasp) read a book! So here we are – it’s “Diet for a Dead Planet” by Christopher D. Cook.

I’m reviewing the 2006 re-issue of this 2004 book. “Planet” details the way current practices in the food industry are making us a “dead planet.” If we continue down this path, our food supply will be unsustainable. In summary, there are no family farms left, corporate farms are destroying the topsoil and other aspects of the environment, we’re crushing foreign markets with a combination of inflated farm subsidies and surplus production, etc. etc. etc.

The maaaaaaajor flaw with this book is the presentation. It is heavily researched. The citations in the back of the book alone are an exhaustive 32-page list covering a myriad of sources. With so many facts supporting his cause, the author apparently creamed himself and included every single last one of them. It’s apparently not sufficient enough to make a point and present two or three relevant supporting facts. We have to present every iteration of the same…damn…thing.

Oh, you also need to use weird chronology. Let’s just say for instance our author talks about how farm pollution was at its peak in the 80s. After migraine-inducing reams of statistics as to why this was the peak period, he intros the next paragraph by saying “Our rivers took the hit the hardest. Between 1978 and 1980, cancer-causing bacteria found in our nation’s waters nearly tripled.” Goo bwah, WHAT? You mean to tell me after doing a million pieces worth of research, you couldn’t go the extra millionth-and-one to find relevant data?!?

AND ANOTHER THING. *ahem* In case reading a bunch of statistics that all say “wages were down” in nine times as many words wasn’t aggravating enough, simple points can be made just as irritating as well. Here’s a hypothetical sentence not too far from the real thing found way too often in this book:

The food industry, entirely dependent on lefties like myself using their flowing and mind-numbingly erudite language so much that it blurs the point at the end of the sentence whose intent is to damage the corporations, is evil.”

Yeah. I developed a fun trick whereby every time I found a comma, I’d just skip to the next one and finish the sentence. And guess what, the middle wasn’t relevant about 97% of the time.

The final chapter is a call to action. After twelve chapters examining the problems with our system – from deplorable labor conditions to dangerous pesticides – the thirteenth details what initiatives are being made to stray away from “agribusiness,” the buzzword used by many to describe our current state of food production. He talks about organic farming at one point, then points his rage gun at the CEO of General Mills’ organic division for no other reason than he’s a millionaire. So yes, after whining that the small farmers aren’t making a profit, one guy that profits the “green” way gets slammed? The hell? He cites another who says it “can’t be organic” if it’s made by Wal-Mart and yada yada. Is this book really about the food industry anymore?

I think the information and concepts in the book are valuable. One thing you do get out of it is that our current system is a mess and there is no one problem that needs to be fixed; it’s all of them equaling to one big kerfluffle. If only the author didn’t write like he was doing dialogue for “Star Wars” prequels…otherwise, I’d recommend the book.


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