Pollan, M. 2007. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York, NY. Penguin Books. pp. 15- 119.
This assigned reading consisted of Part I (Chapters 1 through 7) of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Part I essentially starts with a brief (-ish) history of the relationship between corn and humans and then Pollan proceeds to take us on an epic journey: The journey of corn, from the farm all the way to its ridiculous multitude of final destinations (including chicken nuggets!).
Pollan seamlessly blends many stunning (and frankly frightening) facts with some interviews from people he meets on corn’s journey, presented in a style which I have come to appreciate and expect from him. The economical, agricultural, environmental, and biological problems ultimately caused by the industrialization of corn production are explored in very great, and very disturbing, detail. We follow corn through to many places: the grain elevator, digestion in a cow, digestion in a machine (!!!), a top-secret cereal laboratory, the confined animal feeding operations, bottles of Coca-Cola, and beyond.
I enjoy Pollan’s writing. His analogy of the corn as a river branching off into tributaries and streams and creeks was perfect. The quotes he includes greatly increase the effectiveness and depth of his writing. He is so absolutely thorough but delivers in an easily digestible (pun intended) way.
Aside from that, though…
Mostly this book is making me feel stressed out, as I often feel when I learn of things happening in the world that I want to change but feel absolutely helpless about. I will admit, I sometimes do choose to simply avoid absorbing material such as this. While it is inherently important and I don’t want to not know, it just makes me feel apathetic and bitter. Our more recent ancestors have put us in a convoluted cycle of corn from which it is nearly impossible to escape without a drastic and deliberate change. But that is entirely unlikely at this point. The exact same can be said for many other that the government and corporations have managed to capitalize on (fossil fuels, pharmaceuticals, and food in general).
It’s all just so horrible and I guess I feel as though if I don’t acknowledge all the details, then I will feel less personal responsibility. I am not sure how I can help to change the state of the world, which is definitely why I feel so sour after this reading!