Hold onto your hearts: this section begins the chapter on the many many problems caused by and contained within our modern food systems. The chapter will be separated into “environmental” problems and “social” problems, though these problems are obviously interconnected. The last part of the chapter will ask what’s behind these problems, because too often as societies we only address the symptoms—rather than the underlying causes—of our problems.
This tendency is the result of a misguided “pragmatism”: if a problem or set of problems are systemic and caused by a deeper, difficult-to-reach underlying problem, the “more practical” approach is to do something, anything really, to tackle one of the surface issues. But this might be insufficient. It might even displace energy (of people who want to fix the problems) from solutions that could fundamentally work, to those that will just kick the problem further down the curb.
An easy medical metaphor for this is back pain: taking painkillers to lower your back pain (and help you feel better in the moment) is not a long-term strategy to solve what is causing your pain in the first place. To actually cure your pain might require changing a behavior that causes the pain. Even if your pain is “incurable”, physical therapy can reduce your pain so that painkillers become less necessary.
So, after covering the dreadful and depressing list of food system problems, we will conduct a brief assessment and diagnosis of what underlies these problems. Then we move on to the exciting part: the solutions that can help shorten—and maybe even eliminate—the list.