From this trip, I learned about how different organizations and companies are going about approaching sustainable agriculture. For example, Driscoll’s, the berry company, has its sustainability team dedicated to projects on recycling, food donations, and water conservation, yet only 20% of its production is organic. Then there are organizations like ALBA that are fully committed to organic farming and focused on education not production or profit. How does Driscoll’s balance the environmental consciousness displayed in their projects with their general non-organic approach? Anyway, all the organizations we visited had chosen some method that they believed would make an impact on the overall health of the planet, and the combination of all these projects initiated from a variety of interest groups and stakeholders, farmers, environmentalists, water quality monitors, will be the guide to the planet’s future.
There were so many highlights from this trip: kayaking in Elkhorn Slough, hiking in Point Lobos, water testing, picking strawberries and planting onions when we visited ALBA, just being outdoors with nature, hearing the variety of perspectives that people have because they are surrounded by such different landscapes.
Well, my PWR for this spring quarter is titled Domestication: How Humans Shape the Natural World, which will definitely allow me to explore our relationship with plants and animals, especially those that we grow and raise as food. Domestication is the change induced by humans on other organisms, inherently the opposite of natural selection, and with this definition, I’m really interested in learning more about GMOs and if GMOs still count as some sort of domestication or if they fall into an entirely new category. If we wish to create a sustainable food system based on organic farming and a much more hands-off approach to growing plants and raising animals, then why would GMOs fit into this system? Also, how did we, as a society, transition to monocrop farming?
For today’s blog, I am going to be writing a little about the last two days. On Wednesday, during the afternoon, we went kayaking on Elkhorn Slough after a morning of testing the water quality of various rivers and creeks that flow into the slough. Kayaking along the slough, we saw sea lions, swimming with one flipper raised out of the water, harbor seals (even a mother and her newly born pup!), and flotillas of sea otters, grooming their furry selves and diving in the water. There were also various bird species, pelicans, grey herons, and ducks, all diving for fish. Though we were so amazed by all the animals, after getting back, we realized that all the little creeks and rivers that we had visited in the morning emptied into the slough, and the result of all the sediment and fertilizer run-offs added to the overall environment of the slough. Comparing our visits to the various water testing sites and the majestic beauty of the slough, I could not believe that the contamination from the run-offs was slowly degrading the natural environment that was a home to these animals. The juxtaposition between the stagnant, algae-covered pools and the freely-flowing water of the slough astonished me when I thought about the fact that these bodies of water were actually one and the same. Kayaking the slough really drove home the idea that our environment, the environment of the animals we saw along the slough, the environments of the small creeks and rivers were all one and the same; therefore, all deserved the same attention and appreciation.
Here is a picture of us kayaking.
Now, transitioning to today’s activities, waking up to Grace’s song about mold, we got ready for a visit to the headquarters of the berry farm Driscoll’s and a tour of the company’s aquifer recharge project and wildlife conservation sites on farmlands. As the point person to introduce Driscoll’s to the group, I talked about the history of the family-owned company and its growth globally. Over the course of the morning, we learned about its current production methods, partnerships with other family farms, and “green team” efforts, employee-initiated projects directed towards community involvement in environmental protection. Hearing about the production methods of a large-scale agricultural business, we could really compare the practices and overall messages of ALBA and Driscoll’s. As we were reflecting about the morning and afternoon tours of Driscoll’s conservation sites, Shirley brought up the comparison between the capabilities of a smaller organization and a company like Driscoll’s. Does money really drive action? What can we, our ASB group, do to effect action after our trip ends?
We even got Driscoll’s branded baseball caps!
Since Shirley very thoroughly summed up last week’s class, I thought I would just write about parts of the class that really stood out to me. Learning about effective strategies for activist campaigns by looking at the Watsonville case study, we mapped out various methods to achieve our goals whether through education or an online campaign. While my group suggested using social media to organize activists, I realized that many of Stanford’s on-campus student groups opt for some form of an educational approach, such as guest lectures, as their first step towards gaining momentum in their movement. Hosting prominent speakers lends their message a sense of legitimacy, making them stand out. So with all these groups and their various messages to stop this and stop that, how does the public decide which cause to support? Which side’s argument should they believe?
An educational campaign introduces the basic facts behind an issue to allow the public to make an “educated” decision. Organizations believe that once the public knows the truth about the deleterious effects of pesticide use and monocropping on the environment, the general outcry and shock will pressure companies and the government to seek alternative methods of food production. These companies, the USDA, the EPA, were established to protect the people, yet they have bowed under the pressure of big companies, choosing to represent financial desires over the health and safety of the public. Despite various attempts to pass legislation that would remove this monopoly of control such as Proposition 37, the GMO food labeling initiative, big companies have maintained control over our choice and our decisions, telling us what food we should and should not eat. How can we make educated decisions about our food when we are presented one sided viewpoints from companies such as Monsanto? Therefore, through an educational campaign, all we can hope for is a public with an understanding of the entire truth and a desire for change.
Even though the picture isn’t of a sea anemone, I learned that sea anemones cover themselves with white sand when the tide is too low to cover them with water. The white sand reflects the sunlight and keeps them from overheating and drying out.
My sister just sent me an email about this group. It looks pretty cool!
Going to the supermarket with my mom was always an adventure; every time I went, my mom would teach me something new about how to choose the best watermelon or what to look for when choosing apples. Our dinner table was always crowded with such a variety of fragrant Taiwanese dishes from noodle stir-fry to homemade dumplings. Ironically, even though I grew up with such an appreciation for and awareness of good food, I still remember that my favorite McDonalds kids meal was a four piece Chicken McNugget with sweet and sour sauce and a small fries or that at In-n-Out, I only liked eating cheeseburgers with no onions. My older sisters even remember the times when we went to Jack in the Box or Carls Jr. and ordered onion rings with a chocolate shake. Trips to fast food restaurants were as equally exciting as trips to the market. I was so easily taken in by the promise of the toy included in the happy meal or the soda that my mom let me drink. Now, I would never go near one of these fast food restaurants because I know how unhealthy the food is and wasteful and unethical the companies are, but as a child, getting McDonalds for lunch and then going home for a nice dinner later never fazed me because in my mind, anything that tasted good was “good.” The contrast between nutrition levels in the food didn’t matter to me, and for my mom, it was quick and simple. Fast food was our backup plan if we were in a rush, and now as I think about my childhood, I wonder how an upper middle class family with easy access to local, fresh produce could also resort to and view fast food as a “meal.”
Anyway, now my family always goes to our local, weekly farmers markets and shops at Trader Joes. My mother and I are vegetarians, and my older sister is vegan. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, my sister and I always make an array of vegan dishes and desserts for our guests to try along with their turkey or prime rib and hope that our small yet steady attempts to introduce more fruits and vegetables to my extended family members will influence their food choices. How did we become so conscious of our food? It started when my sister became a vegan and introduced me to the horrors of factory farming and the process of making my childhood favorite chicken mcnuggets. From there, everything just fell into place; as a family, we started exploring baking and cooking, and I gained a new appreciation for vegetables and grains. Food was no longer something I took for granted and viewed as just another meal; I had a choice, a choice that could not only affect my health but also the health of the environment, the welfare of other people, and the future of our planet. With every choice I make when I eat, I can only hope that more and more people are realizing the choices they have about food. Therefore, through this ASB, I hope to gain a better perspective of how people plan to introduce more healthy, nutritious foods to people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status and move our country away from its obsession with fast food.
Vegan cake I made for my mom’s most recent birthday