Friday, June 15, 2012

Regulation by-products

This really should be a "thoughtful Tuesday" post, but it's not Tuesday, and I don't feel like waiting to write it and post it, so here we are, on a thoughts for consideration, or not.

A few things have bubbled up lately that have made me stop and think about 'regulation' in our lives, and specifically, in *my* life.

As a society, we think regulation is great.  Regulate everything, from animal agriculture to cigarettes and guns, and everything in between.  Regulation makes life great, right?  Someone to 'police' those we interact with on a daily basis.  The food grower, the dog breeder, the hunter, the farmer...tell them how to run their lives, and our *own*  lives will be better.

I think about the native Americans.  They didn't need regulation.  They didn't waste, they were master recyclers, and they didn't worry overly much about what other tribes were doing, so long as they weren't making war.  Somehow they managed to live, and do so quite effectively, off the land, leaving little to no carbon footprint.

The first 'regulators' in this country were the British, as an umbrella 'empire' over British America, or the original colonies.  While independently governed within their colony 'walls', the colonies were, for all intents and purposes, British...ruled by that empire, an empire that was over 3,000 miles away.

Can you image how a 3,000 mile transit, over open water, must have looked to those early settlers?  It was probably on par with how we now view a trip to the moon and back.  Being ruled from that distance must have felt really weird.  I can't even stomach being ruled by the idiots in Washington, on my home soil, much less the kind of ruling that was established for this country in the early 17th century.

In 1776 this country declared its independence from British rule.


Certainly a hard fought battle, as most battles are, but totally worth it.  Why, then, once freedom is achieved, do we panic, and bring forth regulation that slowly, and methodically, chips away at the freedom we fought so hard for?  Do we we have so little faith in our ability to function, to care for ourselves, to work for what we need, and to enjoy the fruits of freedom, that we march toward regulation with unquestioning faith?

How stupid!

A discussion yesterday with a friend was kind of the final piece to the puzzle that has brought forth this dialog.  Planting my own garden is another piece of that puzzle, as is my composting efforts, here in my own home.  Silly things to spur on such a deep subject, but as I thought about some of the things my friend and I discussed, I realized that we have, through that never ending march toward regulation, created a homogenous existence, devoid of choice, other than within the walls that have been built to contain us.

Think Hunger Games.  Throw us into an arena, and we are free to choose our 'game', but in the end, the big prize isn't ours.  Why?  Because we have regulated ourselves into that arena, and many of the choices we might have made have been removed from the 'menu'.  We can only choose what's on the menu.

A few years back I watched a movie called "Food, Inc."  I think many who watched it were lured into believing everything presented.  Shock and awe were certainly options we were left to feel, and I won't tell you I was immune to those feelings, but I also sat and thought, long and hard, about the other side.  What were we missing?  At the time I found an excellent article that reviewed, and debunked many of the points made in the movie.

In discussing Food, Inc. with my friend yesterday, I was reminded of that article, and I shared it with her.  I'd like to share it with you here, too.

I also want to share with you one of my most favorite articles, written by Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs.  It's about the speech he gave at the FFA (Future Farmers of America) in 2009.  His write-up of that speech is moving, IMO, and very much worth a read.

In planting my own garden over the past month, and in the efforts I have gone to to construct my garden with free, or low cost items, as well as many recycled items as I can find, I have seen many of the points made in the two links included in the two preceding paragraphs.

First off, farming, whether in your back-yard, or on hundreds of acres, is a labor of love.  It might be a hobby for the back-yard farmer, but if half of your hobby crop dies, it doesn't have the impact on your livelihood that the same loss percentage would have on the career farmer, and the family he is trying to provide for, yet we criticize him for the way in which he contributes to the effort to feed the 6+ million inhabitants of this planet.

We are removed from our food, and the effort with which it's produced.  We judge those who grow it, and tell them, through regulation, they aren't doing a good enough job, yet how many of us are living off the grid, growing our own vegatables, and raising our own meat?

Many cry foul and say "organic" and "free range", but do we really understand what those things mean?  Do we really think we can feed 6+ billion people, and also have enough land to "free-range" our feed animals?

I'm of the mind that what we eat, and how we eat, should not be regulated by anyone.  I believe we, alone, are responsible for our choices.

From the Slanker's write-up, discussing the movie: 

"Where is the Accountability?

The movie now jumps to a man ordering some fast food (seven sandwiches) and three soft drinks for himself, his wife, and two daughters. He pays $11.48. They are all overweight and he is a diabetic spending about $200 a month on prescription drugs to “stay healthy.” Then it shows the same family in a supermarket turning up their noses at broccoli priced at $1.29 per pound because it’s too expensive. In other words, instead of a grain-based omega-3 deficient meal costing $11.48 they could have bought 8.9 pounds of broccoli and drank free water from a fountain. The broccoli would have made a highly nutritious meal (loaded with nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids) whereas the grain-based sandwiches and corn syrup drinks were not. No matter how you make the comparison, the broccoli with free water provided the greatest value in terms of bulk, nutrition, and value."

IMO, we should not blame the producers.  It's all that regulation that has led us to where we are today.  We have a very straight-forward, simple, and non-governmental way in which to regulate.  It's called our wallet.  If you don't like something, don't blame those who produce it, blame those who buy it, and those who buy it, my friends, are you and I.

Why is McDonald's a billion dollar business that thrives?  Because that is where our wallet focuses its contents.

A word about organic:  First off, is it, really?  A friend just recently suggested a fungicide for my tomato plants that was suggested by a "100% organic grower for fine restaurants..."  Hum, organic?  Fungicide?  Not sure about that.

What is 'certified organic'?  Is the soil tested?  The water?  How about the inorganic ground water from surrounding inorganic producers?  Who verifies the produce from these organic farms have never been treated for fungus (i.e., the above mentioned fungicide from the 100% organic grower), pests, etc.?  How can we know for sure?

Do I buy organic?  I do not, but it isn't because I don't want to, it's because I simply cannot afford it, but given the choice between the 9 lbs. of broccoli vs. the burgers and corn syrup drinks in the Slanker's review of Kenner's movie, Food, Inc., I would probably choose the broccoli, especially if I was spouting off about how food producers are scheming, and operating sinister food production facilities, cloaked in the stuff of secret societies.

Why do food animal agriculture farmers hide their facilities?  Because people like Wayne Pacelle, Kenner, Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan are ready, waiting to pounce.  Shit, I would be a little gun shy, myself.  And, truth be told, I am...and I'm a small dog breeder, with two intact bitches, but the pressure to stop breeding, even at that level, is often times overwhelming.  It makes one retreat.  After all, if a farmer is operating within the regulation of the USDA (oops, there's that 'regulation' word again), does he have anything to prove to the likes of Pacelle, Kenner, Schlosser and Pollan?  Not in my opinion.  I'd rather the USDA just take leave, and regulate with my wallet.

Footnote:  I just read that we have now topped 7+ billion people on this!  And, before anyone corrects my historical facts re: British rule, etc., please understand I do not consider myself a history buff, so any inconsistencies, errors or omissions are unintentional.  The point of my post is regulation.  Thanks!

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