16 Must-Read Books for Food Lovers
I have gardening on my mind. In fact, I was just looking over Organic Gardening’s February to-do list. But here in Zone 5, there’s little to do.
As Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank co-founder explains, these books “educate us on how to make changes on a personal level, through eating more wild foods, and on an institutional level, through developing knowledge and awareness of agricultural sustainability.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Here are Food Tank’s 16 spring must-reads for your bookshelf (alphabetical by title):
Bestselling author Vicki Robin pledges to eat only food sourced from within a 10-mile radius of her home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, WA for a whole month. This challenging diet is eye opening in more ways than she originally thought, exposing society’s dependence on high sugar and high fat foods and revealing major faults in the food industry. But this is a story of hope—Robin discovers a new sense of community as she befriends neighboring farmers and receives support in her personal challenge.
2. Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown and Eric Brown
This is the story of one American suburban family’s quest to close the gap between what they can provide for their family and what a family actually needs to survive. Wendy and Eric Brown spend a year integrating foraged, wild foods into their family’s everyday meals. It’s an inspiring read on self-reliance and one family’s determination to find true harmony with nature.
3. Chicken Poop for the Soul: Backyard Adventures by Teri Metcalf
Chicken Poop for the Soul is a how-to-guide on raising backyard chickens. This book was written by author, Metcalf, and her husband, after several years of observing their own chicken’s behavior. And whether you’re raising your own eggs or chicken meat, this is a book that explores how humans connect with the animals they raise.
4. Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet by Sarah Elton
This is an investigative book about very real threats to the food system. Elton explores the world to tell the stories of people who are deeply invested in food—and sustainability. She travels from the mountains of southern France to vacant plots in Detroit, telling hopeful stories while also recommending a plan to get the food system back on track.
5. Diversifying Food and Diets: Improving Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health by Jessica Fanzo, Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli and Frederico Mattei
This book, published by Bioversity International, is a reminder of the infinite variety of food species which exist, but are often under-utilized or forgotten. The authors highlight the importance of agricultural biodiversity and diversifying diets for improved health and nutritional value. This is a good guide for food policy makers and farmers alike, helping identify best practices, gaps in research and investment, and opportunities in preserving biodiversity.
6. Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson
Robinson wonderfully blends history and cooking instructions into a book that reveals the nutritional history of fruits and vegetables. According to Robinson, the most nutrient-dense option is to “eat on the wild side,” and she explains how to choose fruits and vegetables that most resemble their wild ancestors.
7. Food: An Atlas by Darin Jensen and Molly Roy
This atlas is a collection of maps that examine food across broad geographical locations, scales and issues. The editors use infographics, poster art, cartography and other creative platforms to illuminate complicated issues and create a deeper understanding for readers.
8. Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution by Jennifer Cockrall-King
The future of farming exists in cities, according to Cockrall-King. This book explores what people in cities all over the world are doing to successfully deal with hunger and poverty, taking food security into their own hands.
9. The Grazing Revolution: A Radical Plan to Save the Earth by Allan Savory
In this TED book, Savory explains the causes of “desertification” and presents a solution that’s radical yet simple—through livestock management. Using his personal story of discovery, Savory chronicles the process of wasteland to robust ecosystem, putting to rest some common misconceptions.
10. Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith
Fifteen people—and a class of first graders—give first-hand accounts of how farms, gardens and local food are changing their lives. The book also has a “how-it-works” section on community gardens, student farms, farm work therapy and more than 80 full color photographs of diverse local food in different communities.
11. The Farm as Ecosystem by Jerry Brunetti
Brunetti, a natural product formulator and farm consultant, shares his knowledge of farm dynamics including the geology, biology and diversity of life on the farm. This book is filled with stories and science, but also real world advice.
12. The History of Aquaculture by Colin Nash
The fastest growing segment of agriculture, aquaculture, was unheard of until recently, and includes cultivating plants and fish for food. This book traces the history of fish farming from its ancient roots to its more modern uses today.
13. The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard
Leonard, a former agribusiness reporter, critically assesses the meat industry through the practices of Tyson Foods, showing how the company has eliminated free market competition. And the story details how factory farming has changed small-town life for the worse in Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and other states across the U.S.
Eighty percent of the carbon from the world’s soil has been lost, according to Ohlson. She makes a passionate case for “our great green hope,” a way to heal the land, sequester carbon and potentially reverse global warming.
All gardeners want to maximize their yields, providing more return on their time and money, and this book provides expert advice on the top performing plants for your garden. Fell has planted hundreds of varieties and guided the best of the best in gardening. This book is based on his first-hand experience with the winners and losers of gardening.
16. 1,000 Days Project by Roger Thurow
Thurow’s next book (coming soon) is a story of the first 1,000 days of pregnancy and the importance of good nutrition and health care from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. This time period is crucial to development, preventing malnutrition and preventing lifelong negative impacts on the child.
What are some of your favorite books that have inspired you to eat local food or diversify your diet, to form a better understanding of agriculture or to take part in cultivating a more sustainable food system?
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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