Friday, August 28, 2009

High Price of Cheap Food

There's a pretty good article in last week's Time about some of the stuff I care about most in the world: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food. Although it simplifies a lot of the issues, as it has to do, to describe the whole picture in five pages, it captures much of what is so terrifying and soul-less about the state of America's industrial food system today, and also a little bit about what is hopeful in the current interest in alternative, sustainable methods of food production (even if it is small and limited to certain strata of society, for now). As the article writes, "Not all costs can be measured by a price tag. Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier." This is a key point to remember when we go to the grocery store, I think. We must be able to look beyond the price tag to see everything that lies beneath what we hand over to the cashier.

Also, in the article, there's a link to a photo essay based on this book called Hungry Planet, which shows photos of what families all over the world eat in one week's time. If you haven't seen these photos yet, they're really worth a look. Here's a small sampling, along with the cost, in US dollars spent on food in a typical week (click on the images to see larger versions):

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The first married Southern tour...

Last week, we got to take a little trip to visit both of our families in Georgia and Oklahoma, stopping in each for 3ish days, and it was a pretty ideal trip. We got to:

Play with Jeremy:
Eat Mama's delicious food:

Celebrate Justin's and Aaron's birthdays:

Visit Justin's great-aunt Estelle:

Participate in Justin's Mom's Relay for Life Survivors team:

Enjoy ourselves!

Closure and renewal

The long days of summer are coming to an end, and there's a tangible sense of the next chapter starting once more. The air has an autumnal chill, campus is bustling with fresh faces once again, summer frisbee is over, we've made our new excel schedule spreadsheets, and I've almost begun to yearn for hoodies and down blankets.

This has been one hell of a summer. The sort of summer that makes me reach out and hold on to every moment, soaking up what it means to be free, but understanding that freedom is only sweet when held up against the grueling days of the semester. The schedule of an academic is so unlike the regular 9 to 5 worker, with 9 months of overwhelming busy-ness and frantic anxiety, followed by 3 months of sweet, sweet time off. This summer was so full of love and creativity and passion. I managed to get married, celebrate an incredible weekend with (almost) all my favorite people in the world, have one of my best friends visit, work a fulfilling and enriching job at Troy Gardens, play frisbee, watch Justin enjoy his session at CTY, complete over 3/4 of the items on my "project human" document, work on my Madison friendships, grow delicious vegetables in my first successful independent garden, cook delicious meals from my garden and our Harmony Valley CSA, and have a successful and wonderful trip to visit our families in Georgia and Oklahoma.

But now that it's pretty much over, I'm trying my hardest to be inspired by the sense of renewal that comes with a new school year. As one of my favorite bloggers, Sharon Astyk, wrote in this post, Judaism's celebration of the new year in autumn with Rosh Hashanah makes so much sense because of the harvest, the shifting seasons, and the chance for starting anew as summer comes to a close. Yesterday, I served on a panel that the graduate school put on, in which I shared my funding experiences with first year fellows. Being up there in front of the room, having all these new graduate students see me as some sort of expert, was such a good feeling and reminder of the ways in which I've grown since I was in their place. And after the session, I sat on the terrace with three of the first year students in my department and talked with them about questions and anxieties they had. Through all this, I soaked up some of their excitement and began to feel it myself.

As I begin this fourth year of my PhD program, and the first in which I am a "dissertator," I just hope that I can find joy in my academic work, can figure out how to strike the right balance between work and play and rest, and can begin to imagine a future around all this that I'm doing. Here's hopin'...