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1 Beaverton Environmental Studies- Food and Famine

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

by

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability Cover

ISBN13: 9781604860801
ISBN10: 1604860804
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto, this controversial examination exposes the destructive history of agriculture—causing the devastation of prairies and forests, driving countless species extinct, altering the climate, and destroying the topsoil—and asserts that, in order to save the planet, food must come from within living communities. In order for this to happen, the argument champions eating locally and sustainably and encourages those with the resources to grow their own food. Further examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of both human and environmental health, the account goes beyond health choices and discusses potential moral issues from eating—or not eating—animals. Through the deeply personal narrative of someone who practiced veganism for 20 years, this unique exploration also discusses alternatives to industrial farming, reveals the risks of a vegan diet, and explains why animals belong on ecologically sound farms.

Synopsis:

Literary Nonfiction. Environment. Politics. We've been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. Lierre Keith believed in that plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in THE VEGETARIAN MYTH, she argues that we've been led astray--not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance. The truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won't save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil--the basis of life itself. Keith argues that if we are to save this planet, our food must be an act of profound and abiding repair: it must come from inside living communities, not be imposed across them. Part memoir, part nutritional primer, and part political manifesto, THE VEGETARIAN MYTH will challenge everything you thought you knew about food politics.

About the Author

Lierre Keith is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. She is the author of two novels and is currently co-writing a book with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay about strategy for the environmental movement. She splits her time between Northampton, MA and Humboldt, CA.

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Richard Satnick, July 29, 2009 (view all comments by Richard Satnick)
I am wondering why this book cannot be found at the main Powell's location. It is clearly very topical, grappling with some of the most important food issues of our time. It is also quite well-written, displaying a passion for social justice and for questioning the "easy" answers that pass for received wisdom in the progressive food movement.

Ordinarily, a book this important would be displayed all over Powell's. The website says there are 25 copies in the warehouse, but none at the main location. What is going on? Could this be a case of "politically correct" censorship?

Regardless of your stand on vegetarianism or veganism, anyone interested in nutrition and food politics would do well to read this book and consider the author's argument.

C'mon, Powell's, you can serve your customers better by carrying this book at your main location.
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davidscottlevi, July 7, 2009 (view all comments by davidscottlevi)
If I say that this book saved my life, I risk only slight exaggeration. After suffering with asthma for thirty years, I've now been completely free of it for over six months (btw, I got an advance copy... obviously, the book just came out). My last trip to the emergency room was only two years ago. I was on two maintenance medications until I read this book. I had already weened myself off a third, but multiple attempts to get off the other two met with failure. I was more than a little intrigued when I came across the part where Ms. Keith describes how the lectins in wheat can cause and/or intensify inflammatory diseases, including Crohn's Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. I decided to make a few changes in my diet, including cutting out all grain. Right around then, I ran out of my asthma meds, so I decided to hold off on calling in new ones. I never needed them. Having nearly died of asthma more than once, I cannot say how grateful I am to Lierre Keith. I was not on the brink of dying of asthma, but it certainly was awful, and might eventually have killed me.

Aside from my remarkable recovery from asthma, I found the book enlightening, moving, and a great read. Keith makes, in my opinion, a sound argument that agriculture itself is inherently destructive. Note that she defines agriculture, appropriately I believe, as the monocropping of annuals (i.e. endless rows of wheat or corn or soy or whatever). Indigenous humans planted seeds tens of thousands of years before the "agricultural revolution," perhaps even before we were homo sapiens. But planting seeds here and there, encouraging the growth of desired plants, encouraging permacultures of diverse perennial plants, fungus, animals, and microorganisms all intertwined, is all quite different from seizing a given piece of land, clearing every living thing off of it (a euphemism for killing every living being), and then planting rows of annuals (usually grains) on the exposed and dying topsoil. That is agriculture. And while there are relatively better and worse ways of doing it, it is fundamentally and universally unsustainable. This is why agricultural societies expand... to take over new land and resources to exploit as they draw down what they already possess. Compounding the problem, they, for readily identifiable reasons, promote rapid population growth (for slaves, soldiers, police, bureaucrats... oh, and did I mention soldiers?). This is why they create myths of apocalypse. Since the inception of agriculture and civilization, the culture has been driving headlong into apocalypse, no deities required. Topsoil needs to be covered, and it needs a diverse community of life forms to live on it and in it, each contributing nutrients, structure, and protection. Clear the land for agriculture and it will eventually die unless it is reverted to a polyculture based on perennials. The wind and rain will erode it. The monocrops will strip the nutrients. The sun will bake it. Riverwater for irrigation will introduce trace mineral salts that will build up and gradually sterilize it. Any of these factors would suffice to kill the land, but together they make the inevitable all the more inevitable. Look at the "Fertile Crescent," the cradle of agriculture. Not so fertile these days. The same thing happened in Greece. The same thing is happening in the USA. The Dust Bowl should have been warning enough. Only now, with synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, chemical pesticides and herbicides, 2/3's of the topsoil and groundwater stripped from the Great Plains, a human population of nearly seven billion, 100-200 species going extinct every day, a couple hundred major "dead zones" in the oceans (mostly at the mouths of rivers churning out fertilizer and pesticide runoff), and the planet on the verge of runaway global warming, the stakes are rather higher.

Lierre Keith is a beautiful writer, careful researcher, passionate and compassionate advocate for the disenfranchised (human and non-human), brave iconoclast (arguing, very effectively, that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol can actually be good for you--if they're from pastured animals--and are precisely the kind of stuff we evolved to eat), and unflinching opponent of the systems that are destroying life on this planet, including extractive agriculture, most especially in its industrialized form.

Michael Pollan has reached a very wide audience, and while I wish all those Pollan readers would pick up this book, I doubt that most will. Pollan has done great work exposing the insanity of industrial agriculture (including industrial "organics"), and has been a great promoter of small-scale, local farming, especially based on rotational grazing, the sustainable model Keith advocates, too. What Pollan lacks (in his bestselling books, at least) is a cogent political, social, or historical analysis to help us understand our ecocidal food production system in an appropriate context. He also offers no call to actively oppose, let alone dismantle, the ecocidal system, seeming content with encouraging niche markets for enlightened consumers. Frankly, with the planet dying, that is just not enough. If Pollan is this generation's Wendell Berry and Derrick Jensen is this generation's Edward Abbey, Lierre Keith finally links the two strands, showing beyond any shadow of a doubt that the very foundation of civilization as such, and most especially industrial civilization, is a method of food procurement that is insane, ecocidal, and really, really dumb. And it sure isn't making us happy or healthy either.

Vegans, vegetarians, please read this book. Ms. Keith was a vegan for two decades, and hurt herself badly with her diet. Vegan and vegetarian diets are not the responsible, sustainable, or even animal-friendly choices we've been trained to think they are, least of all when they are based on grains and soy, as they usually are. Of course the worst food out there is meat and animal foods from feed lots. Ms. Keith hates these as much as anyone. She is not advocating that anyone eat such poison, such misery.

This is one of the three most important books I've ever read (for what it's worth, Jensen's Endgame and Bly's Iron John are the other two). I cannot recommend it more highly.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781604860801
Author:
Keith, Lierre
Publisher:
PM Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Political Science
Subject:
Nutrition
Subject:
Sustainable living
Subject:
Agriculture - Sustainable Agriculture
Subject:
Vegetarianism
Subject:
Sustainable agriculture
Subject:
General-General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 0.98 lb

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Related Subjects


Cooking and Food » Diet and Nutrition » General
Cooking and Food » Diet and Nutrition » Nutrition
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Diet and Nutrition
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Nutrition
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Home and Garden » Sustainable Living » General
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » Sustainable Living
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Food and Famine
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Medicine Nutrition and Psychology

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages PM Press - English 9781604860801 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Literary Nonfiction. Environment. Politics. We've been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. Lierre Keith believed in that plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in THE VEGETARIAN MYTH, she argues that we've been led astray--not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance. The truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won't save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil--the basis of life itself. Keith argues that if we are to save this planet, our food must be an act of profound and abiding repair: it must come from inside living communities, not be imposed across them. Part memoir, part nutritional primer, and part political manifesto, THE VEGETARIAN MYTH will challenge everything you thought you knew about food politics.
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