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The Natural World


The Sun Interview

Armed And Dangerous

The Desperation Of Rural America — An Interview With Joel Dyer

Five times as many farmers now die of suicide as die from equipment accidents — which, historically, have been the single biggest cause of unnatural death on the farm. And that’s not even counting suicides made to look like accidents: if you’re about to lose your farm and have life insurance, you can crawl into your combine, and your family might be able to keep the farm. Personally, I suspect there are more fraudulent accidents than straightforward gunshots to the head. So it could be that ten or fifteen times as many farmers die from suicide as die from accidents.

The Sun Interview

The Broken Promise Of Democracy

An Interview With Frances Moore Lappé

The hunger that is so common worldwide and that kills so many people every day does not result from a scarcity of food. Hunger is not about the relationship of people to food: it is about a human relationship in which a small number of people determine who has access to food and what is grown on what land. In Diet for a Small Planet and with my work at Food First, I’ve tried to drum home the fact that, in many of the countries where people are the most hungry, much more land is devoted to crops grown for international trade than to crops that sustain the people who work the land.


Dry Roots

The wheat is starting to turn, flashes of deep gold streaking through all that tall, waving green. Before we moved to Colorado, I used to think wheat grew golden yellow, like in all the photos I’d seen. I suspect most city folk think that. They don’t realize that wheat grows up green and living and then dies, and that’s when it becomes useful.

The Sun Interview

Nature Of The Beast

An Interview With John Robbins On The Great American Food Machine

We call some animals pets and other animals dinner because our culture says that some animals are part of our circle of compassion and others are not. To some extent, an animal that is destined for human consumption is exempt from the laws restricting cruelty to animals. In other words, you can do anything you want to an animal as long as you’re going to eat it. There are Filipino communities in the United States whose members carry on their cultural tradition of eating dogs, and many people who don’t think twice about the treatment of veal calves find it very objectionable to see a dog treated that way.


The Illustrated Diary Of Doris Koppleman

Only about half the number of people come to Ma’s funeral as to Dad’s. And Paul didn’t even bother to show up. I might have been madder if he did, anyways. At church Father Dietz didn’t have much to say about her. A woman’s life is not worth as much as a man’s, especially on a farm.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Living Well

My father sometimes charged us for food. I remember once deciding to pay a quarter — one week’s allowance — for a can of tuna. A quarter was a lot, but I was hungry, and I knew I could earn more by “payday,” Saturday, for cleaning the house. A chart hanging over the ironing board listed the wages my father would pay my three sisters and me: a penny each for closets, two cents for the little bathroom, three cents for the big bathroom, and five cents each for the three bedrooms, living room, sun room, kitchen, and laundry room. But a room could be cleaned only once a day, and there were four of us.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Feast And Famine

I am eating lunch with my daughter at a fast-food restaurant, where I’m having a hamburger. She is here for the advertised toy they have set like bait in a circle of French fries, orange soda, and meat. As I read the newspaper, I see a picture of a starving child. I know, because I have made it my business to know, what is happening inside that child’s body: The sugar in her blood, the starches in her liver, the fat deposits in her tissue have been used up, leaving her skin loose and her eyes sunken. Her brain needs glucose, the only source of which is now her body’s protein. Already, the digestive enzymes in her stomach and pancreas have been sacrificed. Soon will follow the muscles in her arms, legs, and heart. She is consuming herself.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Economy Of Eden

“I have learned how to grow healthy crops,” wrote Sir Albert Howard in his 1940 book An Agricultural Testament, “without the slightest help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists, agricultural chemists, statisticians, spraying machines, insecticides, germicides, and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern experiment station.”

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