Earth Day 2010: Food for Thought

by Catherine Haug

NOTE: The opinion expressed in this post is my opinion only, and does not necessarily reflect that of the ESP core team nor of the entire ESP community.

This year, Earth Day – the day we honor that home on which we rely for all our physical needs – celebrates its 40th anniversary on April 22, 2010. And the celebration begins even before that: April 17 – 18 are Global Days of Service, toward making the world more sustainable. And on our National Mall, several programs are planned for that entire week. See Earth Day Network for more.

In this post, I explore the concept of nourishment: how it has gone awry since the advent of the industrial age, and what we, as individuals, can do about it.

The Three Essentials

ESP is concerned with what is essential; the three most critical essentials, all nourishment required for life, are: Food, Air, and Water. Without these three, life is not possible. When the quality of any of these three is diminished, quality of life is weakened.


To me, nourishment is everything we put into our bodies and our relationships. This includes the Three Essentials, and also our thoughts and feelings. What we choose as nourishment can affirm life, or weaken life.

I’d like to introduce a new term: Sacred Nourishment, which is life-supporting, not only of human life, but of all life, including that of the Earth (Gaia): her land, air and waters. In this context, I use ‘sacred‘ to mean ‘regarded with reverence‘ (from, with no religious connotation necessarily inferred.

In pre-industrial times, all that the Earth provided was sacred nourishment. Today our nourishement is defiled by toxic substances in our food, air and water, and all by the interference of human activity.

Such defiled nourishment defiles our bodies and rewards us with ill-health. It is only through a return to sacred nourishment that we can heal our bodies and increase our vitality.

Food as Nourishment

I’ve long believed that food is sacred. All traditional peoples recognized the sacredness of the food they ate, offering it to their gods and thanking the plant or animal for giving its life for human nourishment. Even modern Christian culture recognizes this by saying a prayer of thanks before a meal.

But today our foods are defiled by irradiation, genetic modification (GMO), and even synthetic new-fangled ‘foods’ such as margarine, fat-free ‘cream,’ fake eggs, fake (soy-based) meat, meats from animals fed an unnatural diet, high-fructose corn syrup, and so on. Such nourishment does not affirm life, and is not sacred. Even though it looks like food.

Real food:

  • is raised locally using methods that enhance the life of the soil;
  • is humane to the creatures who give their lives for our nourishment; and
  • retains the purity of our water, air, and the nutritional value of the foods.

Such food, produced using truly organic methods, provides sacred nourishment for the earth and all creatures who inhabit the earth.

Air as Nourishment

Similarly, air that is free of toxic particulate matter, toxic gasses, and greenhouse gasses (such as carbon dioxide and methane) provides sacred nourishment for all living things that breathe the air (or air dissolved in earth’s waters).

But current commercial food and energy production methods defile our air, causing all who breathe to suffer, and our earth to be impacted by changes in the global climate.

Some of the biggest offenders are all related to our modern food system:

  • CAFOs (Confinement Animal Feeding Operations), also known as feed lots;
  • Commercial feed corn and soy farms, who produce feed for livestock raised in CAFOs;
  • Chemical companies that produce chemical fertilizers and other farm chemicals for modern food production – because such production requires enormous amounts of energy from the burning of fossil fuels;
  • Food transportation system: food imported from out of the area or from foreign countries, must be flown and trucked to your grocery shelves, consuming fossil fuels and polluting our air.

Defiled air is not sacred, and is not nourishing.

Water as Nourishment

Nothing tastes as good, nor quenches a thirst as well as cool, clean water. Such is also sacred nourishment for all creatures and plants that drink of the water. Yet because of those same big offenders listed above (plus many more), our ground water, rivers and streams, lakes, and oceans are becoming increasingly polluted.

Here in the Flathead, we won a recent victory when BC, Canada agreed to prohibit mining operations in the headwaters of the North Fork. But within a few short weeks of that decision, our own state of Montana agreed to allow mining in the Otter Creek area, with the potential to pollute waters downstream from the mines; waters sacred to the Native peoples who have inhabited the area for centuries.

Defiled water is not sacred, and is not nourishing.

A Proposal in Honor of Earth Day, 2010

I propose that for the 30 days of April, we pledge to consume only sacred nourishment, thank our Earth for our nourishment, keep a daily journal of what we consume and how we feel, and then discuss this at a future pot-luck gathering.

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