From the beginning, the wild world fascinated me. While exploring the rolling foothills surrounding our quaint little town in Northern California, hiking through nearby coastal rainforests, or planting gardens with my mother, I watched green shoots becoming food for forage. Wild creatures compelled me most: the animals who created ecosystems, searching for food and water and sunlight with an instinctive drive. Watching them, I understood that food means nourishment, survival, origins, life.
Later, as a university professor, I taught courses that explored food politics, traditions, agriculture, and how cultures use food as medicine. My students and I talked about food sovereignty — the ability to grow your own food — and the forces that deny some people access to food and land.
People have a right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through traditional practices that nourish communities and the environment. So, I asked my students, why is it that those who produce our food are least likely to have access to it, particularly if it’s healthy? I’d point out that the most oppressed people are also most likely to live alongside the wild. Eighty percent of the world’s biodiversity is protected by Indigenous people. Justice for people means justice for the wild.
I was knee-deep in the food world. Still, it took many years for the connection between wildlife and U.S. foodways — or what we might better call the corporate North American food regime — to click with me.
Seeing the dairy cows dotting the landscapes of our local public lands, my empathy told me it was best for their sake if I avoided meat and dairy. But it didn’t occur to me that meat and dairy facilities also weren’t very good for native tule elk, since these lands were their only habitat.
In my journey from university professor and writer to senior food campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, I’ve studied how shifting diets and food systems can radically alter the environmental impact our population has on the planet and the wildlife we share it with. It’s become clear to me that a just food system is good for everyone — except maybe big polluters who drive wildlife to extinction for profit.
I want more people to make these connections, too. By sharing stories and insights in this newsletter, I hope to connect with your food traditions and cultures, and your interest in helping shape a more sustainable planet and a just, resilient food system for the wild, for the people, for our futures.
Current events and topical issues are worthy for us to consider in this newsletter, and we will. But like any great recipe, there are subtle and complex ingredients to explore. How we interact with food — as individuals and as a society — is complicated. Context and perspective are important in understanding how we got here and where we can go.
In Food X we’ll explore how we grow, serve and prepare food, and why certain foods are considered more valuable than others. But above all, we’ll explore how our food systems impact wildlife.
We’ll look at the ways policy and culture have shaped what we eat, and we’ll explore agriculture’s impact on the planet. We’ll ask important questions, like why are the biggest environmental polluters rewarded with subsidies? And why aren’t all schoolchildren fed healthy, sustainable, free school meals?
Wolf lovers and beekeepers, seed savers and wild harvesters, organic advocates and up-and-coming farmers, people who love to eat and people who want everyone to have access to sustainable food — this monthly newsletter is for you.
Write to me with your questions at EarthFriendlyDiet@BiologicalDiversity.org. And until the next issue of Food X, read more from me on why climate-friendly menus matter.
For the wild,
Jennifer Molidor, Senior Food Campaigner
Population and Sustainability Program