Fast Food Nation author talks unhealthy food, sustainability
By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter
It had been painfully warm and sunny for most of the day. As 5:30 P.M. rolled around, most people inside had taken their seats. Outside, it began to drizzle. “If this speech really sucks, at least I’ll know that you’ve got shelter,” began guest speaker Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and writer of the popular tome Fast Food Nation, setting the tone for his lecture as one both humorous and pragmatic.
Schlosser, a historian trained at Princeton and Oxford, began his lecture with a story. He took his audience back 40 years to the very first Earth Day. Schlosser spoke of the similarities between then and now, how the America of 1970 and the America of 2010 shared not only embroilment in an unpopular foreign war, but also a new-found interest in both the environment and sustainability. He then jumped straight into the meat, as it were, of his lecture: the despicable state of the modern American meal.
According to Schlosser, we live in “a mass culture that celebrates thinness…yet we’re marketed food that is fattening.” Not only fattening, but also potentially dangerous. If not dangerous, then at least poorly researched by the corporate food peddlers of the West. “I would rather eat the pages of this speech, than the meat and milk of cloned animals,” he said.
Schlosser also spoke at length about issues of sustainability in Alaska.
“Rarely do we hear the voices of rural poor in Alaska,” Schlosser said. The road to sustainability is through practical social policies. Policies that will have both a positive economic and a beneficial health impact. For example, every year more than 75 million Americans suffer from food poisoning due to food contamination. Contamination occurs easily primarily because of the poor conditions animals are not only raised in, but are also slaughtered, packaged, and shipped in. 75 million Americans, “that’s basically one in every four of us. So, look around the room.”
“[But] you in Alaska, you gotta grow your own [food]!” he said. He complimented Alaskans on their heartiness and individuality, but was shocked at how dependent Alaskans are on outside food. However, not everyone was in agreement with that statement. A gentleman in the fourth row mumbled under his breath “bulls**t.” Schlosser spoke of Alaska’s low percentage of currently cultivated land, comparing the Last Frontier to Rhode Island, a state that has twice as many farmers and makes twice as much produce as Alaska. “Now, come on,” Schlosser said.
During the Q & A, one individual approached an audience microphone and asked Schlosser if he would care to try a stick of rhubarb grown on South Cushman. The audience, catching the humor inherent to the words “vegetable” and “Cushman street” laughed. However, Schlosser said, “Well, it’s not my favorite,” and broke off a piece of rhubarb for himself. Schlosser was also invited to the Ester-based Calypso Farm to plant celery. He declined though.