The Paleo Zealots Dilema
“What the hell do we do if everyone actually does what I tell them to do?!”
“REPENT!! EAT PALEO OR MEET THY FATE!!” … anyone that has crossed my path in the recent past has caught the hot end of the fork on my hopes that we can all eat the way nature intended, in a way that makes sense both on a physiological and economic level, the way we might just be able to sustain (locally, that is the point of all the following rant).
All fire and brimstone, flowing samite robes and big f*ckoff white beard asside, something has been nagging at me and I was unaware of how profoundly it was bothering me until I tried to type this post. The rattling bones in the closet for me on this all this paleo-vangelism I spew forth, day in and day out, is what actually happens if everyone listens? Not just clients, our athletes, my friends and loved ones, I would consider the vast majority of my life a success with that level of achievement. What fills me with angst is what happens if EVERYONE goes Paleo? What if all marketing sway falters and real, fundamentally natual feeding rises as the one true path to the powers of the earth and EVERYONE EVERYONE decides to stop eating grains?
Uh oh… turn away from the fan! What do we do if all of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Far East decide to eat by the sacred “Thirteen Words”: ‘Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar?’ This is not a ground breaking observation, but it’s new to me in it’s scope and leads me to some conclusions that I am not only uncomfortable with but that push my oft knee-jerk and Pollyanna neo-liberal expectations around like a skinny kid in a mosh pit.
No more nasty grain eaters, nothing but natural, Paleolithic eating, worldwide. We’d be in a world of serious trouble, oui? The 1.3 billion rice eaters in china, 1.1 billion rice/legume eaters in India and two billion stragglers that depend on starches for 60% to near 90% of their caloric intake would need how much broccoli to replace the caloric density of all that starch, exactly? What is the deficit in acreage caused by tossing all that grain in the bin and replacing it with grasslands? If we start to think of feeding the 4.5 billion people we’re instantly adding to the table on grass fed meats, do we actually have ANY primordial forest left after we clear cut for grasslands to make our Paleo ends meet?
An analogues conversation reared its ugly head the other day with a few words shared among friends about how we live in the US and our levels of conspicuous consumption. We want all the politically oppressed and downtrodden of the earth to have all the opportunities that we have… er… well… some of us do, far more profess such lofty ideals, a few absolutely oppose such a rabidly ‘worldly’ sentiments, but for the sake of argument, lets hit the middle road. We would certainly like to sell American made autos to every driving-age person in India and china, right? Wrong. Last figure thrown at me was 600liters of water per car to get it out of the factory. If we sell 750 million cars over the next few model years, we run out of water to drink, to put a really REALLY simplistic spin on the data. No mention of the resources needed other than water, a few of which might create global unrest just to get all those folks on the road: where do they park, petrol stations to feed, roads (paved and otherwise to build/maintain/rebuild. Fact is we just can’t afford to ‘LET THOSE PEOPLE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE’. Shudder, stagger, gasp! How could anyone say such a thing?!?
Switch that whole thought back to ‘eating smart’, as we would put it. My libertarian friend put it pretty plainly: ‘those who can afford it, will, those who can’t, wont.’ Am I ok with that? I am not ok with that when it comes to education, or health care, or ‘freedom’ or ‘democracy’… all of which effect changes in my life from places far and wide as would a nationwide or global reduction in the illnesses brought about by ‘crap feeding’ and the financial burdens put upon the healthy by the dietarily diseased.
Ok, so I want to live in world that is un-poisoned by hundreds of thousands of tons of pesticides/fungicides/chemical fertilizers dumped on the land and washed out to sea. I want to have a vague sense that the generations to come will be healthier and there by financially more apt to survive the new challenges our food based economies will provide (food will be the ultimate resource when the worlds population hits 10 billion in our lifetime, no” if’s” about that). I want all this to be a way of life for all humans, ‘as we were meant to eat, as we were ‘designed’ by nature to thrive’… but how the hell do we pull this off?
If I asked this question in 1820 the answer would be very different, not even a problem, really. So what’s changed? Population. We can’t feed us all in the way we should be fed; we won’t be able to feed us all in the way we shouldn’t be fed. Not now, certainly not in 50 years. So what do we hope for? Another man-engineered solution? Genetically altered grains and harvesting of Antarctic Krill are the only two solutions I’ve seen any data on that come CLOSE to feeding the teeming masses we will have in line for food in the next generation…. But I want none of my ‘people’ to eat that way, I haring them every day to do everything BUT eat that way. So it boils down to its ok for my ‘kind’ to eat ‘right’ but not ok for ‘them’ to do what we do. Factually, statistically, it’s really not ok. Is this conversation getting darker than I had ever hoped possible? If we want to feed as intended, do we rely on nature shutting down the reservation book via a worldwide catastrophic pandemic? Does the naturalist eater survive only when the seas rise and a few hundreds of millions perish? Does eating Paleo really have to cause an understanding that it’s really ‘us and them’… well, it is very Paleolithic that the strong survive/thrive and ‘those that can’t, won’t’? Am I cool with that? Are you? Do we even have a choice?
I want you to part the clouds and hand me a solution that makes some sense. Please.