Learning about food chains, food webs, ecological efficiency, food pyramids, chemical energy, etc. in natural systems is certainly interesting, and critical to managing those systems. But is any of this knowledge useful in comparing and contrasting with human food systems? Which part of the human system would we want to consider (for example, just a local produce component, a single industrial product like mid-western corn, or a vertically integrated food provider than produces the wheat – that turns into the flour – that bakes into twinkies – that get shipped to the grocery store – that get eaten by kids – who use the bathroom – that leads to the lake – that feeds the algae, etc.). Almost all of the food systems in developed countries are subsidized by fossil fuels. Does this make the comparison much less useful? If we successfully move away from fossil fuel subsidies, will this make the comparison more relevant?
Pick one or two ecological ideas and see if you can apply them to some aspect of the human food system. By “apply” I mean draw some conclusion that might inform a modification in the system that in some way “improves” the human food system. The idea of “improve” here is completely value driven, so be clear about what your values are.
Matt’s Vermont food system: