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Review: Prince Charles's 'On the Future of Food'

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Cover of 'The Future of Food'
  • Cover of 'The Future of Food'

With a forward by Wendell Berry and an afterward by Will Allen and Eric Schlosser, you hardly even need a middle (or, I guess, 'ward), but by golly, Prince Charles' speech, printed in a small-book format, is a powerhouse argument for clarity, sanity and massive change about all things agriculture.

His Royal Highness made this keynote speech to the Future of Food Conference at Georgetown University on May 4, 2011. In it, he says - and these stats are well known - one billion people on the planet are hungry. At the same time, another billion don't get essential vitamins and nutrients in their diets. Meanwhile, over a billion people are considered obese.

Prince Charles calls this "an increasingly insane picture. In one way or another, half the world finds itself on the wrong side of the food equation."

The Prince advocates for a sustainable food system, one that relies on the small farmer, along with a reassessment of how we calibrate and operate the entire system. At present, damage to the environment by agri-giant farming is not factored into the system.

Moreover, the Prince says we need "to include in the bottom line the true costs of food production - the true financial costs and the true costs to the Earth."

There is no more common sense - yet more radical idea - than this. And it's one the Prince believes can upend our current system in lieu of something more sustainable; one that, he says, puts "Nature back at the heart of the equation."

It turns out that Prince Charles has been a sustainability advocate for decades. In 2004, he established the Accounting for Sustainability Project; learn more at princeofwales.gov.uk.

As for the supplementary material, Berry, our resident gentleman farmer, who lives and farms and writes in Kentucky, focuses in his introduction on the limitations of what he calls the "industrial mind," which is defined by a strategy of solving problems "one at a time by single solution." Which, of course, is a ruinous prospect when one must think holistically about feeding the planet.

Of the two collaborators on the afterword, the Milwaukee-based Allen, a nationally known leader in the urban farming movement, has the biggest local connection, having anchored a Public Conversation at the 2010 Spirit & Place celebration, and been the guest of honor/keynote speaker at this year's opening of Linda Proffitts' Peaceful Grounds Café and Farm Market in Southport. Schlosser, of course, is author of Fast Food Nation, Reefer Madness and Chew on This.

Allen and Schlosser maintain that Prince Charles has "been one of the few world leaders brave enough to say - publicly, not just privately - that the current system is unsustainable."

These three esteemed food activists make, as it were, a Prince Charles sandwich, and that's where the, ahem, meat of the matter resides.

This affordable, tidy tome fits in your pocket, and is easy to pull out and share with others at a party and over a meal. Read, learn, converse and join the food fight.

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