Obama, Plant a Survival Garden

Goodlifer: Obama, Plant a Survival Garden

Most people in the environmental movement agree with the suggestion that the Obamas should plant a so-called Victory Garden on the seemingly useless and resource-intensive White House lawn. I certainly do, although I would suggest calling it a Survival Garden.

Food and hunger issues throughout the world receive less attention that drowning polar bears, but it is a cause far more urgent and disastrous. In one of his books, Paul Hawken states that the average human body is too toxic to safely be disposed of in a landfill. We are so contaminated with poisons and chemicals that nature would not be able to decompose us. Reading that was really a wake up call for me. Another scary statistic is that the main cause of death in this country (an increasingly, the rest of the world) is food related. We are literally eating ourselves to death. Surely there must be a better way to go, and a better way to live our lives.

Complicated food politics and vicious lobbyists representing Big Agriculture have made sure that we are now so far removed from our food that it is impossible to know where it actually came from and what is actually in it. The FDA is not doing much to help steer us in the right direction, quite the contrary. With the recent news of the big cover-up of high mercury levels in high fructose corn syrup (as if it wasn’t nasty enough already) I, for one, do not have any faith left in this government agency. And, if the recent peanut butter scare has anything to teach us, it is that we should not wait for producers to have personal epiphanies and start policing themselves. This change has to start with each and every one of us, which is why the first family should really take a stand and put their food close to where their forks are.

The questions is, how powerful do Big Agriculture’s Washington lobbyists remain? Barack Obama has been an outspoken supporter of ethanol fuel and on at least two occasions flew onboard corporate jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agrobusinesses and producers of corn-derived products. Let’s hope he has gained some insight since. Companies like ADM, Monsanto and Cargill have done more for the centralization of food production than any other players in the food industry. This was seen as a good thing when farm subsidies were established in the post-war era, when easy access to cheap food virtually eliminated hunger in most of our country. So yeah, we’re not hungry anymore, but we’re fat and unhealthy. Fans of diet soda drink six cans a day thinking it’s so great there are no calories in there so they never get fat. What we’re not told is that sugar substitutes fall into the safe-until-proven-otherwise policy that the FDA seems to engage in. Numerous test results have shown adverse side effects in rodents but were not considered conclusive enough since there were no long-term human trials. This is also the case with many other ingredients commonly found in common supermarket-aisle products.


During World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt spearheaded the planting of a White House Victory Garden, encouraging Americans to follow her lead and plant one of their own. The program was a tremendous success and it is estimated that 42% of fresh vegetables consumed in 1943 came from these Victory Gardens. The US Department of Agriculture was a strong opponent of this project, claiming it would hurt the food industry. Still, Americans prevailed through this effort, empowered by an can-do attitude that seems to once again be sweeping this country.

Forget terrorism and far-fetched threats to our nation for a while and ponder the imminent threat of our faulty food policies. In his Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief, food activist Michael Pollan writes that it is time to resolarize the American farming system. “After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent,” on something that mother nature used to handle just fine on her own. With a potential energy crisis in our near future, this becomes a serious problem.

There simply is no replacement for natural, real food. No shortcuts and miracle diets, no cheaper alternatives and no excuses. While Michelle and Barack lead by example and tend to their new Survival Garden, do yourself a favor, make your own food policy. Don’t eat anything that contains ingredients you cannot pronounce the names of, don’t eat fast food and don’t trust the FDA. Do eat organic, buy local, cook more and keep yourself informed. If you don’t care about your health, no one else will. It’s a matter of survival.

Top image by ukanda, Creative Commons. “Obama Gothic” photo montage by Goodlifer.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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