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David E Cooper
professor of philosophy at Durham University


If present trends continue, today’s neonates in developed countries have a 60% chance of being obese teenagers in 2024. Obesity is just one health problem - alongside risks of infection, bulimia etc - increasingly caused by our present ways of eating, and health problems are only one kind of problem generated by the food industries of affluent societies. Another is environmental impact: biologically diverse agricultures are being turned into unsustainable monocultures, and in the US, the industry accounts for 20% of fossil fuel consumption. Worst, ever more billions of animals living in wretched conditions serve as inputs into the food production process.

Are present trends stoppable? Transparency about what we are eating and where it came from might help. So might subsidising allotments on which people can grow their own food, and campaigns to promote ‘eating locally’. It is important to expose the illusion that industrial food, with its hidden environmental and medical costs, is cheap, and to challenge the obsession with price as the main determinant of what food to buy. Less easy to engineer is a reinvention of atrophied traditions - cultures of cuisine - that once sensibly regulated what human beings ate and how they related to the creatures and environments that supplied their food.

David Cooper is author of books including A Philosophy of Gardens (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and The Measure of Things: Humanism, Humility and Mystery (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website



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