Kirsten Slaughter, our 2012 Sustainable Food Scholar, is beginning her second year at Illinois Wesleyan, in Bloomington Illinois. She spent her summer doing community cooperative education in Wisconsin as a camp counselor. She developed and taught lessons about the 7 Cooperative Principles. We are excited to see where she goes! Read below about what your donations have helped her learn!
Our food system is one of the most important parts of our culture. We spend incredible amounts of money on food each year and send it all over the world. There are classes on how to make food and how to grow it. Unfortunately our food system is in crisis, a system where food deserts exist all over the country, large agribusinesses put profit before sustainability, and processed food is favored over local fresh produce. As an environmental student at Illinois Wesleyan University I have been fortunate to take classes this year that have only strengthen my dedication towards changing the way that most Americans view their food.
I have learned a lot of things as an environmental studies student. For one, an environmental student major is, at the same time, the most depressing and hopeful majors a person can decide on. We spend the entire class time learning about exactly to what extent we have, as people, caused major environmental problems. We learn all the true effects that climate change is having and will have in the future, and the impact of human damage to the land and environment. But at the same I am surrounded by inspiring professors and people all over the world who are helping to bring about change. No one would be an ES major if they did not feel deeply that there needs to be a change, that they can change how we live, and that there will be a way to help other people understand the importance of our complex earth systems.
This year I was able to take three environmental studies classes. My favorites were Earth System Science and Ecology and Environmental Problems. Both of these classes discussed the importance of our earth systems and how they are affected by anthropogenic causes. The scary thing is that this information, that the rate of climate change is increasing, is not being registered and recognized as one of the biggest threats of our lifetime. Although I have known about the threat of climate change for some time, at IWU have been able to learn about many factors that contribute to it, one of those being our food system. Climate changed is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases that trap infrared light from escaping our atmosphere and the affects that it will have are widespread, including increased extreme weather patterns, weakening of ocean circulation, and acidification of the ocean.
I have also learned more about our food system and the way that we view our food. A majority of people have completely changed the relationship between people and the land. From one where a farmer knows their land and the animals that he/she has, to one that has no real connection to the land and animals because it is just too big. We have turned it into a system where there is no thought about the effects we will have on the future or what is best for the people, animals, and soil. Many people now have no connection to their food. Our food now grows in stores and could stay there for quite a while because of all of the preservitives and chemicals. All of this leads to a very unsustainable food system. Reconnecting people to our food and reorganizing our food system I believe is one of the most important things we need to do. I think that in order to do this we need to have an understanding of both the scientific and social sides of environmental problems.
I have learned so much already and I am really excited about what I will learn in the next 3 years at IWU. My classes have talked about so many important things that it would be hard to write them all down in one paper. My first year has solidified my belief in the significance of the environmental movement, of people to keep working on improving our food system, and to keep a positive outlook on what can to be done. Figuring out what need to happen is vitally important as well as finding ways to inform people about why it is crucial, and one thing that I am sure of is my continued involvement in advocating and learning about the importance of a sustainable food system.
I want to thank the Common Ground Food Coop for supporting me with the generous gift that has helped me make my education possible. I am so glad to be part of the community of our food co-op which supports education and the other six principles. Again thank you for helping me with my education and supporting me so that we can all work together on improving agricultural sustainability.