Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Greening Up

Spring appears to be climbing the mountains. Every morning the green line rises a little higher. Soon the Appalachian Trail above our farm will become a green tunnel and hikers will look forward to overlooks.

Meanwhile, I'm reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (2008), capping three months of immersion in new mortgage regulations with yet another example of the green-ness of power. Pollan writes about how the money in politics turned a simple suggestion -- eat food, but not too much, mostly plants -- into nutrition labels that encouraged people to eat more formulaic prescriptions. Since then, we have obliged by eating more and more. Our society has grown fatter and fatter, just what the producers wanted, eating stuff our ancestors would not have recognized as food. We've been hoodwinked into thinking food "scientists" can mold vitamins, antioxidants, and other molecules into food. The best example of their failure, says Pollan, may be baby formula. The healthiest babies continue to thrive on mother's milk, not bottled chemicals. The nutritionists can't seem to get the formula quite right.

Nor will they any time soon, because whole food is too complicated. Here's a list of the antioxidants (not to mention other things) identified in a leaf of thyme: "alanine, anethole essential oil, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, derulic acid, eriodictyol, eugenol, 4-terpinol, gallic acid, gamma terpinene, isichlorogenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaemferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, trytophan, ursolic acid, vanillic acid." We don't know how all these things work together, although we know the leaf tastes good. Good luck with those pills some people buy instead of eating green stuff from a garden.

"Ah, come on now," says Virginia. "You're getting carried away. What's your point?"

Okay. For 3 months I've been digesting several thousand pages of materials relating to the mortgage regulations approved by the federal government in January. Yes, mortgage lenders are going to have to make some changes. In many cases, those changes have been watered down by billions of dollars of lobbying efforts. And, in case you haven't noticed, the biggest banks have grown even bigger since 2008.

The greening of America continues. Most of us don't notice and don't care, just as we're "too busy" to watch the green climb the mountains.


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