On being grateful

Food justice in a time of thanksgiving.

 

We are officially entering what I call the season of food. Which is not to say that other seasons aren’t times for thinking about food, or eating it. Eat, we must, day after day, no matter when or how. But now is the time of harvests, bounties, cornucopias, pumpkin spice. Planning holiday meals, putting up food for winter, baking cookies and pies. It’s a time of celebration, as families come together to observe various holidays in different ways. And despite all the struggles of our time, we have many reasons to celebrate.

Toxic waste cells surround the White Mesa Mill near the Ute Mountain Ute community of White Mesa, Utah.
Russel Albert Daniels, with support from Eco Flight/High Country News

Start with the fact that what we drink, breathe and eat becomes what we are. The cells that our bodies make — and that we are made of — are themselves made from what we eat, drink and breathe. The plants that we eat — and that the animals that we eat also eat — are made from the soil in which they grow and the water that falls on fields and mountains and valleys and collects in streams and rivers and aquifers — and in that way, we are connected to the land in the most fundamental kind of web. Some call it the web of life. But unless you are living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, there is also a social ecosystem associated with what you eat. Your food was grown, harvested and likely packed, transported, unpacked and sold by a person, or several people, or assemblages of people, known variously as co-ops, corporations or conglomerates. Most of us depend on these workers to do their jobs, and do them with care. We should not forget to celebrate them, too.

In fact, farm fields and ranchlands and the working conditions of farmworkers and the living conditions of farm animals are all components of the interconnectedness of life — and of justice, which is achieved when every being in the web has clean air and water and sustenance in the form of healthy food. Justice is what any thoughtful, caring person should want to work toward and wish for when they say grace in whatever form that takes. This issue contains a story about Alaska Native villages sharing the bounty of the salmon harvest with other villages whose rivers experienced a crash in salmon populations this year. This, too, is justice: a culture of reciprocity dedicated to making sure that everyone has enough.

Jennifer Sahn, editor-in-chief

As we gather with family, let’s celebrate and be thankful for our good fortune to inhabit a planet that provides conditions conducive to life — water to drink, sunlight for plants, mountains to climb, salmon to eat. And let’s also celebrate being part of a varied and variously ingenious human family, with special gratitude for those who have inhabited the West since time immemorial, caring for the land and modeling practices of justice and grace.

We welcome reader letters. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy.

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