Winona LaDuke: Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life (TEDxTC)

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe from White Earth Reservation in Minnesota) spoke at the TEDxTC event about our relationship with food and its impact on our future. While her talk was framed around indigenous peoples’ relationship with food, her points most definitely have implications on all eaters.

Her stories about indigenous peoples’ perpetuating relationship with food were inspiring: the Anishinaabe and manomin (the first and last food of life — wow!), the Maori and peruperu, Pawnee and the decendents of Nebraska settlers (a true redemption story), and Hawaiians and kalo (the names were wrong, but the essense was there).

But what struck me was her discussion toward the end about our increasingly concentrated food system. Winona threw out some statistics that are mindblowing in the context of climate change, which will have (I’d argue is having) major implications on food access:

  • We’ve seen a 75% decline in agrodiversity over the last 100 years
  • Many of us get a vast majority of our calories from less than 30 varieties of food
  • In the next 20 years, we will be spending 20% of the world’s GDP on climate change related disasters

Our food system is becoming increasingly concentrated with fewer varieities and fewer owners. It’s industrialized. It values convenience at the cost of nutrition and diversity. And as she puts it “we don’t have all the seeds that we could have at the table.” Disease, pests, drought will all be more severe because of climate change and the implications will be more severe because we have created a monoculture food system.

Crazy. But Winona threw in one last thought at the end that sticks with me and will likely shape future decisions I made about my little garden. I’ll leave it with you: “It’s not that you just grow local food, it’s what you grow.”

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