The Future of Food

Watch this video. It may seem like an odd video to appear on a website devoted to mysticism, but think for a minute about the parable of the sower… and then compare it to what’s going on in our world today.

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Liz

    Speaking from the middle of farming country, this is a very disturbing video.

    It also leaves me feeling helpless to do anything about it.

  • Carl McColman

    Thanks for your note, Liz. I think there’s a lot that can be done. Remember what Joe Hill said: “Don’t Mourn, Organize!” We who are alarmed at the corporatization of food need to form communities of resistance. Many activists are trying to conserve seeds and many farmers are dedicated to growing diverse crops. We who are not farmers but consumers need to be supporting small-scale, community agriculture. Starting our own gardens and growing our own food is also important. If you want to learn more about food activism, here are a couple of books worth exploring: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements and The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply–And What We Can Do About It.

  • Linda Nicola

    I’m worried about water. I see water being very comercialized. Imagine bottled water! Water business is as insidious as agra business.

  • Sue

    “Ninety seven percent of vegetable vareites grown at the beginning of the 20th century are now extinct.”

    Goodness me :( That is an alarming statistic, isn’t it.

    The phrase “God will destroy those who destroy the earth” has new resonance for us in these days. But then who are they that destroy the earth in this regard? The people that own Monsanto? Who are the people who own Monsanto? Well … us, effectively. Via the share market. Is that too simplistic a spin to put on it?

    The whole giant enormous mess, it’s very scary. It’s truly demoralising and so very easy to throw your hands up in the air.

    Still, I think there are probably many people around the world who have been aware of what is going on who have been saving seeds. I do have hope that more community gardens will spring up, more sharing of crops across fences and down streets etc. I guess we just do what we sense the spirit whispering to us to do. Whoever would have thought growing your own vegeables would be such a massive political exercise? :)

    Thanks for posting.

  • Roland M. Egloff

    I quote: “Don’t Mourn, Organize!”

    Really? How about this (I’m addressing Christians only):

    1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
    2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
    3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
    4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
    (Col 3:1-4)

    Have faith and obey! We are NOT called to improve this fallen world!


    • Carl McColman

      Roland, let me ask you a few questions. Do you have health insurance? Do you have a retirement plan, or an investment portfolio? Do you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, or, for that matter, car insurance? If you have children, are you saving for their college education? Do you make an effort to save your money, to take advantage of bargains, to make sure you get the largest possible tax refund?

      Roland, maybe you are 100% pure, and have no insurance, no savings, no plans for the future — because, after all, you obey Acts 4:32 and freely share all of your possessions with the many Christians who are much needier than yourself, right?

      I think we have a problem when Christians get all pious about Colossians 3 as an excuse for not being politically involved in the “things of this earth,” when in fact they are still very much involved in taking care of themselves and their own personal/family future. Since when does Colossians 3 allow personal and family planning for the future, but prohibits efforts that pertain to political and environmental concerns? And, for that matter, since when does Colossians 3 forbid political involvement? I think you could make just as strong on argument that setting our mind on Christ rather than the things of this earth is a clarion call to respond to the corporatization of food with Christlike zeal rather than earthly sloth.

      Ours is a God of justice and of righteousness, and the call for Christians to be engaged in the politics of growing food is a call to justice for the earth. It is a call borne out of the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, for what can be greater evidence of love than ensuring that those we love have access to a healthy environment and good, wholesome, widely available food?

      Christians who hide behind prooftexting of verses like Colossians 3 to attack those of us who are trying to orient our lives according to the demands of justice are, frankly, part of the problem. It is this kind of apathy masquerading as otherworldly piety which, all too often, enables injustice to occur.

  • Sue

    I actually wonder how much our dualistic Christian thinking has contributed to this problem? The “Jesus is going to rapture me out of this stinking hole to heaven” sort of thinking. As if God doesn’t even care about this earth. As if he’s not going to renew it. As if the kingdom of heaven is not going to be on earth. As if he never asked us to look after the thing that gives us life and food.

    Sorry Roland. I understand where you’re coming from and I even thought that way myself once, but not any more.

  • Liz

    Everyone should read N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope.”

    Rev. Wright is a New Testament scholar and his book will change the way you think about this world, the hereafter, heaven and the kingdom of God.

  • Roland M. Egloff

    Dear Carl

    Thank you for your comments regarding what I had submitted.

    If I would respond to your arguments, or rather the spirit in which you offer them, this would turn out to be an exercise in futility — and quite unworthy of the calling with which we have been called (Eph 4:1). It is apparent that you do not believe what scripture has to say about the world in which we live (e.g. 2Tim 3) and how we are to conduct ourselve in it (as strangers and sojourners). Saints who are in Christ have their citizenship in heaven (Php 3:20) from where they look for His appearing (Php 3:20,21) to be manifested with Him in glory (Col 3:4) — nothing to do with the rapture!. The sphere of service is to make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers of the heavenlies (Col 3:10). Saints of the present dispensation (Eph 3:1-3, 8-9) have died to this world whose ruler is satan.

    crucified with Him (Rom 6:6),
    dead with Him (2 Tim 2:11),
    buried with Him (Rom 6:4),
    made alive together with Him (Eph 2:5),
    raised up with Him (Col 3:1),
    seated together with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6),
    manifested with Him (Col 3:4).

    …walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk (Eph 4:17-24; Col 3:10).

    Let no man deceive himself If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (1Cor 3:18-20).

    But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres (Ex 7:11-13) opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith (2 Tim 3:5).

    God states clearly that this world is going to get worse. “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for THOSE THINGS MUST TAKE PLACE…” (Mat 24:6). There will also be famines and pestilences and earthquakes… “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved” (Mat 24:22).

    Dear Carl, do you even believe the word of God?


    Dear Sue,

    No, you do not know where I’m coming from! May I suggest that you read and study some of the articles at (there are other sites of course):

    especially the articles under the headings “RIGHT DIVISION” and “THE GREAT MYSTERY REVEALED.”

    If you do, and may God give you the grace, you will have to ‘unlearn’ much of what you seem to hold as truths.

    God bless you all!


  • Sue

    I’m not in the least bit interested in following your advice, Roland. Which of course to you will be another signifier of my damned to hell status, or whatever you think about me.

    Thing is, I am so done with scripture bashing brothers and sisters. Especially ones who are as absolutely convinced of the rightness of their seeing as you seem to be.

    I apologise for my “spirit” and for its offense to your sensibilities.

  • Carl McColman

    Roland, look in the mirror. You come across as an arrogant, unloving, self-righteous Bible-worshiper who uses Sacred Scripture as a weapon. In the spirit of assuming that this is not how you intend to come across, I offer you this feedback in the hope that it may be of some small use to you.

    Your rhetoric is a sterling example of why so many non-Christians want nothing to do with us.

    You’ve said your piece. I request that you refrain from further commentary on this blog. You are more than welcome to contact me privately — my email is listed on one of the widgets on this blog. Whether or not I will respond to any future messages from you, or will permit you to post on this blog in the future, will depend entirely on the tone of any future messages I receive from you — in other words, it’s all about whether you choose to approach me in a humble spirit of open conversation — or whether you continue to speak in a spirit of attacking borne out of what appears to be your conviction that your particular reading of scripture is the only “right” one.

  • Liz

    I haven’t always (never) appreciated my mom’s advice or reflections, but she said something to me once years (decades) ago that I think might apply here.

    She said, “As Catholics, we believe that Christ came into this world and by his presence, sanctified it. Things of this world are not bad in themselves…it is what we do with them that is either bad or good.”

    I don’t want to get into arguing the theology of my mother. For all I know, other faiths feel exactly the same way (though the context was that a member of an evangelical church had told me that wine was bad in and of itself).

    I don’t know what Psalm it is that says something to the effect that “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above” (paraphrased the psalm, direct quote from a song from Godspell ;) ).

    Then there’s the parable about the landowner or master who gives out the measures of wealth to the three men and then return and asks for a report on what they’ve done with it.

    I believe we are stewards of the earth and we are expected to treat it with respect. Not because it is God, but because it was entrusted to us by God.

    The whole dualism of spirit, heavenly = good, physical, earthly = bad is incorrect, and I believe it was declared a heresy centuries ago by the early church fathers.

    So, those are my disjointed thoughts (I am still precoffee this morning, though not for long).

    Everyone have a wonderful morning. We have quite a bit of freezing rain here in southern Minnesota as the winter weather challenges continue. Spring is just around the corner!

  • Liz

    One more thing…being in the middle of some of the richest farming land in the country and having a good sized backyard leaves me with no excuse for not growing my own veggies in the summer.

    Well, I do have one excuse. I have absolutely no idea how to get started!

    Any resource recommendations?

  • Carl McColman

    Are you near Winona? I have a really good friend there who teaches organic gardening, I might be able to hook the two of you together.

    We do a lot of container gardening. That might be a good way to start. Tomatoes, peppers and herbs all do quite well in containers (well, at least here in Georgia, not sure what to tell you about Minnesota!)

    Here’s a book that looks tasty (pardon the pun): Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community. I bet it would be chock-full of advice on how to get started.

  • Liz

    Thanks Carl!

    Unfortunately we are about 3 hours from Winona. It is beautiful there!

    I will check out that book. As a therapist who works with severly emotionally disturbed children and their families, works closely with our child protection unit and cofacilitates a group for men convicted of domestic abuse, I am always looking for something to do with the pain (in its many disguises) that I come in contact with everyday. I think gardening would be a wonderful spring, summer, fall stress reliever but I’m overwhelmed into paralysis by my ineptitude. :)

    We also have friends who I think are about to lose their gardening plot (mother-in-law is moving into a condo). Perhaps offering them some space would be a good idea as well?

    All I know is my husband will jump for joy at the thought of less grass to mow. ;)

  • zoecarnate

    First of all, on The Future of Food – great documentary! I just watched it last week. Also, a must-read in food justice is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. You can find this and a host of other food-related resources on the Incredible, Edible Sites section of my site – including an insightful (and non-dualistic) blog called ‘What Would Jesus Eat?’

  • zoecarnate

    Regarding Roland, I’m quite familiar with his arguments, which I find in as diverse sources as Quietist mysticism to dispensational eschatology.

    I don’t know Greek, but my understanding is that there are several different senses of ‘the world’ in the NT – at least three. One is ‘the world’ in the negative sense Roland means, ie, “love not the world” and “my kingdom is not of this world” (which I think was immediately referring to the Roman Empire & their way of doing things, in context) – it’s what NT scholar Walter Wink says is synonymous with “the principalities and the powers” in the NT. The interior collective spirituality of institutions gone wrong – negative entities slated to be destroyed and/or healed. (as in ‘the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.’) the second sense is covenantal worlds, as in “the form of this world is even now passing away,” a statement that would be nonsensical if one were talking about the literal planet. But if one were talking about the fading of an Old Covenant world and the rising of a New Covenant world, well that makes perfect sense with all the relevant texts. And finally, there is a sense of ‘the world’ as creation, as planet earth. As in “God so loved the world…” So – I’m no fan of the ‘the fallen powers,’ though I do hold out hope that ‘the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ I think this reign has already been initiated – how one interprets apocalyptic texts makes a lot of difference in one’s outlook, as Roland demonstrates.

    My friend Kevin Beck just penned an awesome little tome – only 140 pages – that outlines a biblically faithful, yet progressively energizing, take on ‘the end-times’ that I’ve seen foster meaningful conversation between conservative literalists and hippie religious alike. :) You can download it for free here: This Book Will Change Your World.

  • ben

    Whoa, very sobering video, and just in time to motivate me to get my garden seeds going… which is THE BEST way to be sustainable, care for the environment, and eat healthily.

  • Sue

    @ Liz – I understand that ineptitude paralysis. I rent a house, and that was contributing also to my paralysis. Just start. With one small thing. Plant one thing (I personally recommend tomatoes, if you like tomatoes, seeing the things from the supermarket taste like slightly red/rather green cardboard and the stuff you grow yourself is … ooh, salivating :) I agree about NT Wright. His view is quite the captivating one.

    @zoecarnate – thanks for the link to that book. I look forward to reading it. I think what you said about the different ways of viewing the term “the world” is right. I understand where Roland was coming from in his call for us to be separate – in the world but not of it – but this is a different thing, this call to tend the earth. We do ourselves a disservice when we think that because this earth is reeling to and fro and in its death grip that this means we can continue on ruining it. In fact, I wonder just how much that sort of Christianity has contributed to the ill-treatment of said earth in the first place, but I digress :)

  • Beth

    What a tempest!

    So…about the food issues–thanks for posting this interesting video, Carl. I just posted it to my site ina couple of places. One is on a post I made about the likelihood of food shortages in the near future and what we can do about it–get active locally, as you say, Carl.

    Second place I posted it is in our intertional community dialogue section on the Virtual Tea House. Some of us are gardening together–buying seeds, soil, making raised beds, etc. There’s some great resources.

    Thanks to all youse guys for struggling with the hard issues–

  • Pat Morell

    Hi Carl–Thank you for linking this video on your blog.Too bad that your Emerging Church conference is the same weekend as the Georgia Organics conference. I will be attending primarily to hear the keynote address by Michael Pollan, who became my guru a couple of years ago when I became very interested in food issues, for both health and environmental reasons and also as a social justice issue. (What do you see when you drive down streets in poor neighborhoods? Plenty of convenience and liquor stores, but no food stores selling fresh produce.Poor people lack access to healthy food as they lack access so to much else.)Pollan, along with Barbara Kingsolver, the novelist, are two of the leading food activists today.You may want to check out the Georgia Organics website: for what the organizers are are doing after the conference. If you like, I can pick up handouts and other material while I’m there and send back to you. (On the other hand, you probably know a number of people who are going.)

    Good healthy food for _all_ people is a moral and political right!

  • Carl McColman

    By all means pick up whatever literature you can find! I’d love to see it, and of course I’ll make sure it makes the rounds at the Monastery where a number of people share our concerns. Thank you, Pat.

  • Gina

    I saw this documentary before. It was pretty eye-opening. It certainly makes me feel helpless sometimes.
    And I’m glad that not all Christians think as Roland does. Just last night I lost a good friend because she thought I was challenging her Christian beliefs. She was very negative and attacking. It’s hard not to assume that all Christians think that way.