Friday, September 25, 2009

Michael Pollan Lecture Event was a Huge Success!

 Michael Pollan: In Defense of Food: The Omnivore's Solution




The Kohl Center was filled with around 8,000 people tonight, Thursday, September 24, 2009. Included in the crowd were hundreds of UW first-year students, upperclassmen, graduate students, faculty and staff, alumni, librarians, and members of the surrounding Madison community who all shared one common interest: they had all read Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food” and they were all there to hear what the author had to say.

The event commenced with a welcome from Chancellor Biddy Martin. One of the very first remarks she made was that this was the first annual Go Big Read project. Which to me, as a graduate school student who happens to be personally and professionally invested in the program, means that the pilot year has proven itself to be successful and we have the Chancellor’s support to continue the program in the years to come.

It was encouraging to hear Biddy mention right away that the reason we were all drawn together in this place at this time was because we all wanted to talk about the same book. It was refreshing to be reminded that despite all the media attention and news stories, and rumors about protesting farmers with tractors that might show up to sabotage the event, that we were all there for a reason bigger than the issues in Pollan’s book. We were all there because we believed that there can be something to be gained from pulling together as a community and talking about all sides of an issue that are important to us as a whole. One of the most valuable outcomes of a common reading project such as Go Big Read is starting a conversation and getting all kinds of people from different walks of life that would never normally interact, all in one place, talking about something that they care passionately about. As Biddy put it, what could be more elemental than food? It is essential to life and to culture and influences each and every one of us. Biddy declared that she could not imagine a more appropriate first topic for this campus than a book getting us to rethink how we look at food. I agree and think it speaks directly to the main goal of this program, which is to get everyone involved and talking to each other about ideas.

Pollan’s lecture was captivating. He is an excellent public speaker, and is often quite funny. His perfectly timed jokes interjected throughout the lecture helped to ease the tension in the room, which was also lessened by his opening remarks addressing the protesters at the event. He actually claimed that he completely agreed with the message on the In Defense of Farming group’s green t-shirts, and stated their message would even be an appropriate title for his lecture tonight: “Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank a Farmer.” He argued that the protestors might discover as they listened to his lecture tonight that they shared more common ground with Pollan than they might have thought, and that he actually believed that American farmers held the key to solving three of the major crises facing our society today: the healthcare crises, the climatic crisis, and the energy crisis. He hoped that tonight’s lecture would expand for everyone there our working definition of the word “health.”
Pollan began his message by very animatedly pulling processed foods out a grocery bag. One by one, he pulled out items such as Twinkies, Fruit Loops, and Gogurt. This was to illustrate his description of the difficulties faced by American consumers as they make food choices in today’s modern world. His main takeaway message was that real food is in the stores, we just need to learn how to discern it from the edible food-like substances with which we are constantly bombarded.

Pollan reiterated many of the main points from his book, “In Defense of Food,” especially the fundamental problems with nutritionism and how it has affected the processed food we eat everyday. He talked a lot about fad diets and how major corporations can take any criticism and market their product to reflect emerging trends in food and nutrition. He broke down the idealism of the American or Western diet and where it came from. He compared it to other cultures’ relationship with food and eating and pointed out that all over the world, people eating the traditional diets of their cultures are much healthier than Americans and other people around the world eating the Western diet.


Pollan concluded by suggesting that we are at a fork in the road with the way we eat in America. We can either adapt to what this diet does to our bodies because over time, evolution should select the genes of the people that are most tolerant of high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diets. Faster than evolution, medicine has enabled us to become a “diabetes culture” as Pollan puts it. We are able to use our human advances in science and technology to medicalize the “catastrophe that is the American diet.” To this remark Pollan received a huge roar of applause.

Our only other alternative, the other way in the fork in the road if you will, would be to change the way that we eat. It is the more practical, economical, and beautiful solution after all. The effects of the Western diet can be reversed quite quickly with the change, and you don’t have to go back to hunting and gathering to do it. Pollan looks to culture as a guide. He believes that studying traditional cultural diets will reveal that the rules of eating that have been developed over hundreds and thousands of years carry great wisdom for us. The problem we are facing is not just about what we eat, but how, when, and why we eat. Americans need to take a deep look at their relationship with food and eating, and learn to take pleasure in the sensation of eating and the company with which we share it.

Pollan ended his lecture by arguing that the solution is for all of us as a community to shorten the food chain. By cutting out the middle men of packaging, transporting, marketing, etc, more of our food dollars will end up in the pockets of the farmers who grew it. Pollan asserted that health consists of a set of relationships between our bodies and the food, soil, animals, and people around us. The best thing we can do for ourselves, our families, and our communities is to take back control of our food and our meals.

The event was wrapped up with a question and answer session moderated by the Chancellor asking questions that were submitted to the Go Big Read program blog and pre-selected by a committee to be posed to Pollan. The entire event ended with a standing ovation for Pollan, as he encouraged everyone to come listen to him speak about other related issues at tomorrow’s events (see the Go Big Read website: http://www.gobigread.wisc.edu/ for upcoming events related to Michael Pollan and the common book project in Madison).



Overall, the event was inspiring. Sitting in the audience you could really get a sense of community empowerment and the ability to make a difference in the world. It is exciting to think of all the things we could accomplish just by joining together to openly discuss important issues that affect us all. Thank you to everyone who participated in tonight’s event and helped make it a huge success!

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64 Comments:

Blogger UW Libraries said...

Thanks, Jessica, for all your hard work and a great blog post. Sarah

September 25, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Holly Johnson said...

For those of us who weren't able to attend... By any chance was this lecture videotaped - or is there a transcript of it somewhere?

October 1, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger UW Libraries said...

Holly, thanks for asking about this! Originally, we only had permission to live-stream the lecture. However, we are exploring the possibility of putting up a shorter version of Pollan's talk and the Friday panel. I hope we'll be successful, and if we are it will be posted here.

Sarah McDaniel

October 2, 2009 at 8:36 AM  
Anonymous David Schroeder said...

I don't usually comment, but I wanted to thank Jessica for the job well done. Thanks.

October 22, 2009 at 12:44 AM  
Anonymous the food pyramid said...

I am saying....better to stay healthy and focus on something like the food pyramid. There you get at least some guidelines of how to eat healthier.

January 28, 2010 at 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Berth "low carb diet plans" Meryson said...

Nice blog. I love it. It is very refreshing and entertaining.

All the best.

October 31, 2010 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous kaye veterinarian said...

This is a great topic. I agree that processed foods are not good to our health especially if we eat that everyday. It's always good to follow the go, grow and glow foods! very inspiring blog. Thanks!

November 8, 2010 at 9:09 AM  
Anonymous veterinary questions said...

In Defense of Food is a great topic. people sometimes misunderstood how food really affects our health. We must also learn what we eat and know if they are beneficial to our health.

November 15, 2010 at 5:16 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I completely agree with the idea that we should "take back control of our food". Not only do we end up with processed food we also support a huge, industrialized meat packing industry that is viscously cruel to the animals "processed".

January 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous clint herman said...

Very nice post. I agree with this.

January 29, 2011 at 5:10 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Thank you for this information. Food is one topic I am very interested in, as it is a key ingredient for our physical health and well-being.

April 13, 2011 at 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Mel said...

I have seen Pollan speak and I have to agree with your commets he really knows how to captivate the audience.

May 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Libby said...

I say, get rid of all processed food from our daily diets. We grow our own fruit and veggies, catch our own fish and shellfish, eat white and red meats sparingly , bake our own bread and cakes and I can say for sure our family is healthier for it.

May 15, 2011 at 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Charles F said...

Lets all buy a farm and grow everything ourselves organically.
Bet that half of todays diseases would just wither and die away.

May 15, 2011 at 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Eat To Lose Weight said...

I believe lower carbs is the way to go. I am healthier because of it!

May 19, 2011 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Jeane Arneau - tienda ciclismo said...

In this article I've learned a lot about how to grow food organically.

Thank your very much for this didactic and interesting article.
Good job.

May 26, 2011 at 2:45 PM  
Anonymous jimm said...

One sentence in your article is in my opinion absolutely true and relevant regardless of whether you are Americans or not.
"The problem we are facing is not just about what we eat, but how, when, and why we eat"
People who are obese and suffering from diabetes in particular really need to be aware of the implications of this sentence.

May 31, 2011 at 3:01 AM  
Anonymous Gerd Diet said...

Hello Jessica, I like your post it's a good read. Americans should read this and hopefully we all get a better understanding of our relationship with food. The important thing is to eat right, not for pleasure.

May 31, 2011 at 6:25 AM  
Anonymous Karla said...

Your blog seems to be refreshing and informative as well. I would love to read blog post particularly health issues. As an health conscious type of person, having a healthy lifestyle is very important to me. Anyway, thanks for sharing and looking forward to the next blog post!!!

June 2, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Best Televisions said...

Hi,

Of course, it is essential that we "take control of our food" because we are what we eat, and the way we provide food has an enormous impact on the population as a whole.

Kind regards,


John Francis

June 3, 2011 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous weight loss said...

Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on.

June 10, 2011 at 2:53 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Densch said...

I wish that as a nation we could use an accounting method that fully internalized the costs of factory-food production into the end price.

June 10, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Weight Loss said...

nice post. i saw the same argument being made in a bbc documentary.

Best regards,
Babji
weight loss buff.

June 16, 2011 at 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Pollan's works are an essential read for anyone who is serious about natural health. The thing is, there's no magic diet that will make you healthy - only healthier choices that will hopefully fend off disease and illness for as long as possible.

June 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous acls online said...

I was there that night. Great event!

June 29, 2011 at 5:51 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

““Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank a Farmer.” He argued that the protestors might discover as they listened to his lecture tonight that they shared more common ground with Pollan than they might have thought, and that he actually believed that American farmers held the key to solving three of the major crises facing our society today: the healthcare crises, the climatic crisis, and the energy crisis.”
Fruit and vegetables are so important to a healthy diet, what would we do without American farmers?? I do thank them for providing us with healthy food.

July 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM  
Anonymous MonaVie said...

Interesting. It is great that Pollan gives out lectures like these. It's great to promote health awareness.

July 10, 2011 at 4:29 AM  
Anonymous Allen said...

Pollan is right to conclude that we are eating "edible foodlike substances" is accurate. We definitely need to return to eating real food. However, he seeks government intervention, when the diabetes epidemic is at least partially related to the government push 40 years ago to shift to carbohydrates, while making all carbohydrates equal (including the manufactured "edible foodlike substances).

July 12, 2011 at 1:02 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Great post, thanks. I have always felt that most modern (especially packaged) foods are like drugs and have drug like affects on the body. You can certainly see it with most of the processed sugar foods, but also includes most of the simple carbs people eat. The real key is to get people to understand that the word diet is not a short term thing. It is a lifestyle of healthy eating. It's not just about losing weight, but feeling better and enjoying a higher quality of life.

July 15, 2011 at 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Of course, it is essential that we "take control of our food" because we are what we eat, and the way we provide food has an enormous impact on the population as a whole

July 24, 2011 at 3:46 AM  
Anonymous hcg free trial offer said...

It's really sad that all of our farm land is going away because of our growing population...so we are in essence doing ourselves in.

July 25, 2011 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger roberthmail said...

Experts from the Medical Research Council in Britain found that most fast food has a very high caloric density, which consume a small portion is enough to raise levels of calories in the body.

The doctors concluded that this type of food high in energy deceive people by making them consume more calories than you need.

This research is published in "Journal of Obesity." A "junk" foods, high in energy is one to two times more calories than a traditional dinner.
The researchers concluded that a diet high in fast food obesity increases the risk of a person, even if it creates the portions you eat are smaller than normal if eat a snack.

http://www.polosnet.com/

August 18, 2011 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous dimagrire velocemente said...

I agree with Pollan's belief that American farmers hold the key to solving healthcare crises, climatic crisis energy crisis. We are capable of controlling how we buy and eat food which would enable us to once again become a healthier and happier society!

September 11, 2011 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous stefanie said...

Excellent point of view. This is something that should be taken into consideration as more and more people trickle into a dangerous diet lifestyle.

October 13, 2011 at 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Sahil said...

Its the most dangerous enemy of humans today, Correct lifestyle changes must be done to ensure good future.

May 19, 2014 at 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Excellent write up -- thanks for sharing!

--J

June 8, 2014 at 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Fit Fatty said...

Would there be a time that we could all afford to consume healthy organic food again?

June 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM  
Anonymous jone lara said...

I think I may take this thought to my classroom as a venture and perceive how it turns out! A debt of gratitude is in order regarding this intriguing read!.

June 30, 2014 at 2:08 PM  
Anonymous SuperMaxGreenCoffee said...

The ironic thing is, other cultures now are changing their traditional diets for less healthy Western diets and as a result we can see the Japanese and Chinese kids are a lot fatter and over-weight than they ever have been.

July 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Arayan Ghosh said...

Really thank you for the information....!! great article...!

Happy Friendship Day 2014

July 18, 2014 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger podaru bogdan said...

Excellent article. I look forward to interacting with you and reading more of your work. Have a wonderful day! =)

pd

August 11, 2014 at 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Car Service said...

Great read, hopefully I can catch Michael Pollan myself some time.

August 28, 2014 at 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

It's good to point out how many bad food choices are out there today. I think our society becomes unaware of such things over time. Our national obesity level proves that.

September 17, 2014 at 5:34 AM  
Anonymous ide peluang bisnis rumahan said...

it is essential that we "take control of our food" because we are what we eat, and the way we provide food has an enormous impact on the population as a whole

September 20, 2014 at 3:54 AM  
Anonymous namina said...

Ahh, proper food and diet plan is very important in our life. People have to and they will learn this gradually. btw, thankx for sharing.

September 20, 2014 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous RJD said...

It sounds like a fun time was had by all.

October 31, 2014 at 3:26 PM  
Anonymous tamil said...

I think our society becomes unaware of such things over time. Our national obesity level proves that.

November 7, 2014 at 1:45 PM  
Anonymous aanrechtblad said...

I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.

November 30, 2014 at 12:28 AM  
Anonymous ideal weight said...

maintain health think hard enough, let alone keep eating it very difficult for me.
Thanks for sharing.

December 11, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous fitri said...

Excellent point of view. This is something that should be taken into consideration as more and more people trickle into a dangerous diet lifestyle.

December 13, 2014 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous 2015 Ford Mustang said...

Great read, hopefully I can catch Michael Pollan myself some time.

December 19, 2014 at 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Aeco farm implements said...

Its the most dangerous enemy of humans today, Correct lifestyle changes must be done to ensure good future.

December 22, 2014 at 12:25 AM  
Blogger ashutosh kuamr gupta said...

I agree with Pollan's belief that American farmers hold the key to solving healthcare crises, climatic crisis energy crisis. We are capable of controlling how we buy and eat food which would enable us to once again become a healthier and happier society! Merry Christmas Wishes for all

December 22, 2014 at 12:27 PM  
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January 7, 2015 at 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Gaston said...

I try to learn my children not to eat (to much) processes food but find it very difficult in this world where the big company's keep marketing and targeting their processed productsespecially to children with Ronald Mc donald and his happy meals as the best example of this way of doing bussines

January 11, 2015 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Lovlesh said...

Hi
I completely agree with the idea that we should take back control of our food. Not only do we end up with processed food we also support a huge, industrialized meat packing industry that is viscously cruel to the animals processed.
Regards

January 11, 2015 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous jeffshea.com/clashofclanshack said...

I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article

January 16, 2015 at 12:14 AM  
Anonymous Jerome said...

I agree that process foods are not good for your health and it damages your system,nice post

January 20, 2015 at 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Optimum Booster said...

Of course process foods are not healthy. If you look this up you can find more source about it on the internet. But I mean at least we're eating the food and not wasting it.

January 27, 2015 at 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Bodybuilding tips said...

Many studies have shown that many processed food can lead to cancer because of the unnatural ingredient it contains.

February 4, 2015 at 6:41 AM  
Anonymous knick knight said...

Loved to read a great post its really a better approach to avoid processed food and switch into organic food which is surely good for health in longer run

February 15, 2015 at 1:31 AM  
Anonymous Marchy said...

Thank you for this article
The article is old already
but
It is very helpful for me

February 21, 2015 at 4:52 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Half life we spend chasing money, and second half we spend that money on health - Dalai Lama. Every day prepare yourself one healthy meal or glass of fresh juice made from organic fruit and vegetable.

February 21, 2015 at 12:29 PM  

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