The Future of Food (I Hope)

Fish farmed from Veta la Palma, a sustainable fish farm in Southern Spain that maintains a natural food web in order to feed their fish - purifying a major river and boosting bird populations while they're at it.  

I was just looking through proposed projects from a graduate program I applied to recently, and stumbled across this amazing TED talk in one of the project's resource webpage. This chef, Dan Barber, was in search of the perfect fish: delicious, fresh-tasting, sustainable. The "sustainable" part is becoming more and more important for restaurants these days, as not only are many types of fish growing increasingly toxic but some of the most palatable and well-liked fish stocks are in danger of (if not already) collapsing - Red Snapper, Chilean Sea Bass, Orange RoughyFreshwater Eel or Unagi (one of my own favorite sushi items), and Pacific Bluefin Tuna, which was actually just revealed to have dropped 96.4% in population, ahhh! So this TED talk is the story of how he stumbled across this ASTOUNDING fish farm in Southern Spain, you absolutely have to watch it:

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It's extremely depressing to hear about the extent of the destruction of the oceans to date, and to imagine them as just barren, toxic expanses of water in the future. A few years ago I would have told you I thought too many people focus on the dire-straights predictions and let it scare them into hopelessness, rather than rising to a challenge and actually trying to do something about it (I was a bit of a pessimist when it came to humanity, haha). But over the last few years, that's all changed. Through many of my own life experiences, like helping with marine management programs in Fiji and working with fellow LA divers to restore kelp forests off our coastline, and reading the news, learning about how many people and organizations are out there trying to deal with this stuff, how many people actually CARE, man I have developed some serious faith in the world!

So this is what struck me while watching the TED talk: that the innovative human mind, combined with the resiliency of biological systems when given a chance, can restore and repair so much of the damage we've done to our planet. This guy points out some really awesome solutions to the decline of our food industries (because let's be real, it's nearly impossible these days to get your hands on some truly natural, unprocessed food in America unless you grow it/raise it yourself). If more people and businesses recognized the VALUE of intact ecosystems, in the sense that nature has developed these things for millions of years until they are literally almost PERFECT self-sustaining entities - why not use ecosystems themselves more efficiently to produce the things we need? I believe I read recently that the state of New York is looking into installing oyster beds offshore for storm mitigation, because they act as a natural barrier for surges - that is exactly what I'm talking about. It's not a new idea. The project at UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Management that I was checking out earlier is about mimicking natural food webs to create more sustainable fisheries options, this is another example. It could probably be applied to a ton of different agricultural models as well. And this fish farm in the TED talk pretty much perfectly exemplifies this idea.

The more people we can get to learn about these things, realize how perfectly nature's tools have been honed to deal with the problems we're facing over vast amounts of time, we could really make some great moves towards cleaning up our planet. I'm choosing to be optimistic about this whole mess, and choosing to become a proponent of finding solutions!

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(PS - the links I provided for the fish above are all from this amazing resource from the Monterey Bay Aquarium called SeafoodWatch, it's a list of sustainable vs. unsustainable fish options for anyone to check out. They have an app, too!)