An excerpt from Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating
“To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller
We are at a crossroads. The dehumanizing of food, which includes its spiritual aspects, is having unintended consequences, including burgeoning populations with food allergies and obesity, greater scarcity of arable land from which to produce food, and ever fewer food species from which to derive nutrients.
It is a bio-cultural nightmare that began with the first significant bio-cultural revolution during the Paleolithic era: the introduction of agriculture. And it requires a new start, a second bio-cultural revolution, one involving new food choices that will allow us to re-envision agriculture as healthful and sustainable and, thereby, change our culture, our genetic makeup, and our world.
Huge and subtle shifts in how we view food and the individual’s role in the food and agricultural system are taking place in the world. A growing interest in healthy, nutritious food and its production is reflected in the increasing consumer trend of organic food purchases. Gaining ground, too, is an emerging global agri-ecological movement, reflecting a move away from the entrenched and powerful food marketing system, with its reduction of “food” to processed “food products,” toward a more direct and transparent relationship with food.
As Buckminster Fuller noted, the way to change something is to make it obsolete. Today’s food giants and all they entail may seem overpowering, but change is happening everywhere. The great power of the subtle and fledgling food movement may be its myriad names and multitude of expressions. It includes moms vigilant about nutrition for their kids; public policy wonks zeroing in on obesity; food allergy specialists researching why our food is making us sick; farmers concerned about the natural fertility of their soils; “foodies” intent on novel, authentic dishes; the Slow Food movement celebrating authentic and heirloom foods; emerging countries’ efforts to retain indigenous farming and not be swamped by industrial food imports; fair-trade, shade-grown coffee plantations, and…well, you name it.
What is unfolding is the archetypal story of a relative handful of tyrants seeking to control our food supply, versus disparate voices calling for greater autonomy in something vital to them: in this case, their food, their health, and the health of the Earth community. In such a setting, the many small voices are far greater than the few large ones, as has occurred throughout history.
In his book, The Power of Intention (Hay House, 2004), Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about the power of creativity in resolving everyday challenges. He notes that careful observation and reexamination of commonly held assumptions can lead to wondrous innovation. For example, think about the first person to notice that ships don’t have to be made of buoyant materials in order to float revolutionized shipping — in other words, that wooden ships didn’t have to be wooden. It’s the principle of displacement that allows steel ships, such as huge oil tankers filled with liquid, to float on water. And then there’s the idea that something doesn’t have to be buoyant in order to fly. Huge transport planes filled with heavy machinery or freight routinely fly around the globe and are anything but airy concepts, like balloons filled with helium.
Steiner noted the same principle in his Agriculture Course, that plants exhibit a quality opposite to gravity — of being pulled up, as well as being pulled down. This was before the invention of modern airliners.
Science has come up with any number of specific qualities of plants that seemingly defy Newtonian physics. One is a plant’s turgor pressure, the force within a plant that allows it to grow through concrete. It’s the observation of the thrust upward that seemingly defies gravity that is relevant here.
The usual “scientific” or “logical” view of the world holds that Nature tends to move from order to disorder — the principle of entropy. Its opposite is syntropy, whose power lies in the fact that it is equal in its abilities. Syntropy is a natural phenomenon, as Steiner pointed out in his theory of bio-dynamics, but scientists today almost always ignore it. The fact remains: focusing on uplifting creation systems leads toward ever more complexity, or syntropy.
The word “syntropy” was coined by Albert Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi, the Hungarian scientist, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1937 for discovering vitamin C. After moving to the United States at the end of World War II, Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi carried out pioneering work on muscle tissue and the dynamics of cancer. He identified two chemicals, one for growth and another for regression, but was stymied in finding a cancer cure. In his later years, he turned his focus to the dynamic principles often found in Nature.
With syntropy, Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi was attempting to refine a concept espoused by Erwin SchrÃ¶dinger, a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. SchrÃ¶dinger was convinced that negentropy, or negative entropy, (the concept Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi called syntropy) was the product of genetic code and present in everything. James D. Watson in his memoir, DNA: the Secret of Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), credited SchrÃ¶dinger’s negentropy idea as the inspiration for him to research the gene, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix structure for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962.
The concept of syntropy, popularized by Buckminster Fuller, remains an attempt to unify the fields of biology and physics. Rudolf Steiner paved that road, in the vernacular of the day, defining the two opposing forces within Nature as physical forces (gravity) and Steiner’s etheric forces (buoyancy). As with yin and yang, in any endeavor they are bound together. In fact, Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi said he gave up his attempt to cure cancer by researching the opposing chemicals he discovered because he could not isolate one from another until they had been expressed.
Entropy and Syntropy
So, how does one achieve the seemingly impossible task of overcoming the juggernaut that is the modern food/agriculture system through the use of syntropy? Easy — as Szent-GyÃ¶rgyi did: recognizing it and its opposite as essentially the same thing, and apprehending how one feeds the other.
The modern food empire is a perfect example of entropy. It is growing because it is fueled by artificial economics: cheap food subsidized by taxpayers. But it is doomed to fail because it’s based on scarcity and lack: ruining the land it uses through dependency on dwindling fossil fuels.
Its opposite, syntropy, is the growing global movement toward sustainable, democratic systems that are healthy and empowering, and away from oligarchical top-heavy, imposed systems. “Arab Spring” and “Occupy Wall Street” are the same forces in reaction to governmental and social tyranny, where freedoms and resources are hoarded by the few at the expense of the many.
Simply choose another way: take responsibility for your own choices, including producing food or supporting the production of food in alternate ways. The rapidly advancing idea of urban farming and backyard gardening is one way to do this. Another is to support local food co-ops, to create food-buying clubs with friends and family, or start or sponsor community-supported agriculture (CSA) partnerships between small farms and consumers.
The creation of such local, self-supporting, intentional communities is a powerful avenue for change. Similarly, citizens can hold politicians accountable for their votes in supporting farm legislation that shifts some of the taxpayer subsidies away from factory farms and the confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are polluting the countryside. They can demand legislation that discourages monoculture “conventional” farming in order to promote better land-use policies — and promote legislation that helps farmers financially make the change to organic. They can insist on food labeling of genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients, so that consumers can choose not to buy food “products” masquerading as real food.
Each of these is a step that can be taken to build community around shared ideals and ensure that voices being heard are those of voters, not just funders of political campaigns.