April 21, 2008

[Anecdote] Farmed Salmon

Here's a quick but true anecdote I felt compelled to write about:

Last weekend I was in Vancouver, helping to run a workshop for a non-profit organization I volunteer for. The workshop site was at a community centre in White Rock, right next to the beach. I was looking forward to the warmer climate of the West Coast, a chance to breath in the sea air, and see some flowers in spring. But more importantly, I wanted to get a hold of some fresh seafood from the Pacific.

With this in mind, my fellow workshop facilitator and I arrived at the site early with the intention of hitting up a local establishment for lunch and a cold beer. The setting was great - from our table we could look out at the ocean to the horizon. A woodstove radiated heat that protected us from the cool ocean winds.

The menu consisted of a few different sea food options. Of interest to me were the smoked salmon entrees and the cod or halibut fish and chips. I decided to go with the salmon pasta. As we waited for our server, our conversation turned to climate change, and this got me feeling somewhat guilty about my flight out West. I prefer not to travel anywhere by airplane, and if I must do so I prefer to make it a long trip - but here I was a culprit in the causing of global warming. So when our orders were taken, I wanted to double check that my meal choice was indeed to most local option, to see if I could at least cut back on the distance my food had traveled to get to my plate - so I asked the waitress. "Where does the salmon come from?"

She didn't know off hand, though she sheepishly admitted that she knew it was not wild salmon, but farmed salmon. She went to ask the chef, and we she returned, she ashamedly explained that the salmon was from a farm in Ontario. ONTARIO! Here I was sitting less than a 100 metres from the Pacific ocean ordering a fish that I imaged would be from the area, and it turns out that the damn thing was raised in a pool back in Ontario.

The moment of astonishment lingered long enough for me to note yet another symptom of our diseased society: that we are so incompetent at managing one of the most important components of human survival and development: our food. There are so many problems with the way we've structured our world of food, ranging from accessibility to nutritional value to overconsumption to locality and our relationship with it.

This is a big issue, which hopefully I will confront in various components through certain blog entries. For now, let me use this short anecdote to reference a new term that I will use to characterize the demise of our society through backwards thinking and lack of thought. From here on, I shall call the "the disease".

It goes without saying that I took back my salmon order. Finally realizing that nothing on the menu was local, I opted for the halibut - which came from Alaska.

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