Monday, November 22, 2010

Personal History

The November 22, 2010 issue of the New Yorker is the food issue and includes a fine essay by Jane Kramer about root vegetables. (You read the abstract here.) Her piece, which the magazine files under "Personal History" is a great example of how our habits are determined by cultural and personal experiences as much as, if not more so than, by the logic of what is good for us.

This idea of culture and traditions influencing diet and behavior reminds me of an article I read about, but did not read, by Ellyn Satter, in which she applies Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to the food choices. She was responding specifically to the idea that poor people with bad health are guilty of making bad choices or ignorant of the good foods they should be choosing. (This links to the pdf of the article.) Here you can see the hierarchy she establishes.

It would be interesting to consider applying this hierarchy (or Maslow's original hierarchy) to the idea of land use and stewardship. Recreational land use in which we test ourselves physically and seek the sublime would be a the top of my pyramid, but I'm not yet sure how to sort out things like agriculture and transience. Would we consider stewardship a foundation of this pyramid or a step to be established after certain base criteria are met? According to the Urban Land Scout model, one begins with observation of the world. So perhaps a baseline awareness of the natural world is the foundation on which we build.

I find myself returning to that foundation of Observation time and again with both stewardship and other work. There is a stillness and humility in observing something without judgment or intention. It is difficult to see without projecting what we think we know.

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