Nutrition Ethics - A Map Of The Main Positions (updated)
Each of the Ways of Eating within the nutrition space contain an ethical position - a conception of what it is to eat and live well. They are a statement of values, of what is considered to be important, and they are all different.
In this diagram, I attempt to map out the main ethical positions. There are eight in all, not including the traditional cuisines of countless ethnic groups across the globe, now and in the past. They fall into two main categories, those inside the mainstream, and those outside. The first is that of Modernity, the Enlightenment, it marks a break with tradition, a belief that with the aid of science and technology, rationality, we can 'do better', we can improve on our ancestors and even on nature itself (see my post on Crisco here).
The nutrition mainstream is represented by the official Dietary Guidelines. It reflects the world as it is today. This includes the reality that very few people actually comply with the Guidelines (see here). This does not matter, they form one part of a package, a totality. I attempt to capture this by sub-dividing the mainstream into its three components. 7th Day Adventism, hugely influential behind the scenes in establishing what is considered 'healthy' eating, chiefly plant based, and then what most people actually eat, in large part driven by hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, with little regard for health. The distinction between fast and slow food is mostly a class one, and includes a certain element of snobbery. (for more on this see here)
Modernity as a project is pretty much exhausted. In its wake we have two reactions. One is a form of 'post-modernity', which I term as 'hyper-Modern'. This is a response to the crisis in the mainstream, above all in the obesity and diabetes epidemic, but also in the recognition that our current lifestyle is unsustainable. Its solution, as in the case of veganism, is to intensify the trajectory of Modernity, to take it to its logical conclusion, completing the break with nature, transforming both the natural world and humanity itself into a technological and global corporatist dystopia. The EAT-Lancet initiative represents another version of this, putting forward a one-size fits all diet for the entirety of mankind. This would be the final blow to traditional cuisine, to culture, as is its intent.
The other reflects a contradiction within our Post-Modernist time, the fact that even though it rests on the promise of science and technology, it has BROKEN with the reality of where scientific research into diet and nutrition has gone. The nutrition mainstream is OUT OF STEP with the actual science of the field, and instead clings on to worn dogmas out of institutional inertia and self-interest (see here). The oppositional currents represented by low carb and ketogenic diets are much more in tune with the current state of play as far as the science goes. This is why we are in a 'Post' rather than a 'Modern' period.
Modernity began with a break from religion in the name of Reason, in its declining years it has reinstated religious dogma in the name of its own science. The genuine pursuit of truth and knowledge is no longer conducted by supporters of the mainstream.
The second reaction is anti, rather than hyper, Modern. Instead of a break from the past, it seeks to reconnect with it. This is the significance of the paleo movement. It attempts to ground our conception of what it is to live and eat well on the basis of our biology, on human evolution. This is directly counter to both the mainstream and the vegan impulse, which is to ESCAPE the limitations of nature, to overcome them through technology. Paleo leaps over the entire 10,000 year period of civilisation, resting as it does on the cultivation of cereal crops. This is a bold and radical move.
Carnivore is a refinement of both paleo and Keto/LCHF. The significance of this development, from my perspective, is that it moves towards a clearer, more definable, and more defensible, ETHICAL position. It offers the possibility of taking paleo as a foundation, and from there reconnecting with our cultural traditions in order to present a viable alternative to the decadence and decay of Modernity in its final stages. This includes the prospect of applying the knowledge gained over the past two hundred years, through science and technology, in order to reinvigorate traditional forms of life and resolve some of the problems they contained. The impulse behind regenerative agriculture is one example of this potential, an application of technical means that takes us TOWARDS nature rather than away from it, brings us closer and more in harmony with our world rather than in conflict with it.
This is really only my point of view. Neither the carnivore world nor the wider one of Keto/LCHF, Paleo have yet to think through this ETHICAL dimension to their way of eating. Things may go in an entirely different direction. However, it is THE central purpose of this blog to raise these questions for discussion, to encourage debate around this issue, and to help arrive at some clarity over what is at stake. The diagram above, which I have prepared for a discussion we are soon to have at a local level, IRL, is only a first draft. It can and will be modified in the months and years ahead. I invite you to help shape its future forms.