July 7, 2010 -
Knox County Public Library and the City of Knoxville will present the continuing Brown Bag Green Book series on Wednesday, July 21, at 12:00 p.m. in the East Tennessee History Center auditorium, 601 S. Gay Street. This month's discussion features John Nolt, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee and a long-time environmental activist, discussing the classic Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser.
Nolt points to a direct relationship between the prevalence of fast food and health problems such as obesity. "Though healthful food is available to most of us," he says, "many people are ignorant, befuddled by advertising or demoralized beyond caring and still choose fast-food junk. The results are apparent in diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, which are, without exception, diseases of excess, not of want." With Tennessee's recent ranking for obesity as second in the country, a discussion of fast food is especially important.
Nolt notes that fast food also has environmental and even political ramifications. "Fast food is never local food," Nolt says. "It is processed through many stages at distant locations and shipped all around the country by tractor-trailers. The resulting consumption of diesel fuel makes America dependent on foreign oil, access to which we must defend by military adventures. Locally-based food systems provide greater food security. And greater food security promotes greater national security."
As its 10 year anniversary approaches, Fast Food Nation demonstrates its literary "sustainability" as Library patrons continue to check it out. It's notable that the Rolling Stone article on which Fast Food Nation was based generated more reader mail than any other piece the magazine ran in the 1990s.
"The previous Brown Bag Green Book program about food was our best attended by far," says the series' developer Emily Ellis. "We talked about Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable, Miracle. Because of this high interest, we think it's important to include another discussion about the American diet. John is a warm and engaging speaker and walks the environmental walk. I really appreciate him participating in the program to share his insight."
Nolt is a Professor in the Philosophy Department, dividing his teaching and research mostly between logic and environmental ethics. In April 2008 he helped organize a national conference on Energy and Responsibility. He is co-chair of UT's Committee on the Campus Environment, which recently developed a 25-year energy plan for the campus. In 2006 he was awarded a $25,000 Rebuild America grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to assist with that work. Nolt has also been active in many local and regional environmental organizations.
He and his family grow much of their own food in organic gardens at their home. He describes himself as a neo-Luddite. He mows his lawn with a scythe and commutes to work by bike.
The public is invited to join the conversation, but reading the book is optional. The series will continue Wednesday, August 25th with Don Barger, National Parks Conservation Association, leading a discussion of Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution by Caroline Fraser. For more information, please call Emily Ellis at 215-8763.