Book explores origins of food we eat, and whether it is dooming the planet

Book explores origins of food we eat, and whether it is dooming the planet
June 25, 2009

Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
(630) 829-6094

“What should we have for dinner?” That is the question posed by Michael Pollan, best-selling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” has been selected as required reading for all incoming freshmen at Benedictine University as part of the University’s three-year plan, “Years for the Environment,” a campus-wide effort to green Benedictine. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” follows each of the food chains that sustain us – industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves – from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. Pollan takes the reader from Iowa cornfields to food-science laboratories, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds, always emphasizing man’s dynamic co-evolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species he depends on. He concludes that what is at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth. The surprising answers Pollan offers to the simple question posed by this book may determine our very survival as a species. Dinner may never look quite the same again. Benedictine University, which embraces the values of St. Benedict including stewardship of the earth, established “Years for the Environment” last fall as part of an effort to move the campus from education and conversation into action. The effort incorporates curriculum, speakers, events and community outreach. In addition, an array of environmentally-themed courses are offered each semester and many existing courses – particularly those in biology, humanities, religious studies and anthropology – have incorporated environmental topics into their curriculum. Elizabeth Kolbert’s alarming book, “Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change,” was disseminated and read widely across campus last year. The book is a review of the scientific evidence and of the failure of politicians to act. Few books on global warming have had much widespread social or political effect. A presentation by Kolbert attended by several hundred people at the Dan and Ada Rice Center, a series of student presentations and “Sustainable Saturday,” a recycling effort that collected 180,827 pounds of electronics, batteries, scrap metal, paper, ink jet cartridges, worn American flags and cell phones, capped off the first year. For more information about “Years for the Environment” at Benedictine University, contact Jean-Marie Kauth, Ph.D., assistant professor in Benedictine’s Humanities program, at (630) 829-6272 or by e-mail at jkauth@ben.edu.


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.