What the Three Gorges Dam Means to Our Food Supply: Sustainability Author Amplifies Thesis in Interview for “Working Class” Scholarly Journal
(Valley Forge, PA—January 2012) “The Three Gorges Dam will shape the way we eat for the next generation.” Evan D.G. Fraser, lecturer at the University of Leeds in Northern England and co-author with Andrew Rimas of the book Empires of Food, is not exaggerating when he points to this single civil work as the barometer for coming decades of global food production.
“The Three Gorges Dam is one of the wonders of the modern world,” he says, “and a metaphor for the potential of technological progress as well as the threat of what happens when our technology might let us down.” The gigantic Chinese construction project—one of the largest ever undertaken by mankind— is a new and telling cog in the global food system of food and water supply. “Due to its population, wealth, and political clout, [China] will shape the way we eat for the next generation.”
In an interview with the open-access Journal of Empire Studies, Fraser tackles the cause and effect relationship between food systems, societies, and governments or, as he phrases it in the book’s subtitle, “feast, famine, and the rise and fall of civilizations.” Fraser connects an Italian trader of the 16th century named Francesco Carletti to Saint Benedict to Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug (and the green revolution) to the new Chinese mega-dam. “This kind of ‘big idea’ writing is just what our college students need to study,” says journal editor Tom Durwood of Valley Forge Military College. “A work like this brings historical context as well as advice for our young people, who often have only a vague idea of where food comes from.”
In a series of specific historical episodes, Fraser and Rimas show how the management of food production has both empowered and doomed empires. Their work also displays present-mindedness, explaining what is happening today in the taxed-to-the-limits global food network, and what is likely to happen in our supermarkets tomorrow.
“This writing is a pleasure to teach,” says Durwood, who has won Teacher of the Year honors at his school twice in the last three years. “The topic of food certainly grabs the students’ attention; this is information that they need as they make decisions about the food they eat.” He has added an excerpt from the book as well as a lesson plan to the content on the journal’s web site, www.empirestudies.org.
Durwood thinks of his journal as “working class,” since he intends the high-concept content not just for scholars but for teachers and students as well. “The lucky thing for us is that Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas write so well. They make their scholarship accessible.”
Over 400 pages of free content is currently available on the journal web site, with more being added each month.
The Journal of Empire Studies (JES) is a new online journal devoted to the study of empire, east and west, across a number of disciplines—science, literature, technology, commerce and finance, military studies, art, music, linguistics, gender and architecture. As western and eastern schools struggle to bring global perspective to their students, we will actively promote this content to teachers as an ongoing resource, so they can assign our articles or printed anthologies to their classes.
We are seeking collaboration with universities on all continents. We don’t need funding: becoming a sponsor university means you will encourage your faculty to use JES as a classroom resource.