Saturday, October 4, 2014

Building for Failure, and Eating the Same Way

In the David Wolfe book Longevity Now I came upon this line:

Eating poorly is similar to building a house or office complex with inferior materials that wear out in twenty years instead of two hundred years.

I like this quote because this is exactly what we do — not so much that we eat poorly, but that we have such a preponderance of inferior building materials and construction techniques. Of course, these are not the choices you would make if you were building a house for yourself to live in. Then you would spend the extra $200 and do the extra two weeks of work to build a 200-year house instead of a 20-year house. If the builder is anyone other than the intended occupant, though, there is an inescapable tendency to save a dollar here and thirty seconds there, resulting in a building that looks good and passes its inspections, but that begins to fail almost immediately. If you’ve heard of “builder grade light bulbs,” you know the mindset I’m talking about: save four cents now, more work next year for someone else. It is a rare new house that does not need some kind of repair within its first ten years, and over 40 years, it is common for the cost of repairs to exceed the original cost of construction. It doesn’t make good economic sense when you can build a house to last with what looks like the same materials and the same amount of work, but the people choosing the materials and slapping them together know they won’t be around to see them eventually fail. If you need a building and can take the time, there is something to be gained from being personally involved in the construction.

Much of the same logic applies to food. If you never stop to ask what the factories are selling you, you may never connect the food to the consequences of eating it. Food factories, of course, know that most consumers don’t even read ingredients, so their main objective is to make a product that looks like food and put it in a pretty package. With attention to detail and a basic curiosity about the growing body of knowledge on food and its consequences, you can do much better than that without necessarily having to pay much more.