Space, Food, and the Final Frontier

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wondering how this nutrition scientist-slash-foodie became interested in environmental issues and sustainability? Check out my interview with the Environmental Club at Harvard Extension School here as part of this month’s focus on food. Their site also has other great links and information on why what we eat matters from an environmental perspective.

Academic interests aside, the fact is that I’ve always been enamored with Earth. Have you seen the most recent composite images of our planet posted by NASA earlier this year? The Western Hemisphere view of the Blue Marble 2012 (below) has been seen more than 3.1 million times; learn more about these photos and download your own images here.

I can’t remember the first time I saw that glorious image of our planet in space, but it left an indelible mark. It was likely around the same time that I became fascinated with space and began fantasizing about becoming an astronaut. No doubt my early childhood memories seeing my older brother watch Star Trek (the original series) played some part. Also a scientist, he was for me a role model in many ways. (Though I’m more of a TNG fan myself.)

I put my dreams of space exploration aside to pursue a career in nutrition. (What was I thinking?) I still dream of traveling among the stars, though, and if I ever become wildly famous I suppose it could happen given the ever-growing space tourism industry. (Or, does anyone want to give me $30 million bucks? That’s probably more likely, though note I didn’t say “loan.”) I had a poster of the famous Apollo 11 photo of the Earthrise over the lunar horizon on my wall in college (right). What I wouldn’t do to see the real thing! Maybe one day…

And, no, I didn’t just make a Star Trek reference so you’d think I was cool. (Yes, I think that makes me cool. Have we met?) I love science fiction, which is where much of science fact begins. Yet, even beyond the thrill of space exploration is the way the series speaks to a better future (you have no idea how many Star Trek references, asides, and tangents I’m leaving out of this post, and it hurts me deeply), as does much of the sci fi genre.  A future that we all need to work together to protect – for ourselves, our children, and the planet itself.

Anyhow, somewhere between seeing photographs of Earth, watching Star Trek, taking classes in environmental science, and learning about the paradigm of nutritional ecology (more on that in the interview) combined with simple observations of just how beautiful the world is have all had a lasting impact. It is for these reasons that I try to think beyond myself when making the choices I do in life, including where I shop, what I buy, and how I cook. I don’t always succeed; who does?  But life is a journey and every day is a new opportunity for us to do the right thing. With our fork, wallet, words, and actions, what we do matters.

Am I getting too philosophical? Is it a bit much? Sorry, but gazing longingly at these hauntingly beautiful images has that effect on me. I am truly passionate about our little planet, and I’m as in love with the photograph of The Blue Marble as when I first saw it so many years ago.  So much so that I have a tattoo of it on my left ankle—which looks more akin to this view of the Eastern Hemisphere, as it turns out.

But that’s another story.


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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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