Meet Hamutal Dotan, our expert on all things culinary and delicious. Hamutal is currently working as a web editor in Toronto and aspires to be a full time writer.
Read about Hamutal’s thoughts on sustainable food, gardening education for kids, and her mouthwatering (and popular with our readers) strawberry jam recipe.
How would you define yourself environmentally?
A writer, educator, and food activist.
How do you get around?
My feet! They are always there when I need them. I walk between 10-20km/day. Except in the snow. Snowy days are subway days.
Can you tell us about your biggest green passion? What fires you up?
Food, and everything about it: gardening, marketing, cooking, eating, feeding, preserving, baking plum buckle. Eating is the most visceral connection most of us have to the natural environment.
What do you think is the most important issue the world faces today?
I’m not remotely qualified to issue judgements on this, but access to sustainably produced food is definitely high on that list. The cost of staples is going up around the world, and this is leading to (at least apparent) conflict between our need to increase the volume of food produced by expanding the scope of industrial agriculture, and our desire to produce food sustainably, via the use of organic, local, and small-footprint agriculture.
What is the most important issue in the Middle East?
Peace seems like the obvious answer – the lynchpin which will enable us to tackle every other issue. I’m not actually sure it will go that way, though: there may be a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing lurking in the background. Do we need to make peace before we can decide how to allocate our water, or does the water crisis force everybody to cooperate, eventually leading to peace?
What’s the saddest environment-related thing you’ve ever seen?
I’ve definitely not witnessed the saddest environmental tragedies – people displaced because of climate change, toxic waste dumps, and the like. But one of the most poignant moments for me personally was when a grocery cashier asked me what it was I was buying, so she could ring me up (it was broccoli). That kind of alienation from something so basic is astonishing.
What’s the most hopeful project/company/event you’ve seen?
Programs that introduce gardening for food into urban school curricula, especially in poorer neighbourhoods. Kids that tend vegetable patches as part of their education are both happier and better fed. If you grow up being excited by raising your own tomatoes, a lifetime of environmental consciousness will follow much more naturally than it otherwise might.
What do you do to play your part in greening the earth?
I advocate, hopefully in a way that is intelligent and thoughtful rather than belligerent. I don’t drive, don’t shop for more than I need, and try to buy what’s been produced responsibly. I vote based on environmental policies.
What are you reading now?
Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food’. TreeHugger, Grist. The Ethicurean is a great source of information about sustainable food.
What’s your favorite post/topic on Green Prophet, and why?
I’ve just started out here, but so far my favourite has to be the strawberry jam recipe. The day that I wrote that, I spent the morning at a farm picking berries, the afternoon teaching a friend how to make jam, and the evening writing about it, and it was all SO much fun. People often seem to think that being environmentally responsible is a dour, joyless sort of commitment, one that strips you of luxuries and habits you’d like to keep. And there are obviously ways in which that’s true. But it also introduces a whole other range of thoroughly pleasurable activities into your life. Being that engaged in what you do, even just in what you eat, is deeply satisfying.
Who are your environmental heroes?
Alice Waters, who is one of the first people to have really promoted thoughtful, attentive agriculture and eating. The Norwegian seed vault – it’s a safehouse for the world’s crop diversity, and the people that built it have performed an invaluable (and under-reported) public service. Rachel Carson, who had to fight harder than any of us ever will to get environmental issues taken seriously.
If you could meet with one of these heroes what would you ask them?
How to persevere, and keep your sense of humour, in the face of institutional apathy.
If you could make one green wish (or have one of your prophecies come true) what would it be?
Get genuinely green-sensitive politicians in office in the major food-producing, and pollution-emitting countries. All our individual efforts at reducing our footprints won’t make much of a dent unless they are accompanied by legislative revolutions.
To learn more about sustainability writers and their passions, read more articles in the Green Prophets series: