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Gary Nabhan, the Gulf and the Power of Positive Eating

By: Crashing Vor
Published: July 16, 2010

Gary Paul Nabhan is a man of many hats. Geographer, ethnobiologist, conservationist, storyteller. That he won the MacArthur “genius” award should come as no surprise, as he has consistently uses his varied interests to find the profound truths hiding in the intersections between seemingly unrelated fields.

His 2002 book Coming Home to Eat , about a year spent eating only what could be found within a 250-mile range of his Arizona home, helped energize the locavore movement. Other books include works on traditions in salmon-fishing cultures, the anthropology of spicy foods and a natural history of tequila. “Genius,” indeed.

In 2003-2004, he founded Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) , an alliance of food, farming, environmental and culinary advocates striving to restore endangered culinary traditions and cultures and promote healthy and sustainable food production.

Following the hurricanes of 2005, RAFT brought together food advocates, ecologists, historians and chefs from across the Gulf Coast to inventory the bounty of comestibles and cultures it has nurtured. The ambitious project was well under way when BP’s Macondo well blew out, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Nabhan shifted gears and amended the inventory to identify species threatened by the oil crisis. The list, published along with essays and photos by other RAFTers, is entitled “At Risk in the Gulf Coast.” (A pdf of the at-risk species can be found here .)

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