Nutrition Pyramid, Food Network, Or Network Of Pyramids, And Learning To Think A Little Less-Homocentrically


Hi folks,

Learning to Fall by Philip Simmons

"Learning to Fall," by Philip Simmons (Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 2002)

I was recently introduced to an excellent book, ‘Learning to Fall’ by Philip Simmons, via a review on the Senior Correspondent website. The first thing I did was to read the chapter recommended by the reviewer, ‘Out of the Cave,’ from which came the following quotation, with respect to observations made by the author whilst visiting a local pond with his children (sample bucket in hand): “There’s even more we cannot see: all the microscopic floaters and crawlers, the paramecia and bacteria, the broad and invisible base of that great food pyramid at whose pinnacle my children and I are improbably perched.” I am really enjoying this book, which is a linguistic work of art, but I wondered “food pyramid?” I would prefer food network or ‘human food pyramid.’

Distribution of autotrophs on planet earth.

False color map of autotroph distribution on planet earth. From:

Our food comes to us from a plethora of sources, including all plants and animals after their death, one way or another. The Biosphere in which we live is a huge oblate-spheroidal bubble-shaped cauldron of life, with each atom passing from life form to life form over the millenia. It has been built on a foundation provided by the autotrophs (“Organisms that are able to form nutritional organic substances from simple inorganic substances such as carbon dioxide,” [From: Chez Ollie] and to whom we should be very grateful, even if we don’t know who they are.).

The author is correct about his food pyramid from a strictly homocentric perspective, but isn’t every living creature ‘improbably perched at the pinnacle of its own personal food pyramid,’ including the flies, nematodes, protozoa and bacteria that feast upon our bodies when we die? We earth-bound life forms are locked together into a massive network, our behavior driven by our evolutionary origins and the vagaries of environmental change. We, each and every one of us humans, are members of all of the other food pyramids, eventually becoming fodder for millions of different species. This might be a bit creepy to some, but to me it makes me feel a part of everything.

Harvard School of Public Health Food Pyramid. From:

Harvard School of Public Health Food Pyramid. From:

Then I thought, “wait a minute, the food pyramid?” I remember! It is a pyramid-shaped drawing with a bunch of food inside, such as this diagram from the Harvard School of Public Health, which is “based [and I quote] on the latest and best science.” It always makes me worry when I read that kind of statement, as if it is ‘the absolute truth,’ reminding me of Dr. Science, who has a Master’s Degree in Science. If you follow your body’s instructions through growing self-awareness, combined with a skeptical but open-minded approach to the ‘Wisdom of Science,’ I suspect that you will generally do fine, foodwise.

We could construct a food pyramid of the type shown above for each and every organism on earth. Then we could link all of these pyramids together, with the things at the top of each (human, slime mold, redwood tree, and so forth) being placed also in the other appropriate pyramids, but at a level beneath the ‘pinnacle,’ to create a food pyramid network. Then we might start to understand the ‘Food-o-Sphere,’ and begin to think less homocentrically, which can only be a good thing, don’t you think? We might also stop filling people’s bodies with formaldehyde after they die, and let them join the Biosphere more rapidly, to nurture other life forms on our lovely planet all the sooner. Couldn’t resist adding that, as I have always considered this practice to be one of the truly weirdest things that humans do.


-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.