I’d have a lot more respect for people if they stopped it with their forked tongue rhetoric. When I read the hard-core “E”nvironmental movements attempts to be “reasonable” and compassionate, I feel just like I used to when a girl was trying to politely dump me. That analogy is not apt, but it’s the best I can do right now. I’ve come across many, many, many tomes supporting local communities, buying local, and all that. In many ways I sympathize with the movement (more on that in a later post). But when the locavores try to dress up their movement as a way to “Save the planet” when it often has nothing to do with that, then I have no patience for it. Here is an excerpt from the closing chapter of Finding Higher Ground:
People are searching for security as the world becomes a less certain place and as the agitation of transition gets under way. Local economies, like gardens out back, are a first step toward remaking our societies to be less about industrial consumerism and more about environmental sustainability, justice, and persistence?
Do you notice the trick here? For chapters in the book the author discusses the impending problems a warmer planet confronts us with. The book is nominally about how we as individuals can adapt to a warmer world in the likely situation that we are not able to mitigate CO2 emissions (i.e. reduce them, and ambient CO2 levels in the atmosphere). But what does this paragraph tell us? It is telling us, rather bluntly, that the reason to have local economies is to get rid of “industrial consumerism” — which I simply take to mean the economic “system” we have today. But I thought the buy local thing was a way to reduce emissions and our impact on the planet? What if technologies emerge, namely “clean, renewable energies” that reduce the carbon impact of our modern “industrial consumerist” world to zero? Is it not hot the case that some locavores wish to impose that lifestyle on all of us? “No!” would should many an opponent. And perhaps they are right, this is what follows a paragraph later:
Further, local economies support many of the practical considerations of self-reliance, and they provide a way forward for people frustrated by the plodding pace of federal regulation.
OK, so if federal regulations somehow manage to reduce CO2 emissions (how?) then what? Is industrial capitalism cool? Are all of us still “complicit” in some other kind of degradation if we don’t adapt a local lifestyle? I really just don’t understand it. Readers looking for answers can find it a few pages later, as the author quotes Eileen Crist is saying, “Climate change is the bullet that threatens extinction but industrial-consumer society is pulling the trigger.” If that does not support my point from above, then I do not know what better evidence there could be. Perhaps this will help:
But it is the scale (small) as much as the ingredients (mostly local) that deepens my satisfaction with Dean’s Bakery. Like my patronage of the farmers’ market, the general store, the library, and the physician with an office in town, consumption at Dean’s feels like a relationship of mutual support. There is nothing faceless or demeaning about it. Being a customer there benefits not only Dean but the people he supports in turn and the principles each of those entities agree upon. This is where the fruits of localization are realized and translated into progress for civil society well beyond the individual.
We have our answer. Aside from the economics being wrong, we are told that industrial capitalism is faceless, demeaning and not one of mutual support. Great. We have discussed these in class and on this site hundreds of times. I have no reason to dispute the locavore feelings about this, it is not for me to do that. My point simply is that this is the reason locavores support the idea, which is fine, and it if it so happens that saving the planet goes along with it, great. And by the way, by this logic, what if buying globally, and buying from multinational corporations with workforces spread around this magical, diverse world, just feels like a relationship of mutual support to me? What if I find it the opposite of faceless and demeaning? What if I find dealing with my immediate neighbors to be demeaning? To invoke those “feelings” that you may have for a particular type of consumption carries no moral imperative.
Finally, here’s a way to get myself uninvited to the last few dinner parties I may have been considered for: what if I don’t want to have an intimate relationship with my neighbors and people in my community? After all, 90% of them send their kids to public schools on my dime, and I am sure most would consider me some kind of moral beast for most of my views of the world. The beauty of faceless, nameless capitalism is that I cooperate with millions of such people all the time, with none of our differences getting in the way. The more I have “intimate” interactions with the people around me, the less I like being a part of such a community. Further, I get pleasure knowing that my purchase of this book on Amazon provided some income to a programmer in India. I get pleasure knowing that the financial adviser working for the global company has a support network there which enables him a level of security that he would not have if he went out on his own. I get pleasure thinking about the incredible journey all of the component parts of my new fishing pole must have made on their way to my campsite. I get pleasure from the fact that LL Bean, once a small, local outfitter up in Maine, now is able to deliver me all kinds of fun goods and services? I get pleasure from having students from all over the world come into my classes, and to share their stories of their home towns and families with me. Yep, all of that is horribly demeaning to both me and the people I cooperate with from outside my local community.