This is a personal entry. Which is not to say that the previous posts here weren’t — it’s just that most of VIVID’s analytical pieces are still tinged with the affectations of my professional training as a journalist. In full force, these produce the high-minded style that’s employed in mainstream news formats to create the illusion of objective authority, but that in fact serves to cover up inadequate investigation, the regurgitation of state or corporate propaganda and the mindless reinforcement of destructive social behaviours in the name of advertising profit.
But anyway, that’s another story. Here on VIVID that style is, I hope, less apparent, diluted by time away from the publishing world and weakened by my contempt for the values of the corporate media. Nonetheless, old habits die hard, so it’s taken a while to summon the nerve to write simply as me, with no attempts to sound independent, well-informed or even intelligent.
So: some thoughts and opinions, worth nothing more than anyone else’s thoughts and opinions. Take them or leave them.
Over the last month or two I’ve been contemplating the virtues or otherwise of activism, community work, writing blogs, supporting charitable causes, trying to persuade other people of other ways to think and do things — and whether any of this is worthwhile.
One of the triggers for this reflective phase occurred in November last year, when I walked out of a regional ‘transition’ workshop. The meeting was held to link the environmental groups in the county in which I live, so that they might work together on mutually beneficial projects, share ideas and apply jointly for funding. It was a Saturday afternoon and the town hall was full of friendly, colourful, thoughtful and motivated people with clear views on some of the things that are wrong with our society (most of which I agreed with) and creative ideas about building alternatives.
Why, then, did I slink off before it was finished, disillusioned despite the commitment, demotivated despite the energy? Because at some point I became so overwhelmed by the sense that the entire event was little more than a charade of displacement activity that I couldn’t bear another moment of it.
This was (and is) a personal view, in no way meant as criticism of any of the people or initiatives involved: they had (and still have) my admiration. I appreciate that some good projects will likely come out of their work. But that doesn’t detract from the hunch that most of these projects will be undertaken by a minority of enthusiasts, will be selected because the enthusiasts think they are part of The Answer, will sometimes be foisted on communities whose members don’t care whether they happen or not (or, if they do, may not be in a position to support them) and, either way, will be largely immaterial to the long-term prospects for humanity and other life on the planet.
Movements, projects and initiatives like these, while they do little more than tamper at the edges, look increasingly (to me) like a form of guilt-offsetting. What use are ‘sustainability’ projects in a society that is overwhelmingly unsustainable? What use is a local cycle path network when most people drive to work to earn the money with which to buy food, much of which is driven or flown in from afar? When even the bikes they ride are shipped in from factories far away?
All green is greenwashing
The scale of the initiatives, even where they do improve things, is microscopically small and trivial compared with both the scale of the problems and the depth with which the assumptions leading to them are embedded within our psyches. Until or unless these scales start to match up, in scope and depth, we are deluding ourselves if we think that our eco-activities achieve anything other than a greenwash for our way of life.
I mulled over this pessimistic conclusion as I walked away that day through the throngs of brain-dead Christmas shoppers, despairing of both forms of Saturday afternoon entertainment and doubting that there was any meaningful direction worth devoting my energies to.
That sense prevailed through the coming weeks, and was augmented on a specific and local level, when the concept of projects-foisted-on-communities-that-don’t-care-enough-about-them-or-can’t-support-them came home to roost.
The reason for my presence at the transition network meeting was that two years ago I was instrumental in setting up a sort of eco-resilience group in my village. We had an exhilarating first eighteen months getting various wholesome projects off the ground and liberating as much of the latent energy for change that it’s possible to liberate — and surely find — in a small village. We ended up with a newsletter, a garden share scheme, domestic energy surveys, a revamped parish plan, reskilling courses, a summer festival and — the jewel in the crown — a cooperatively-owned, community shop specialising in fresh local food. Look, we thought: things can change.
Six months down the line and most of the projects are now either forgotten or have made such a negligible impact — improved community bonds notwithstanding — that there is barely any evidence of their effect on the primary activities of the majority of the community, with the exception of the shop, which has offered a valuable service, employment for local people and a focal point for the village. However, even the shop has since hit hard times. As the recession bit and many of its prices moved out of reach for an increasing number of customers, sales plummeted and, this month, two out of the three members of staff were made redundant.
The interesting thing about this recent, challenging episode with the shop (which is far from over) has been the way in which it has appeared to divide the community, rather than unite it. Of course, in reality it simply threw into relief divisions that were already there. People were overheard saying that the shop wasn’t for them anyway: “too posh”. Others complained that it was no longer stocking the smoked salmon mousse and had gone downhill. Yet others thought the committee — comprised entirely of volunteers — had done the paid staff a disservice by working them to the bone and then laying them off. It seemed that some of us were seen as middle-class do-gooders, our well-meaning intentions mistaken for meddling, our decision-making responsibilities mistaken for superiority, our calls to action mistaken for condescension.
Whatever the misapprehensions, there are lessons to be learned from the outcomes. If the village can’t sustain a shop that sells expensive local cheeses and home-cured bacon because they’re too expensive for most; if the shop can’t supply the village with bread, eggs and vegetables at supermarket prices because they don’t make enough profit; if the village can’t muster enough volunteers to work at the shop because everyone’s already working their arses off trying to earn a living, then perhaps the whole idea of that shop in that village was misplaced from the outset, socially as well as financially. It’s not the fault of the committee for trying, nor the fault of the villagers for being put off by pricey products (and I speak for both sides here, being both committee member and villager struggling to make a self-employed living). It’s that in terms of the wider context – i.e. our society, with its inequitable economic, social and working structures — the balance is tipped strongly against initiatives like this.
Of course, our shop may still pull through, thanks to the committed efforts of many dedicated people, and I hope it does. But the primary lesson to be taken from its struggles, which for me is all the more real because it is understood from experience not just hypothesis, is this: while local initiatives and eco-projects remain the business of those with the ‘spare’ resources and time to invest in them, they will only ever be bourgeois activities. As long as the broader context precludes any other way of working, such intitiatives, even if they survive, will make little or no contribution to wider change.
The reality is stark: either we find a way to build real communities — in which everyone is free to work together in the collective interest of everyone, without the divisive elements of perceived class difference, private property ownership or the draining distractions of pointless external work demands that many of us must meet to service our ever pressing debts — or we are pretending.
Making a living or making life?
And pretending I do believe we are. Not only do eco-projects smack of bourgeois patronage, it’s clear that any culture in which the means of making a living for most people is diametrically opposed to the needs of a healthy planet is a culture with a problem so enormous that it will not be solved by piecemeal project work. For the vast majority of us, day-to-day employment is, directly or indirectly, so destructive to the living world that we have to think of ways of compensating for that destruction, hiding it, off-setting it or correcting it.
While most people might not know or care to think about this, eco-activists both know and care, yet convince themselves that the issue can somehow be circumvented by myriad good intentions. This is the source of my disillusionment. I suspect we all might stand a better chance of making a difference if we dropped the projects and united in action on this issue alone, perhaps by trying to catalyse a workers’ revolution, not for more pay or sociable hours, but for work with a better purpose.
Without a radical approach such as this, all our attempts to prettify the edges of our society with eco-projects are, in my view, worse than just a self-deluding waste of time and energy: they play a part in allowing the destruction to continue. Why? Because every such initiative provides a comforting blanket of denial for its participants by creating the sense that they are fulfilling some worthwhile purpose in their spare time, which takes the edge off their carrying on with the work of destruction during their paid hours.
The reality is that all activists, protesters, hippie-style dressers, alternative types, wholefood eaters, part-time smallholders, festival goers, campaigners and eco-group convenors, as long as they are in this culture, also have no choice but to make their living, or live off others who make or have made their living, or run their finances, in ways that somewhere, somehow, interfere with land, air, water or other lives in an unsavoury way.
(There are some exceptions, including for example those working to liberate the land from private ownership and sustainably feed local wild and human communities from it.)
This means that those of us trying to make change happen in our spare time are effectively standing against what we do in our working time. Yet if it came to the crunch, we would protect our livelihoods with more urgency than our principles. We are lost.
Because of all of this and more I have, for now, abandoned group activities, eco-brainstorming, energy descent workshops and ethical campaigning. I intend, as much as possible, to disengage from these problem-solving activities because they come from the mentality of our culture. As long as we operate mentally from within this culture, it feels dishonest to think we can challenge it.
It would be interesting if all campaigners did this: stopped, went home, and considered what we are really doing with our time and our ideas. Striving to be true to ourselves would seem to be a sensible first goal; halting the pretence of organising against something ‘other’ when we were all along organising against ourselves might offer a sign that this goal was being approached.
Disband the charities
And while we’re at it, why not disband all the charities campaigning for environmental causes. Let’s just stop our subscriptions and convince them no longer to take part in the thankless, pointless business of going head-to-head with the culture that they (we) all embody and create. Then the other half of this same culture, the so-called ‘evil, resource-sucking’ corporate world, the part that keeps the environmentalists housed, fed, supplied with paper for their brochures and computers for their online petitions, the other half of us, in other words: that half will have to view the world by itself, without being able to outsource the job of caring for the planet, without that critical parent breathing down its neck, providing it with something to kick back against, a reason to remain childish.
If it wants to, if we want to, we will go ahead and destroy the living world anyway. My thought for today is: at least let’s do it without pretending we’re trying not to. At least let’s be honest.
Is there a chance that such a shedding of illusions could inspire enough of us to actively not want to destroy the living world after all? Turning around this juggernaut of our culture would be a tall order: it would require millions to be mobilised in a revolt against their livelihoods. To stand any hope, every charity and campaign group would have to be marshalled to the cause, itself too much to expect, since they too would be protesting themselves out of existence.
So if it won’t happen voluntarily, and if the work of protesters, eco-activists and campaigning organisations is immaterial beyond small, temporary victories, it seems we are left with only one possible trigger for a cultural inversion: the coming economic and ecological collapse.
In which case, what to do with our energies and good intentions in the meantime, assuming we have any left over after the processes required to stay alive and well?
This is the point at which I have arrived. I don’t know the answer. My thinking today, muddled though it is, has settled on the need to identify my own values, to accept that they evolve, and to be as true to them in real time as possible. What that means is not yet clear. I’d rather do one thing wholeheartedly than lots of things half-heartedly. I’d rather aim for a life in which none of my activities contradicts any other than accept a life in which one part of me is always compromised. I suspect that, ultimately, I’ll need to step outside this culture, geographically, psychologically, economically, or all three, to achieve this.
On a more mundane note, I’m also considering what useful things we could leave future generations lucky enough to survive the collapse. At the moment — other than a healthy biosphere since we’ve gone way beyond that — my inclination is to leave for my children and theirs (if they survive) a description of my take on the factors that led us here, in the hope that it helps them avoid the mistakes of their forbears. It need be no more than an account of how and why we trashed the place, including why we lost our marbles, which of us lost the most marbles and why those same people (men, mainly, hooked on power and violence) ended up running the show, how we got high on consumerism, which social structures and cultural beliefs enabled us to duck responsibility for our actions and lose self-respect, and what we wished we’d done instead.
It would also be good if we could leave behind examples of other ways of being, especially communities, both new and old, that know how to orientate their means of making a living so that they revere and support rather than dismiss and destroy the natural cycles of life. (I find it hard to know how to work towards this bit without tribal campaigning charities and eco-villages though, so at this point I struggle with my line that such activities are pointless. And yet, I don’t think they will work as long as they originate from the culture of empire. What will? Again, I don’t know.)
I have one more idea. It’s off-the-wall, but perhaps it could help with the job of leaving a legacy for future generations and at the same time — of particular interest to me at the moment — provide a mechanism for temporarily transporting the conscious mind out of this culture.
The mechanism would be a radical, new decision-making framework that would offer an alternative to the so-called rational processes that currently determine our actions. The idea is to provide a guide for anyone (like me) fumbling towards a more meaningful way forward yet struggling to throw off the occluding morés of civilised thinking. The purpose of the framework would be to throw out common assumptions and goals, to redefine wealth, winning and progress, to ensure that love, life, wisdom and beauty were prioritised in all decisions, and to help anyone who uses it to liberate themselves from the artificial, perceived conditions that constrain their decisions, instead catapulting them into an exciting new cosmic adventure – their lives without the shackles.
It’s another tall order, since it likely cannot be created by someone (for example, me) within the culture. Perhaps I can find someone outside it to help.
And yes, it’s mad. So I might have a go at it, just for fun. If I get anywhere, the results may be the subject of a future post here. If there is one.
Good to see you back on the screen with a new post … I very much hope that it won’t (as your last sentence suggests) be the last.
Though I may be on a different path though and out of them, I do strongly identify with the conflict and uncertainty you describe. All I can do is wish you good winds and eventual landfall.
Thanks Vanessa. This article really struck a few chords with me.
Moving towards a more conscious way of living, and stopping being busy. Busyness has all kinds of reasoning behind it “lets do this because…it will improve this, that, and the other” but really because it salves our consciences and distracts us from pain we prefer to avoid, whether that’s immediate family or the planet’s prognosis. All kinds of crazy activities have a sincere sounding rationale behind them. Activities which promise to help are sometimes a prop to the people driving them.
Having worked as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor for a few years (now retired!) I learned about and observed close up why people, myself included, get busy with helping initiatives. The reasons are often self serving or soothing or distracting in some way. At the end of the day I felt it would be better for the world if I was just available for the people closest to me, my own family. But I can’t ignore the nuggets of real goodness amongst the dross. How a tiny bit of help can go a very very long way, in a ripple effect that can’t be measured. Often that’s the kind of help that hasn’t been planned or busyed over, something like just sitting with a few other mothers who have come through the difficulties, or just being on the end of the phone when someone is at the end of their tether, even if you say nothing learned or useful.
How to preserve those good bits and avoid the pain and waste of time to others generated by the busyness?
Maybe we need to stop talking and just be, in an awake state, paying attention to details. Whatever it is we do next, it has to come from the bottom of what we are, then up.
You raise some extremely interesting and valid points as well as many, (possibly, for now, non-answerable) questions – yet questions that importantly should still be proposed and evaluated. In a sense, I feel that the main position here is a fairly fundamental one in its essence (and I do not intend this as a patronising comment in the least) in that it’s a universal question, it seems to me, about making sense of our lives and trying to make sense of the fundamental meaning of our (collective and individual) being and our place on this planet. Whoops! How heavy that sounds.
I guess that in the past our lives were more simple and localised and non-global and we had the certainty of religious belief and the hierarchy of class and the security of place, as well as a level of poverty, (intellectual as well as physical), that would remain unchallenged for centuries. We are now I think floundering on and within an economic, cultural and unsustainable rape of global and localised resources that will, in all likelihood, remove freedom and choice for the next generations, such as they may be.
The planet though I think will survive our maltreatment. We may not. I’ve always found quite moving that iconic shot at the beginning of the film ‘Planet of the Apes’ when Charlton Heston has landed on Earth and sees the Statue of Liberty half still visible but buried in the sand. The end of ‘us’ and a powerful comment on a vision of the death of capitalism, American-style, the statue to be viewed as the icon of ‘civilisation’, an adaptation of which is currently being copied and revered by the likes of China, India etc).
I sometimes tell myself that it was not (in relative terms) so long ago that mothers and fathers took their children, (in England at least) to see, as a point of entertainment, hanging, drawing and quartering at the local gallows.
Today we seem to have run an entire gamut with, on the one hand, nothing changing in that respect in certain environs (torture of some individuals by shielded official agencies etc – including ‘our own’ officials’ in Britain), yet on the other hand our lovingly nurtured young children, the ‘next generation,’ are indulged and shielded from the reality of what, until recently in our own societies in the west, has been a hard and turbulent, often violent and uncertain way of life for most if not all individuals.
It will change again I think. I’m too old to ponder too much the implications of it all. I am very glad that you are trying to make sense of what I believe to be a very strange and imperfect and frightening sense of being. Called alive. The ancients had God and certainty. Some – even many – still do. The rest of us have to find our own salvation in a godless world – within it and perhaps beyond it – if we can.
We’ve had it easy then, lately. And now is the time of reckoning, perhaps. Hard choices, no easy – or even any answers. Vanessa, I don’t know, any more than you do, what the answers may be. But I think that the fact that you’re asking for answers – or begging the questions, gives us all hope for the future – (if you could be replicated). Please carry on, if you will…….
P.S. Reducing the population of the world would be such a great help. Tell the Pope. Ask the Mullahs. And others … no-one seems to address this very real global threat to the planet.
pure dead brilliant … I’m going to have to read it a few more times to even start to try to understand where you went, but on the first reading I certainly recongised a few threads that have flitted through my own head over the past plenty years.
Hurry up with that next post please !
“Displaced Cosmic Greenwashing” spread the word
Thank you, Felix – also for the link on your blog and kind words – very glad you think the post throws up interesting questions.
Good winds and eventual landfall … what a delightful metaphor. Yes, I will be settling soon, and realise also that Vivid is not done yet. The responses have reminded me that there are a dozen other things I want to write!
Kerry – that’s spot on. Thank you for articulating so well the distracting elements (and appeal) of being busy. It’s just what I find difficult about the meetings, facilitated workshops, constitution-writing exercises, etc. But you’re right to point out the nuggets of goodness too. And our community experiences here have produced oodles of such nuggets. Most of them revolve around more people knowing each other and unexpected links and favours emerging from that – a sense of community cohesion that goes some way to counterbalancing the areas where there is inequity.
This is hugely valuable and no doubt deserved more emphasis in the article. But it seemed to take too long already to elaborate the main point, that being that our primary activities – relating to how we make a living – won’t or can’t change without a fundamentally different approach. How to identify this approach I don’t know. It will probably just emerge, of its own accord, from a shifting backdrop. In the meantime I love your idea of staying awake, tuning quietly into what’s there at the bottom of us and growing ourselves from there up. A lovely image that captures what I was trying to say about finding our own true values before launching into anything. Thank you.
Thank you Graeme. Glad it touched a nerve or two. There will be more to come – soon enough.
Chrissie, I think you’re right that many of these questions are largely unanswerable, but I’m glad that you agree that they need to be asked.
And I agree with you that they are also connected with making sense of our lives and finding meaning. Because meeting our short-term needs is so easy, and the comforts of our current existence are so numbing, it’s easy to forget that there might even be any meaning, let alone to consider where you might look if you want some! It becomes almost hopeless when we acknowledge how destructive securing those comforts is for the longer-term future of much (if not all) of the life on the planet.
I happen to think that we can meet short-term needs and nurture the long-term future for life at the same time, and herein lies the meaning, or at least the purpose, but that the cultural trance in which we find ourselves – which has evolved over millennia of strife, competition, hierarchical power structures, dualistic thinking, a sense of alienation from everything that is natural, economic myths and indeed growing population, upon much of which you touch – prevents us from believing this.
I will certainly keep asking! Thank you for your thoughts.
I haven’t read the recent VIVID newsletters I’ve received – been too busy! But am glad I read this one. You have touched on something that has preoccupied my thoughts for a couple of years now – the ability to be truely honest. I feel that there is a truely honest reality out there but it is veiled, like there is an opaque screen preventing us from seeing it clearly, but I know it’s there. It’s so tantilising sometimes I feel I can almost touch it but attempts to pin it down so I can get it clear in my head just frustrate me. I know the way that I, and everyone else I know, live most of our lives is not truely honest and I often catch myself not practicing what I preach on many levels. Your article describes well the fundamental flaw in trying to do good and live a green life style in our current culture – so much of which is contradictory. I can feel your frustration and understand what you are trying to articulate. Be reassured that many of us feel the same frustration and are looking for a way forward – as you have said perhaps the answer lies outside of our culture – I will watch your progress with interest.
I liked this enough to re-tweet it.
This is a struggle. The fall sing about arms control posers. You bemoan the futility of good intentions that have no follow through and, ultimately, no impact. You are right. I also love the introspection re tone of these sort of efforts. It is rare in the 21C open platform, editorless world we live in.
I’d love to see this continue and I’d love to see it in digestible format; tweet, micro blog, whatever, get people thinking and caring. Print and blogs are dead.
Belinda, great to have your comment, thank you. Yes you’ve touched the heart of it – how we find the route to true, deep honesty. Obviously we don’t have a huge amount of choice in our culture about how we earn a living, but it’s the pretending (to ourselves) that I struggle with (with myself included). Which is not to say I think we’re all bad – far from it – it’s just that there’s still quite a bit of waking up to do! In my next piece I will try to focus on the waking-up not the sleeping-on-the-job.
I am intrigued by your description of the sense that the truth is out there but just beyond reach … I think I get a glimpse of that too sometimes. Very reminiscent of The Matrix (on TV again the other day, coincidentally).
For me the problem with eco-projects is that they’re just another part of the Matrix…
Anyway, thanks again – come back soon!
Andrew, thanks and you make a good point about the digestibility. However it’s hard to convey even a fraction of the argument (even without the anecdotes) in a short update, let alone 140 characters! It’s possibly true, though that shorter messages will travel further. I will think this one over. Thanks for the tweet too. And yes, there is more to come, when time allows.
You describe the modern psyche, its overloaded condition and the need to refresh and renew it. You are encouraging nothing less than an evolutionary leap. Psycho-politico-eco-industrial-scientific metamorphosis, and it’s about time.
Change is constant in nature, reactionary behavior is a human failing. We prefer the devil we know to the unknown, but the unknown is the wellspring of creativity and invention. There is in the collective unconscious of western civilization a conception of the end of civilization. It is a feature of our world-view, the logical conclusion to ecological destruction, unchecked population growth and political reaction rather than practical progress. Every day we are bombarded with yet another monumental act of stupidity perpetrated by a political puppet until it seems normal.
The enlightenment of the Buddha is described as a fugue state in with all things were present in the mind, all values, meanings, forms and words were active in his mind, a schizoid episode, that was resolved into perfect oneness. Thus the Buddhist practice of exercises designed to exhaust the finite limits of the mind and arrive at the clear light of understanding. As a culture we have reached a place where values and meanings are confused and we will eventually seek a balanced existence, the question is; what will be the scale of the crisis that brings us to our senses?
Albert, thank you – yes I suppose that is what I’m describing, and I’m grateful to you for putting it so eloquently. A psycho-politico-eco-industrial-scientific metamorphosis is indeed just the ticket! I, too, wonder what will it take.
Interesting to think that it might be possible to attain cultural as well as individual enlightenment. Various people write of an ongoing evolution of (mass) consciousness that will inevitably culminate in a perfect dream state or some such; I tend to see them as optimistic but do find their ideas a welcome counter to those who talk only of its degradation.
Morris Berman, in ‘Wandering God’, describes something he thinks early hunter-gatherers embodied (or enminded) (or, rather, both at once), which he calls a state of paradox; it entails holding near and far, seen and unseen, spirit and matter, now and then, and all manner of (to us) dichotomies in the awareness at once. It sounds interestingly like the fugue state you describe. I don’t think he anticipates that we will necessarily return to that state, but does see some ability to retrieve it as a prerequisite to things improving. I tend to agree!
Albert Bales Said:
“the question is; what will be the scale of the crisis that brings us to our senses?”
An Icelandic volcano springs to mind … maybe if it blows a little harder and shuts down our airspace a little longer folks might get past whinging about the impact it caused and look a bit deeper at why it was so inconvenient !
Looking forward to THAT article ;o)
Fabulous post, and the one on civ too.
I am kinda in a similar space, and hacking at these problems from other angles.
You may be interested in my latest: Be the change
Rereading this, a question popped out. You said, “As the recession bit and many of its prices moved out of reach for an increasing number of customers” about your store. Can you explain (to someone who has never run a local food store) why it is that when hard times hit, it is the local food that becomes expensive, and not the food that is middlemanned to death and trucked endless miles to get to the village? If logic held, wouldn’t it be the other way around?
leavergirl, hi, thank you for your comments, and hope you’ll forgive the long delay, caused by a summer go-slow.
Your article Be the Change is very interesting and relevant. Thanks for the pointer – I enjoyed it and its ensuing discussion – and look forward to reading others on your site.
I too have struggled with the apparent choice between inner/outer change, worried that I might be spending too much time on one or the other – but I like the idea from one of your commenters that only new people can make a new world. Of course change in both zones are needed. My mistake had been to think that I could influence others to change for my reasons. Of course they will only change for theirs, and in a direction entirely of their choosing! (How we get our reasons and directions to align is yet another challenge for our times.)
As for your question about food prices – it’s a good one. My perception is that all food has gone up in price lately – including the food with high air miles – but that the corporates can keep their increases to a minimum because of their scale and fat profit margins whereas the smaller producers must reflect every nudge in input prices the minute they feel it. Coupled with buyers’ incomes going down, this takes the quality, local produce just out of reach for a significant enough number to affect the shop’s own income. But that’s just my guess, really. All we knew is that it was happening! Incidentally, I’m happy to say that the shop’s fortunes have since taken a significant turn for the better.
I am so glad you are back! I been worried that I caught this wonderful blog too late! 🙂 And congrats on keeping the shop going!
I suspect that the reason local food is more expensive is because of the subsidies and other legislative favoritism that industrial foods receive, but I have not seen a really good analysis so far. Scale plays a role too… but how much, really?
A chain of “potato dug by local farmer, directly to shop” should beat “potato dug by Mexican laborer, trucked into warehouses, fumigated, washed, dyed?, stored, then bagged in plastic, trucked 1000 miles, stored in a regional warehouse, trucked to supermarket” any day and hands down. All those intermediaries feeding off the poor potato! Sheesh. I figure it’s gotta be rigged.
I too have spent a lifetime thinking I could change others, somehow. Now I see the very impulse of it as part of domination sickness…
Thank you leavergirl, and for your kind words about my blog. I’m embarrassed by the time-between-posts at the moment but work, family and summer things call … there’s another post in the pipeline though.
You’re right about subsidies, I’m sure. I don’t have a clue how it all works but I’m sure the economics are seriously distorted somewhere along the line. I once read that it’s cheaper for a dairy farmer to feed newborn calves on commercial, rehydrated milk powder than allow them to suckle from their mothers. What does that tell us?!
Timely link to your blog, following a discussion earlier today with the owner of our local wholefood warehouse along similar themes.
As a pointer to some genuine critical discourse on these issues may I offer Ivan D. Illich, especially “Tools for Conviviality” the entire text of which is available online for free.
Share and Enjoy.
Hi Pete, thanks for reading, and for your comment. Your pointer to Ivan Illich is most apt. Coincidentally I have recently read that very text. It seems to offer additional insight and depth to just about everything I’ve written (or thought!) so far – as does so much of his writing. Definitely to be recommended. Tools for Conviviality can be found here, among other locations.