Market ecologies

It’s a commonly held view that the world is hurtling through change at a breakneck pace. That our increasingly globalised culture is being changed by technological disruption faster than our brains, bodies, business and government processes and structures can cope with.

Stop. Step out of your bubble. Realise this: the pace of change is subjective.

If you are standing still, people can appear to be racing away from you; if you are running, you might wonder why others are out for a light jog. 

Think about it.

And in itself, taking time to think things through, to stop and consider the world and see what’s happening around you can be the most revolutionary act. Because it’s in those moments that you can step back from the defensive biases that overwork, stress, and reactions to your immediate surroundings push you into.

You may not even realise that’s what is happening to you.

But it is.

Food and its preparation, even its journey from garden to plate, is that revolutionary act for me.

It allows me to stop . . . 

Because, in case you hadn’t guessed it, I’m that sprinter, wondering why everyone is either walking backwards, standing still or, at best, jogging casually. In crowded situations I ‘read’ rooms and crowds very well, ditto online where you can see before your eyes what people ‘like’ and what they choose to ignore or steer away from.

And sometimes, I need to step out of those situations. To have time to myself, to process and to think – metaphorically, to squeeze dry the sponge that is my brain.

Clarity and concision requires thought: a de-cluttering of myths and misrepresentations which we can all to easily be lulled into because they’re ‘comfortable’ or because they enforce and sustain the convenient ‘bubble’ we might find ourselves in. Food is my way of stopping to consider what’s happening, to take stock.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art
―  de La Rochefoucauld

Food is the stuff of life and it has been my salvation more than once. Because food brings people together. When each mouthful of our food is right and true, we’re pulled back to the planet we share. Not for nothing my family motto good food is everything.

Food requires us to look at the means of its production and distribution, it enables us to examine nutrition, waste and much more; it brings us back to the soil.

We know that creation by destruction is what capitalism does best. Capitalism’s damaging practices are not ‘green’ or sustainable, quite the opposite. Natural resources are seen as ‘free’, or as something to be ‘taken’ from others who might be using them in ways which don’t derive profit.

The series of small, ethical purchasing decisions we might make while ignoring the structural incentives for companies’ unsustainable business models won’t change the world as quickly as we want. It just makes us feel better about ourselves.

And that’s why market-driven sustainability, eco-conscious diets and hipness, and the competitive consumption it drives, serves to reinforce inequality and continuing plunder of our environment.

A hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable within a capitalist growth-oriented system; like recycling, it’s just putting a sticking plaster on raging syphilis. Consumption is the backbone of the economy. On that basis, individual conscious consumerism is bound to fail.

Not convinced, read this. Or, watch this. Or take a moment to consider this.

So, what’s the answer?

I’m not saying that we should stop making the small positive decisions we make every day. Being a responsible human is something we just have to try and be, and practice, out of moral duty towards our fellow human beings and for the planets we share.  But we can also take the money, time, and effort we spend making these relatively inconsequential choices and put them towards something that really matters.

A few suggestions:

  • Instead of buying expensive organic sheets, donate that money to organisations fighting to keep agricultural runoff and related toxins out of our rivers
  • Instead of driving to an organic apple orchard to pick your own fruit, use that time to volunteer with an organisation that combats food deserts (and skip the fuel emissions, too). Fare Shares is a great example of just such an organisation
  • Instead of buying a £250 air purifier, donate to politicians who support policies that keep our air and water clean
  • Instead of signing a petition demanding that a fast-food outlet remove one obscure chemical from its sandwich bread, call your local political representatives to demand they overhaul the approval process for untested chemicals in our food products
  • Instead of taking yourself out to dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, take an interest in the our Government’s agricultural policy and challenge how it might be becoming modified to incentivise unhealthy eating following BREXIT …

When you stop and take a long hard look, you realise that conscious consumerism is actually taking away our power as citizens. Conscious consumerism drains our bank accounts and dilutes our political will, it diverts our attention away from the true power brokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty fights over the moral superiority of vegans, over whether someone’s right to self-identify as x or y is better or worse, black or white, to have children or not . . .

There’s much more on this here, in a digestible form; and here in a more rigorously scientific format, here – and here . . . 

Happy shopping?

There’s so much more we can do as well.

Shall we?