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Re: In praise of consumption

back into the fray. . .

Yikes! a flurry of fine responses, and yet i would like to take this
further one more step to see if my lack of enthusiasm for basing this
sustainag/organic movement on consumption (because this is what some of
the first posts *seemed* to be applying) can get trounced any more (since 
i was only trying to draw attention to the lack of this in our discussion 
and not advocating NOT addressing consumption issues. . .on the contrary,
etc). I think, and forgive me, i
was bringing both a much larger scale perspective and political project to
denouncing the "cult of consumption". I guess i shy away from promoting
the consumption end of organics/sustainag for three main reasons.
while CSAs, farmer's markets, local food ways, etc are the way we should
be doing things, the consumption of organic products in the mainstream is
only for those that can afford it cause the price is so damn high. I WANT
to buy organics all the time but i can't cause im a poor student and
havent made connections in the community to get CSA stuff (my fault, I
There is a  "marketplace of Ideas", but it seems only if you can afford
it. It
costs money to be a "hippie" for the majority of people who dont have
access to any sort of local sustainag markets.
if one looks internationally (and its hard not to these days and we need
to look
both locally AND globally to institute sustainag changes), two issues
surrounding consumption need to be addressed. First, why is it that
certified organic producers in 3rd world countries send the majority of
their products to the US, Japan, and the EU? Because only we can afford
that's why. Is this a problem in the scale of things? Apparently those in
the international organic industry don't
really worry about local consumption/local production issues like we do in
Wisconsin. Secondly, what does it mean to promote changing consumption
patterns to include an organic banana or sugarcane grown on a plantation
where the workers, who may or may not be mostly female get $2 a day or
less? Sure Generic Joe (gendered neutral) is buying organic and saving the
earth, but are
they changing the usual labor patterns associated with the production of
these tropical crops? Is Generic Joe (gendered neutral)
"negotiating a new meaning"
around food when that stuff has been shipped halfway around the globe,
trucked to the market and paraded as an "exotic" fruit for his/her
consumption? (and adding a few women to a CSA or local garden does NOT
address gender issues in agriculture)
    Third, I get awfully afraid that the "corporate hawks" are going to
swoop even more now that people are changing consumption patterns and
buying certified organics which, incidently, producers can charge more for
(and yes i understand that price is as much about demand as about the
different production methods for organic products). Indeed, if one is to
look at some of the stuff going on in the organic industry in California,
agri-bus is getting themselves intrenched at all levels of production. 
Similarly, from my own experience in Costa Rica, Heinz was prowling the
organic food conference and trade fair i was at looking to get into the
banana puree business for baby food. does all this mean something? does it
matter how and who produces and controls organic food/sustainag, as long
as people buy it and eat it? unfortunatly, i think it does. 
	Not that i was accused of this, but i was in NO WAY trying to
shoot down people trying to DO something, whelther that be changing
consumption patterns or whathaveyou. I promote changing consumption
patterns all the time in the classroom talking about this stuff. Rather, I
am trying to point out what is missed by overly promoting consumption
(through famous people or whatever) and not addressing production and all
complexities surrounding the relationship between the two.

cheers from one more armchair quarterback,

Mike Goodman
Geography Department
University of Oregon

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