If the The Oceanic Crisis” in The Monthly Review had one clear (and often heard) message, it was this: things are far more interconnected than we know – or even than we think we know. And if we’re not more careful, we’re going to really mess things up. (If we haven’t already.)*

It’s not a new message, and if it weren’t written in terms of specifics and with educated authority, I’d be tempted to ignore it: “I know, I know. Circle of life.  Yeah yeah.” But there’s something more persuasive about the facts that Clark and Clauson pull from.  Just knowing that they (or somebody) has tried to give this issue the comprehensive look it deserves makes me give it my attention.  I don’t have much patience for touchy-feely moralizing, not without some rock solid reasons for paying attention.

And so it’s interesting to evaluate the other articles we were assigned this week by the same bar: written for greatest effect and to rouse the largest number of rabble – or are they, perhaps, maybe, on to something I can take seriously?

Take the Michael Pollan article in The Nation, for example. He had a perspective I hadn’t heard before:

When change depends on overcoming the influence of an entrenched power, it helps to have another powerful interest in your corner—an interest that stands to gain from reform.

We simply can’t afford the healthcare costs incurred by the current system of cheap food—which is why, sooner or later, we will find the political will to change it.

– Michael Pollan

But in the comments below, there was this contradictory and revealing reaction:

This article revealed absolutely no information on who controls food, what their plans are for the immediate future, or anything about how to end this control. Every word above was capitulation nor resistance. Every word above was acceptance of the current status quo of ownership and control of food.

I agree, for the most part. This article might have been written for a particular audience – one who can afford to wait until things get figured out by the powers that be, but I think the comment is misdirected when it implies that waiting for things to get figured out is necessarily passive. And, paraphrasing from an earlier part of the comment, I’m not sure that a full revolution is always the best machine for changing “this control.” I have doubts about the longevity and workability of a sudden change. Not to say that it can’t, but that perhaps when things happen gradually, and you have win over individuals and corporate interests, you find a solution/compromise that everyone can get behind, for whatever reason, Mother Earth or budget lines.  Or perhaps it’s the case that the longer the battle, the more knotted the bureaucratic tape.

And part of changing people’s minds is advertising. Marketing. Maybe even exotic marketing.  I too, I think like Jacob, think that companies need to be more forthright with why they’re doing something, or why they’re choosing to sell their product/service/idea in the manner they’re selling it.  When they dissemble, it makes me mistrust them, which isn’t doing their cause any good. Maybe portraying something as “exotic” or “sexy” or “hip” is the way to get people to pay attention.  Does it matter that they’re attracted for the quote “wrong” reasons as long as they’re paying attention and change is happening? Perhaps Speak Shop should employ local, second-generation Spanish speakers to tutor their clients.  Or perhaps the influence/population Cindy and Clay Cooper want to affect are Guatemalan.  But why, specifically? Be clear.

Similarly, Bamboo Sushi’s doing a hell of a job selling itself as a sustainable destination.  So what if they’re investing in a fish refuge in the Bahamas, when their salmon is coming from the PNW? (I have to think they’ve thought this through more carefully though, there must be a specific reason they’ve chosen that location.) At least fish are being saved.

Because after all – we’re all connected, no?



* I’d prefer to think that we haven’t messed everything up irrevocably just yet. ‘Cause if we have, then our mission changes from “how can we as a species and a planet survive most responsibly?” to “how can we suffer less than we’re going to?” And that’s not going to help anyone. Not really.

One thought on “

  1. searnhart says:

    I agree that the “why” would make their sustainability claims stronger for me personally. Why not buy land here in the Pacific Northwest coastline instead of the Bahamas? I’m sure there has to be some reasoning behind a choice like that. Maybe fish populations or reefs?

    I’m sure there are other businesses acting like good stewards who are not ‘tooting’ their horn to the mainstream with exotic marketing. However, are they losing out? Could they do more if they reached more people? I’m not so sure. Maybe they would have wealthier clients. I second the idea of people becoming sustainable stewards of nature and the Earth because it’s the right thing to do without expecting a pat on the back.

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