Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More on Organics, Sustainability and Food

Since we had some discussion here in regards to my post from the other night about big-box stores and organics, I wanted to be sure to take note of Tom Philpott's post at Gristmill today on the subject. As I'd expect, Tom takes a look at the big picture:

To an extent, the problem is one of semantics, centering on the definition of "sustainable." To many green types, places like Whole Foods and Wild Oats teem with "sustainably produced" stuff -- everything from T-shirts to apples, chicken and eggs, even versions of Twizzlers and TV dinners. But the great bulk of it falls under the rubric of industrial-organic -- like the wares on offer at Wal-Mart, only a little less so, these goods depend on a culture of cheap and plentiful crude oil and labor.

The cheap-oil problem has certainly gained traction among greens. Blogs devoted to "peak oil" abound; [Gristmill] seems like one at times. Most of these discussions, though, devolve into sniping about biofuels and hybrids. It's important to wonder how we'd get around in an era of super-high oil prices.

But I don't understand why more people aren't worried about what we'd eat.

For many, the question is "Can we feed the world with sustainable farming methods?" Tom asks a different question: "...can unsustainable farming feed the world -- for long?" I certainly don't want to dismiss fear about feeding the impoverished on organic or permacultural methds -- too often we in the environmental community miss that bigger picture. As Tom points out, though, the cheap food that comes from industrial agriculture ties in directly with low wages. Great stuff... go read it!

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