The Food Movement is the Environmental Movement

According to Bryan Walsh at TIME magazine the environmental movement is dead and its replacement is the burgeoning food movement.  At least he mentions the 2004 article by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus that proclaimed the death of the environmental movement before he proceeds to scoop a few shovelfuls of dirt on the grave of green.

However, proclaiming the death of one movement and its replacement misses the critical point—these desires exist and intersect with each other in mutually constructive ways.  I would posit that the food movement is a natural member of the triumvirate that includes the environmental and social justice movements.  On their own each of these movements has its own goals, heroes, etc.  Nonetheless, each of these movements also share many goals, heroes, etc.

Take an organic vegetable bought from my local farmers market.  The vegetable is organic which is both a goal of the food and environmental movements.  Why?  Food grown without the use of harmful pesticides or synthetic fertilizers is healthier for people and the planet.  I do not ingest the bad stuff—yay food movement—and the planet is not burdened with nasty chemicals—yay environmental movement.  Furthermore, by buying this vegetable from the producer I am avoiding the increasingly concentrated power of food manufacturers and retailers.  Thus, social justice is served because it is food producers who are most adversely impacted by the reduced funnel to the consumer.

These three movements are intertwined throughout most of the pertinent issues concerning each:

Think about the movement to shut down coal fired power plants in urban areas.  It is just as much a social justice issue as an environmental issue.

I could go on down the list of issues—farmworkers’ rights, food deserts, bad school lunches, pink slime—and come up with a detailed accounting of the intersections between the food, environmental, and social justice movements.  At the end of the day the intersection of all three reflects our best hopes for the planet that we all share.

I agree with Mr. Walsh that the environmental movement has done itself a disservice by allowing everything to be framed as reductive.  That is to say, it has become about taking things away.  No one wants to be against things all the time.  People want to be for something.


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