If we are to change the direction of our impact and start toward a balanced ecological existence, it will require something akin to a global social movement. Policy and infrastructure at all levels will need to be radically adjusted, and corporate entities as well as individuals will need to be accountable for their actions. This is true not just for US policy, but for governments around the world. Education and restructuring our concept of nutrition will also be necessary to overcome years of creating an incorrect “common sense” approach.
I am ashamed after considering my own impact and my culpability, and I am angry at the miseducation of my childhood and how I was taught to think of food. With internet communication it is now far easier to see the negative impacts of food systems around the world, from the child labor used to bring us chocolate, to the overfishing of once abundant waters, to the obesity epidemic produced by the Western Diet.
The eating habits and consumption of food products by the population of the United States seems to operate without any care about the food’s source. This practice may make for a pleasant naivety, but the cost of that existence is placing the world in peril. The global response to this must be in seeking balance in the difficult middle ground; food should cost more, decreasing over consumption, increasing respect for the creation of the product, raising the standard of living of the growers and harvesters, and lowering the ecological impact of the global food industry wholly. Government subsidies should transfer a greater share to fruit and vegetable crops, which currently receive one tenth of one percent (Carolan, p.72). Tax breaks should not go to companies that advertise unhealthy food to kids (Carolan, p.70). With the plethora of information that has become available since these policies were created, the economic infrastructure of our food system needs an audit.
In the end, food should elicit more value from the consumer. Eliciting more value, a deeply internal, cultural, and social change, is just as important as political and industrial change. Food cannot continue to be casually consumed without consideration and a sense of value, both for ourselves as digesters of the product and for the others, human or animal, who are affected by the consumption.
Ecologically, the impacts of the beef industry, corn industry, commercial fishing industry and others are simply unsustainable. I am hopeful that greater education and awareness on the part of the consumer can bring more individual value and investment to ecologically sound practices, but systemic changes to the industries will need to be drastic and will need international political support.
Carolan, Michael. The Real Cost of Cheap Food. Earthscan, 2011.
Mleko,Kristin. Top 16 Foods Compulsive Eaters Reach For. 2015. http://www.rantnow.com/2015/01/08/top-16-foods-compulsive-eaters-reach-for/#slide_28
Your statement that global problems require global solutions is not only apt in this context, but necessary. If we are to make adjustments to world problems that threaten our very existence, we have to act swiftly, thoughtfully, and globally. Where I think you can expand your argument starts with the way you frame the issue at hand. You recognize that there are broader systems at work that have produced imbalanced structures, but you spend a lot of time reflecting on education and individual actions as well as internal and value changes; these are merely a drop in the bucket when we consider decades of economic policy-making that has done harm to global infrastructure systems. The second half of your post starts to address political power structures, but I don’t think educating the consumer is enough to elicit the massive overhaul that’s necessary.
I would advocate for even more political and economic responsibilization. As Paul Robbins states in our reading on political ecology, this is “the difference between identifying broader systems rather than blaming proximate and local forces; between viewing ecological systems as power-laden rather than politically inert,” (13) When we look at problems through this lense, we begin to view the problem as outside of our individual choices and practices. There are much bigger forces that impact our capacity for sustainability, and that means we must look at dismantling power structures (where the global rich control 90% of the world’s wealth and emit 80% of the world’s GHG’s) and overturning harmful economic policies attached to globalization.