Column Want to build a more sustainable food system? Think a little less about yourself and a little more about your community.
We live in an individualistic culture, where everything is about me, me, me and very little about us, us, us.
In the Western world, our important life questions are most often about what studies we do, which get us thinking about which job we will have, and whether or not it will be well paying enough so that we can buy a big house, and so that hopefully there will be enough for us to take fancy vacations to help us relax.
Our general cultural dialogue is very rarely about our impact on our community. Instead, it’s about what we as individuals need and want. You could look at this individualistic way of thinking as biological; we are trying to survive, and therefore, to each their own. Of course we make decisions based upon our own well-being. But there’s also the other way of looking at it, considering the necessity of more communal thinking for our success and survival; if we tribe together with those around us, we protect ourselves, better our situation.
The me is a part of the us.
We are all a part of a community, and our actions that affect the community in turn affect ourselves. When we only consider the me, we don’t consider our individual impact on the people and planet around us. We take, take and take some more, because there are no immediate consequences to pay. But someone, somewhere in the world, pays those consequences.
In food, this plays out in many ways. When people argue about the benefits of organic, it’s about whether or not organic produce is healthier for them the consumer, as opposed to healthier for the environment and the producer, whose health isn’t threatened by pesticides. When people talk about buying local, it’s often about how the purchase makes them feel good, not that it actually helps to improve the social network and economy of the community around them.
Your actions have a larger impact than the nutritional value of what’s on your plate. Fortunately, thinking about the impact of those actions is good for your health too. What’s good for the community as a whole is also good for us as individuals.
If we started putting communal benefits in front of individual, not only would we create a food system that was better for the environment and people producing the food, but we would build one that would improve our own lives as well, providing us access to healthier, more sustainable food.
When we focus on more sustainable food, we build community. And when we focus on the benefit of our community, we build more sustainable food systems. The way forward isn’t an individualistic one, it’s a communal one.
Building a more sustainable food system means more collective thinking. It requires thinking about the whole – the soil, the plant, the animals, the humans – and not just the me.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Mosman Council