Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Does Everyone Eat Food from Other Places?

One of the most mind-altering experiences of my life was taking an anthropology course a couple years ago. I recommend the experience to everyone. Perhaps the most eye-opening thing I read for the class was Why Can't People Feed Themselves? which is available online in a couple places (a scanned copy here; and a reformatted version here). I'd never heard most of the arguments in this article, which is a travesty considering that it's from 1977. I'm guessing you haven't heard them either, but you might be better educated than I am. I'm going to pause here so that you can read it right now. Trust me, it'll be the most interesting thing you read this week.

Go on, click the link.

And we're back.

The upshot of the article for the current topic is that the people who would really benefit from eating locally are the people in the Majority World. These are the places where self-sustaining agriculture has been and continues to be devastated by powerful economic forces. These are the places where the lack of self-sufficiency keeps the money flowing from those who have the least to those to have the most.

Unfortunately, my eating locally will do nothing to help the Majority World recover the sustainability that the colonial powers disrupted. In fact, by refusing to buy their main cash crops, I would be reducing the flow of money back to those who need it. That's why the Categorical Imperative (see below) may mislead us here.

Now, it's obvious that when I buy bananas for 29 cents a pound, not a whole lot of money makes it to South America. Now, I'm about to sound like a wacko conspiracy theorist, so take a deep breath and prepare yourself. Ready? Okay, here it goes: multinational corporations have to an extent taken over the role of the colonial powers.

Now, don't write me off as a lunatic yet. Come back tomorrow and we'll talk about corporations a little more.

1 comment:

Special K said...

Why would you be a wacko for thinking this way? I feel it's kind of obvious!