Raj Patel: Food is key to sustainability

January 23, 2010 at 9:39 pm 5 comments

Raj Patel’s latest book is The Value of Nothing, a critique of so-called free-market capitalism. The title comes from an Oscar Wilde quote: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Here is an excerpt from an excellent interview with Patel by Paula Crossfield at the blog Civil Eats. in which Patel concludes that food is moving closer to sustainability than any other sector of the U.S. economy, thanks to growing awareness about fossil fuel scarcity, climate change and concerns about obesity and other health consequences. A ray of hope:

“If you live with the consequences of your actions, then you learn from your actions in the future and modify them to make your actions sustainable. At the moment our food system is entirely unsustainable, and we do need to be living within our means. And I think the food movement is kind of heading that way much faster than any other sector of the economy….

“For me food is about life. Food brings together everything that everyone should care about. It is about giving life, it is about what we need to survive on this planet, it is about our interaction with the planet, and about the way that we replenish or don’t replenish the earth that we live on.

“There is something both primal and industrial and very high-capitalist about food. And it is the area where, if we are interested in life, if we’re interested in the ways that we can live on this planet sustainably, then we really do need to start with questions about food.

“[The food movement] is to me the most vibrant area of social change certainly in the United States but also elsewhere. In the 90s, the food movement in the United States was a laughing stock and now it’s really cutting edge, and people look to the United States for information on how things should change. I think that’s tremendous. I think that what food sovereignty offers is both a democratic way for us to take very seriously issues around rights, particularly around gender, but also ways in which we can think about the environment, about distribution, and poverty in ways that are sustainable.

“It brings it all together in ways that, if we’re concerned with social justice, whether its education, the way our institutions behave, ecology, poverty, environment, whatever it is, you’ll find it in food, and you’ll find something very exciting in the organizing around food that gives me hope in ways that very few things do these days.”

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Entry filed under: Commentary, Politics/ Policy, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

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