Between the tweetstorm surrounding Nordstroms pulling Ivanka’s line and the viral campaign to leave Uber during protests at airports over the Muslim Ban, consumer activism has come into the spotlight as a powerful tool for people to express their views on various issues. In some ways, when people commit to buying organic foods or advocate for labeling of GMO produce, it is part of a larger movement toward conscious consumerism. By subscribing to a CSA for example, we help support local farmers and their organic farming practices, while not giving our money to large corporations that pollute the environment and push out family farms.
Last week I questioned whether or not this type of consumer consciousness is something that is accessible to everyone – whether it’s accessibility of information as to which products are deemed ethical or not, or whether the pricing was accessible to your average everyday consumer. As I’ve thought more about this topic I also wonder about the viability of this tactic in terms of its effectiveness in changing how our food is grown and consumed across the world. While there are many reasons to buy organic foods (more nutritious for my body, I can feel better about supporting businesses I believe in), it doesn’t ultimately do much to stop large-scale factory farms from continuing their harmful farming and corporate practices. This is the ultimate pitfall to conceptualizing the solution as a matter of individual choice.
During our check-ins this week people discussed a lot of the ways that they think they can make change happens, whether it was conversations with their loved ones or discussions happening in the workplace. Many people were of the opinion that you can only change yourself and hope that others follow suit, or that there were some people who might be stuck in a certain mindset and could not be persuaded by logic or reason.
As an organizer, I have a different take on how social and political change happens. I think if we want to see a true revolution in terms of how we produce, distribute, and consume food we have to tackle the structural problems that empower corporations to wreak havoc on ecological systems and contribute to rising inequality. In community organizing we acknowledge the limits of what one person can do, and the possibilities of what can happen when we bring people together to build a better, healthier, more sustainable world. I am hoping that as a farmer I can not only educate people on how they can make better decisions for themselves, but work with other farmers, environmentalists, and consumers to help shape better systems to keep these large corporations in check.