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To Seem Rather Than to Be
Green Credulity and the Systemic Food Scam

You don’t have to search hard to find examples of restaurants marketing “green” food—from fast food to fast casual to upscale dining, businesses are figuring out that there’s a lot of money to be made by tapping into consumers’ growing desire for eco-friendly options. But as Laura Reiley, food critic for the Tampa Bay Times, reports, many of these “local” and “organic” options are anything but:

People want “local,” and they’re willing to pay. Local promises food that is fresher and tastes better; it means better food safety; it yields a smaller carbon footprint while preserving genetic diversity; it builds community. […]

Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or “greenwashing.”…Most restaurants buy food from one of a small handful of distributors who source products in bulk at the best price from around the world.

There’s a desperate hunger of so many people to be lied to about how green things are. The renewable energy menu is as full of lies as the average restaurant menu—and the most common climate proposals are as fluffy and fallacious as the prose on an ‘organic locovore’ menu.

This is one thing when it comes to wasting money on restaurants: Restaurants are all about the sizzle; if they can make you feel good about the food, they are doing their job.

Unfortunately, too much green policy is about the same thing—making people feel happy and good about themselves rather than making changes in the real world. Nuclear power and GMOs would do more to reduce greenhouse gasses than just about anything else on the policy menu, but they don’t feel right to green audiences.

What it is about the environment that makes green scamming such a lucrative business is hard to say, other than perhaps for many people in today’s urbanized and artificial society the sense of detachment from nature is overwhelming, and creates a hunger that must be fed. That yen for authenticity has produced plenty of demand for eco-friendly options—a “green rush,” if you will—but on the supply side things are run a lot like the wild, wild west, and a lack of oversight and accountability has led to the proliferation of 21st century snake oil salesmen.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Environmentalists are extremely shallow people more interested in being seen as green, than in doing the critical thinking and researching the science to actually be green. As mentioned above Nuclear Power is cheap and clean, but out of favor. “Global Warming” is still the cause de jour, despite the name change and all the models utter failure for the past 19 years. Green products have become just like designer products, favored because of the social prestige, rather than for a more logical or economical reason.

  • Andrew Allison

    There’s a sucker born every minute, and the Greens are simply following a long tradition of con men preying on them.

  • Greg Olsen

    Perhaps without meaning to, this blog post has strayed into Peter Berger’s space at the intersection of religion and politics. It addresses environmentalism as an implicit religion: “in today’s urbanized and artificial society the sense of detachment from nature is overwhelming, and creates a hunger that must be fed.”

    • johngbarker

      And maybe organic food is a kind of secular Kosher.

    • Clayton Holbrook

      Personally, one of the more memorable posts from TAI.

      Many religious traditions think of humanity as standing with a foot in two realms: we are spiritual beings with a capacity to perceive and be moved by invisible realities and abstractions like justice, truth and love—yet we are also creatures of the physical world whose lives are grounded in the muck and mud from whence we spring. The secret to success, as an individual human being and for human societies and cultures as well, is to find a way to integrate these two aspects of our existence.

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