Posted on Wed, January 20, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
4 Comments | Categories: Books, Events, Farms and Farming, Food Justice, Policy,
by intern Emily Vaughn
Raj, does everything for you always come back to food?
At a lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture last week, moderator Amy Goodmanhost of the independent news program Democracy Now!interjected this good-natured dig because Raj Patel had used food-centric case studies to answer questions about the World Bank, Haiti, carbon trading, and free market capitalism, and was starting up a new one (details later in the post). Patels affirmative response made the audience chuckle, and although Patel was smiling as he said it, those familiar with Stuffed and Starvedhis landmark study of the economic and political implications of global food production and tradeknow that he was mostly serious.
The connections between food and issues like social justice, international politics, and environmentalism are familiar to most anyone reading the Slow Food USA blog, as is the advice that Patel gave during the Q&A to boycott corporate industrial food and consume smarter. But hearing his words in an auditorium of like-minded people was inspiring, and when he urged us all to learn more about the Child Nutrition Act, La Via Campesina, and the Farm Bill, and above all, to take action, it renewed my belief that there are enough people who care about these issues to make progress.
Naomi Kleinauthor of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine was Patels co-panelist for the evening. Among her insights was that President Obama’s best and worst qualities are the same: he’s susceptible to pressure. Patel and Klein both suggested that the supporters who were vocal and active enough to get Obama elected have backed off, leaving him free to cater to the demands of big business without citizen repercussions. Klein mentioned several times how difficult it can be for activists to stay motivated, and said that if were going to come away from the one-year anniversary of President Obamas inauguration free of cynicism, we need to focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of independent social movements.
To that end, Raj Patel spoke highly of the work of food activists in the US. Whereas Europeans used to marvel at the absence of thought and discourse about food taking place in the US, now American groups and individuals have emerged as leaders in the restructuring of the food system. So to those of you who have taken action recently, well done! If youre low on morale, I strongly suggest reading (or re-reading?) Stuffed and Starved. And if youve made any progress in Patels latest release, The Value of Nothing, Id love to hear what you think.
So according to Raj Patel, at the heart of the widespread disappointment in President Obama among his previous supporters is that too many Americans view Obama as the pizza delivery guy of change. We exerted a small effort to place an order, then sat down in front of the TV to wait for the change to show up at our door. What struck me about that comparison is how political change is also like slow food; it takes time and effort before it pays off, but the reward is great. So really, it all does come back to food!