Sunday, January 27, 2008

Getting (it) On

Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, took on meat in the NY Times this week. I've long been partial to things minimal, minimalist and Minimalist, this latter category composed of satisfying recipes for mac and cheese, shortbread, and other dishes for the hopelessly cheap and/or lazy.

This week's article ("Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler") is OK, if something of a retread of Michael Pollan's latest book(s). Bittman certainly has the eco-prose formula down: invoke despair, rattle off some statistics, then top with a dollop of hope. We (consumers) are always the heroes in eco-prose, even if most of our heroism is cozily ensconced in the future. In eco-prose, the reader has only to look closely to perceive within her, spreading like cancer, the signs of incipient universe-saving:
In fact, Americans are already buying more environmentally friendly products, choosing more sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy. The number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled in the last 10 years or so, and it has escaped no one’s notice that the organic food market is growing fast.
Every time I read a paragraph like this, I try to dredge up a little hope. Unfortunately, these days I'm worse than a toothless octagenarian sans viagra. I can't get my hopes up, let alone keep them up, because I have a nasty sinking sensation that Bittman and co. are missing something. Something mathematical. Something...big.

The big thing is bigness. America's bigness and more pertinently its getting-bigger-ness. Because any growth in the number of farmers' markets, in the market for organic meats, is meaningless so long as the overall growth of the American economy isn't factored into the equation. Farmers' markets may be breeding like rabbits, but the undereducated and the unconcerned are breeding like farmers' markets. All populations are growing: the question is whether the environmentally-conscious segment of the population is growing at a faster rate than that of the hot-dog-happy SUV drivers.

My guess is no. Let's go make babies.

1 comment:

Samantha said...

I actually enjoyed that article. I do have to admit to being halfway through The Omnivore's Dilemma as well. I do see your point, though. It worries me as well. Additionally, Pollan makes the point that, sure, there are more organic options available now, but in order to compete those options have to engage in much the same business practices as their pesticide/hormone-happy counterparts.

Alas. What can we do? Make babies that only eat organic?