Tom Philpott on the Dangers of Locavore Snobbery

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I've written before about the dangers of pious eco-religion and green living as passive aggressive preaching, and I've asked whether it is even possible to preach green without being preachy. It seems like I am not alone. Tom Philpott over at Grist is the latest to weigh into what he describes as the "snobbery, over-earnestness, and tsk-tsk-ing of people's personal choices" that are so pervasive in the locavore/ethical food movement. Himself inspired by, among other things, Peter Meehan's column in the New York Times, Tom rails against some holy grails of the green eating movement. In a piece entitled "Snotty locavores, agrarian urbanists, vegivores and more", he delivers a great consolidation of some themes running around the internet of late. Most importantly, he lays into the judgmental tendencies of local food advocates—arguing that unless we are going to meet people where we are, then ethical eating will always be a niche activity.

It is true, of course, as I argued in my piece on preaching green without being preachy, if we are advocating for more sustainable consumption patterns, then we are inherently passing judgment on the status quo. But we should be careful to reserve that judgment as much as possible for the system that makes bad choices the default—not on the people who inhabit that system.

Whether it is online streams showing horrific chicken cruelty or an expose of how the food industry fights to keep us sick, it's clear that we don't make our food choices in a vacuum. We need to grow this movement more than ever before. Yes, that means appealing to people's better natures, but it also means not putting people off by expecting them to be perfect in an imperfect world.

We're not in this to feel better about ourselves, or to look down on others (at least we shouldn't be). Let's make sure everyone feels invited to the party.