Sustainability: Worse than the Egg White of Food Politics

I was talking with a restaurant owner yesterday about sustainability in food and farms.  The term attracted him.  I can’t stand it.  I hate it more than egg whites.

The website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines the word as follows: “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.  Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have,  the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.”

Of course, this means absolutely nothing.  Or, as the French say: “What the fuck?”

Yes, of course, survival depends on the environment.  Why add “natural” to that?  To differentiate from “unnatural?”

“Productive harmony?”  Are we in a house of worship?  How do we agree upon what is needed for “fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements?”

The lack of specificity in the use of the term “sustainability” does not render it meaningless, but creates a meaning that is unique for each person.

Does it help to know that Walmart is the world’s largest sustainable grocer?  This despite their policies on unions?  Or that the Nazi regime sought agricultural sustainability as a main plank of their conquest in Russia and Poland?  Or that Cuba and Iceland are sustainable?  Huh?

Sustainability is a term that, lacking agreed upon ideology and specificity, can be used to justify other practices that are not so productive nor harmonious.

Worse than egg whites, much worse.


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