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Environment

Make Way For the Foodies

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorFebruary 17, 2011 9:17 PM

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Is the stale and stagnant environmental movement on the cusp of being transformed by foodies? That's what Bryan Walsh chews over in this story for Time magazine:

Even as traditional environmentalism struggles, another movement is rising in its place, aligning consumers, producers, the media and even politicians. It's the food movement, and if it continues to grow it may be able to create just the sort of political and social transformation that environmentalists have failed to achieve in recent years.

Walsh takes stock of the "thousands of community-supported agriculture programs around the country," the "more than 6,000 farmers' markets," and the mainstreaming of the organic food craze, among other indicators. In sum, it's a grassroots, decentralized movement on the upswing, albeit one with obvious hurdles ahead, Walsh says:

The challenge for the food movement will come as it matures and begins to take on established political interests. Even with all the growth and all the glossy magazine covers, sustainable food still makes up only a tiny portion of the overall American food system. Perhaps 1% of total U.S. cropland is farmed organically, and organic food and beverages still command less than 4% of the national market, even after years of growth.

Those figures make me wonder if the food movement will amount to anything more than a passing trend that plateaus out with a loyal core demographic--sort of like the one that's sustained environmentalism the last few decades. One bellwether to watch is Laurie David, the Hollywood environmentalist and co-producer of An Inconvenient Truth, who seems to have moved on from global warming activist to "slow food" champion. If she adopts a new cause in a few years, that might be a sure sign that the food movement is past its prime.

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