Today I’ve been thinking about the small things that I can do to make the world a better place. Well, at any rate, small things that I can do to not make things worse.
Like buying things that are made by people who are paid a fair wage. I’ve been careful about where my clothes and other products come from for a few years now (I’ve written about it here and here), and it’s a practice that I find myself constantly wrestling with and consistently recommitting to. And this semester, I’m taking a class on globalization and empire, and thinking a lot about how our greedy use of the world’s resources—including human labor—is a form of imperialism that is, perhaps, even more insidious than political and military empire because how does one fight the faceless oppression of economic forces?
I’ve done a pretty good job with clothes, and a reasonable job with things like chocolate (which I don’t eat regularly anyway). But I’m trying to learn how to shift my eating habits to be more just. I keep thinking about this quote from Ratatouille. In the movie, Remy the rat is talking about eating fine foods, and I support that too, but I’ve been thinking about the good stuff as the stuff that’s good for the world too. Lately I’ve been learning about the benefits of grass-fed (versus grain-fed) beef. There are a lot of environmental and animal-rights and health related reasons for grass-fed beef, but I’m slow to be convinced by those things. But the problem with grain-fed beef that really gets to my heart is that our demand for beef is high enough that it’s causing famine in other countries as we import their grain to feed our cattle. So, people are going hungry so that I can eat beef. It’s a problem for me. I love beef. But grass-fed beef is expensive to buy at the store. I’m hoping that I can find better prices at a nearby (reportedly impressive) farmer’s market, but I think overall it means that beef is not what’s for dinner very often anymore.
Which is bad enough, but I really don’t eat a ton of beef at home anyway. I do, however, adore a good hamburger at restaurants. It’s maybe my favorite thing. Well, one of my favorite things, and almost certainly my favorite way to treat myself. But if grass-fed beef is hard to find in grocery stores, I think it’s even harder to find at restaurants. Enter: Farm Burger. This restaurant uses 100% grass-fed beef, locally sourced meats and seasonal vegetables. You can get a plain burger for under $7, and you can add veggies and bacon and such for just a little more. Basically, it comes out to about the same as what I’m willing to pay for a good burger anywhere, except that this burger helps local farmers and doesn’t steal food out of the mouths of impoverished people in other countries. And it’s delicious. I went there for the first time today with my friend Molly, and I had a burger with—you guessed it—bacon, cheddar, and barbecue sauce, and a side of sweet potato fries, which means, as I’ve explained before, this place gets a gold star. So, to recap, I’ve found a fantastic burger joint that is doing it right, both in terms of satisfying my appetite and my conscience. Well done, Farm Burger. I applaud you. And I can tell that we are going to be great friends. In fact, I just liked you on Facebook.
In the big picture, these little things, these little acts of resistance as I’ve called them before, probably aren’t worth much. I don’t know how to end oppression and injustice. I know that I’m so deeply caught up in this system of oppression that I can’t really extract myself from it, not totally. But I think it’s worth it to do what I can, to remember that my purchasing habits have a direct and tangible impact on the lives of others even if I don’t see it, to know that every dollar I spend casts a vote for the kind of world I want to live in. And I’m voting for a world that’s better than the one we’ve got now.
[ps—that fabulous Ratatouille image comes from this blog.]