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Can One Movie Save the Planet?

November 22, 2009

“Man, I want KFC.”

“No, you know what sounds good?  A Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s.”

These were definitely not the reactions I was expecting after watching Food Inc with Austin and his roommate Blake.

Unable to attend a showing of the movie at the University of Kansas this past week, Austin and Blake watched the DVD this morning instead.  I knew the movie probably wouldn’t turn them into complete organic eaters or vegetarians, but I hoped that watching the movie and having a more visual representation of what our current food system is like would be more effective.

What was most interesting about their reactions to the movie was how the plight of the modern farmer seemed to resonate the most with Austin and Blake.  Having grown up in Western Kansas and seen firsthand the effects of industrial farms on small family farms, they felt most connected to the stories of farmers caught under the control of large food corporations.

Blake: It all has to do with money.  It’s like what that one guy in the movie said about Lady Justice with her scales and how the winner is whoever can pile the most money onto their side of the scale.  Wal-mart is switching to more organic for the profitsMonsanto is suing farmers for the money.

Austin: You asked if I would change my eating habits after watching the movie.  Probably not.

Then again Janie, if we shopped smarter we could probably afford to buy more local or organic groceries.  We do spend a lot of our excess income on unnecessary items. We treat ourselves out all the time.  It just takes some self-control to save that money so that we can eat better.

But all it boils down to the fact that the food I’m eating now doesn’t bother me.  I’m a healthy individual, I like the food we eat, and I’m going to continue eating that way.  But basically the whole idea of the movie is that it has to be changed on a grand scale.  Policies have to change with people backing it up.  We can’t really do anything individually.  It has to be a massive effort.

Can one movie change a person?  It appears that in this instance, Austin and Blake remained unaffected.  Though a bit disappointed, I realize that it is difficult to change a person’s established mindset with a 90 minute documentary.  Change is not sudden.  It is not immediate, easy, nor a one-time thing.  It takes time, encouragement, and gradual implementation.

Living more sustainably is not an easy thing to do.  Sometimes it is easier to go out for fast food, pop in a TV dinner, or reach for a bag of chips.  Sometimes I get so frustrated I write a whole blog post about it.

But I like to think it’s kind of like exercising.  Sometimes you are motivatd and you hop on that treadmill every day of the week.  Other times you feel discouraged or lazy and sit on the couch and play Call of Duty 2 every day (ahem, Austin…).  But when those down weeks or days or moments happen, you can’t just quit.  You get off that couch and get on your treadmill.  You put down the fast food and head to the farmer’s market to show your support for eating and living sustainably.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Danny Smyl permalink
    November 25, 2009 11:17 am

    I thought the movie did a great job not being “lop sided.” My mom and I went to see it at Liberty Hall when she was in town for a while. We both thought the movie was interesting and that “Food Inc.” was an obvious supporter of animal rights and organic food.

    The most interesting part about my “Food Inc.” experience was actually after the movie. As my mom and I were leaving the theater, my mom overheard someone talking about sustainable eating and organic foods favorably. While my mom does eat organic foods and enjoys local butchered meats, she did not agree with the idea that organic farming is “sustainable.” She approached the man bolstering about organic eating. My mom explained how she had my brother at age 16 and myself at age 19, naturally she was very poor trying to support two kids while going through pharmacy school and not capable of buying organic foods. She exclaimed that there is no way that she could afford anything except the cheapest foods and that her kids would have starved if she could only buy from stores like Lawrence’s “Merc.”

    Sustainability really has no meaning except that which people bestow upon it (as we know, everyone has their own opinion regarding environmental matters). Is a ConAgra farm any less sustainable than a local/organic farm? In business or engineering terms, no. In environmental terms, well, that depends on how much of an environmental stickler someone is. From a poor single mother’s standpoint, local farms wouldn’t have sustained her children’s lives.

    So, while organic farms fail to maintain more the 5 cattle/acre and produce 30% less bushels of wheat per acre, ConAgra will continue to grow huge crops and feed our demanding infrastructure. Organic farms produce great food, but at the end of the day, big farming industries are the only one capable of feeding the world.

    • janiec52 permalink
      November 26, 2009 1:50 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the movie. I agree, it gave a good overview of the current issues in our food system. I can also see your point of view concerning the economic sustainability of organic foods. While organic foods may be environmentally sustainable, it may not be a viable option for many who can’t afford it. In my environmental studies classes, my teachers always remind us that we can’t look at an issue from one angle. For something to be truly sustainable, it has to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.

      However, I also think that we can definitely change whether or not organic food is economically sustainable. The reason big corporations such as ConAgra can afford to provide us with such cheap crops is because of government subsidies. If the organic industry was provided a bigger, or even equal, share of the food subsidies, perhaps organic wouldn’t be so unaffordable. If there was more investment in organic, perhaps we could feed the world…without destroying the planet too.

      • Danny Smyl permalink
        November 27, 2009 11:28 am

        You are absolutely right about government subsidies. Has there been any research about the potential of subsidized organic foods?

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