Thursday, March 10, 2011

Persuasion through Information

To be  honest, the ideas Eric Schlosser shares in our interview are not – or should not – be news to anyone.  Because of his work – the book Fast Food Nation and the film Food, Inc. -- and efforts of folks like Will Allen, Michael Pollan, and local heroes like Elsa Higby, we should all know by now that there are problems in our food system.  But Schlosser brings two unique things to that discussion.

First, he recognizes that working conditions and pay are part of the problem.  Too often, when we talk about the food industry, we focus entirely on the (equally compelling) concerns of food safety, health, and the environment, forgetting that there are people involved.  Given my own involvement in working-class studies, I especially appreciate Schlosser’s attention to how the pursuit of corporate profits by the fast food industry and discount chains like WalMart are undermining the quality of workers’ lives. 

Second, he’s deliberate and compassionate in his choice not to preach.  He doesn’t want to tell us what to eat, and he doesn’t even have a plan to solve the problem.  He doesn’t demonize anyone (ok, except McDonald’s) or offer his own superior way of eating and shopping as the ideal.  Instead, he believes that information is the solution. He trusts people to make better decisions when they have better information.  That may be idealistic, but it may also prove more effective than more self-righteous approaches. 

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