Everything Is Either Enlightening or Toxic

At the recent Festival of Books in Los Angeles, the world-class essayist Rebecca Solnit, chairing a panel on sustainable living, mused out loud on "the organic movement," and had a Great Thought. She said:

The organic movement has created a picture of a black or white world: You eat it [something organic] and you see Buddha; or you might as well be eating Agent Orange. Everything is either enlightening or toxic.

At Whole Foods, I can almost hear what they're thinking: Yeah, and so? That's our business model!

[here's Solnit, via Scott Sommerdorf and the Chronicle]


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

2 thoughts on “Everything Is Either Enlightening or Toxic

  1. Sorry to have to disagree, but the existence of pesticide-free and transitional foods sort of ruins the paradigm. (Oh yes, and GMO-free, and RGBH-free, and the various stripes of vegetarianism, and local sourcing, and shade-grown, and fair-trade.) In particular, what would PETA have to say about Rebecca’s apparent endorsement of organic meats, dairy, eggs, honey etc.? Scandalous!

    Seriously, organic is IMHO a little bit too easy of a path to “salvation” since anyone with enough money can indulge themselves completely. The tough one, and the one that makes the most difference to the environment, remains giving up meat. Being a very old idea, it lacks the trendiness of organic, but it keeps organic from achieving the status Rebecca implies.

    I know I’m missing her point, but I think the premise required by her terminology is wrong. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of overly self-righteous organic food consumers and advocates (OK, that’s her point), though.


  2. I like the way you thought that through. Yes, the organic can turn self-righteous (at almost any moment). But Solnit has a full set of tools in her rhetorical kit. She can be enviro/serious, historical, the academic thinker, but also sarcastic, and even a little funny.


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