Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Proxy morality (zwei).

Earlier I wrote about the astonishing disconnect that exists in our lives due to the fact that many of the items (and services) that we use for our lives are made, grown, carried-out or manufactured by organizations and peoples that we do not know and that we have no effective control over.

I didn't mention that, in some instances (not all by any means), we can gather information about items...and make decision based on our acquired information. I didn't write about this because I'm not at all sure that practical use or implementation of this behavior is a viable solution to our ongoing cultural freefall. For one thing, finding out about the parameters of creation of stuff can be (and often is) a major pain in the ass.

For instance, recently a new grocery opened here in Norman. Natural Grocers is one of a chain of stores operating across several states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Oklahoma). Now if you go to their website and read about them...well...what is not to like? They use all the buzzwords dear to the hearts of those of us who want to do well by our planet. Words like 'sustainable', 'family farms', 'natural and organic', 'nutritious', yada yada yada. Great, right?

Oops, maybe not so great. Here is an example. They have their own house brand of various items in bulk like organic split peas, organic steel cut oats, organic pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are of interest to me because we use them daily out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. A few pumpkin seeds a day sprinkled on the pellets of the bunnies serves as a treat for them and also is good for their health. The bunnies love them and it is a good thing all around. Well, we want to always avoid as many pesticides or chemicals as possible so organic is the way to go. There is a problem though...anymore most pumpkin seeds you can find are not grown in the U.S. They come from China. China? China?

Someone else will have to explain the sense of that...and I suspect there isn't any "sense" at all except one of profit. I have little doubt that the reason pumpkin seeds are showing up here that are grown in China is profit. No sense, just profit. And, lest we forget, one of the principal (if not the primary) reasons our world looks like it does now is because of actions taken in the pursuit of profit. So, while things can be done in the name of profit that are not necessarily bad, from what I can see, on the whole, pursuing profit as a primary goal results in disaster after disaster after disaster.

Pumpkin seeds. Now when you shop at this grocery, their house branded bulk items are packed in bags with their logo on it. The label for pumpkin seeds touts that they are organic and they are "packed" in some town in Colorado (Lakewood, I think). The label didn't say "grown and packed" in Colorado, it said packed. Hmmm, I says to myself. If they are so proud of where they packed the seeds why aren't they proud of where the seeds were grown? Obviously they aren't themselves too impressed with the growing place or they would have touted that too. Nowhere on the label does it tell me where the seeds are grown. Hmmm.

In addition, the seeds are "Certified Organic". Hmmm. I had visions of the seeds being grown in say, Tibet, and then I had visions of the United States Food and Drug Administration loading up an inspector and flying her (or him) over to Tibet and that inspector overseeing the growth and harvest of the pumpkin seeds to ensure they are "organic". Look, I am mildly suspicious of the organic certification of things grown here in the U.S. where they actually might be inspected...I have no belief at all that anything coming from outside of the U.S. resembles anything I might think of as being "organic". I am suspicious of the food from here because I am aware that the pursuit of profit produces (even encourages) cheating and I have no doubt that cheating in the "organic" food area goes on...I guarantee that cheating goes on in the food area for stuff grown elsewhere. Still, organic may offer some degree of greater safety in many instanceses so that is what I endeavor to purchase. I am also aware that food "manufacturers" and "producers" are constantly trying to assault, water-down and de-fang any kind of regulation or inspection of their "products" or their operations so who knows how long any refuge is offered by "organic".

Anyway, the "packed" message on the label set off warning bells so I went home and looked online to see what I could find out about the company and about their pumpkin seeds. The online info about the seeds says they "source" from "around the world". Ok. So I emailed them and asked where their pumpkin seeds came from. After about 3 weeks (no exaggeration) I got the message their seeds come from China. I emailed back and asked if they had any pumpkin seeds from the United States. Within 2 days I was advised that all their pumpkin seeds came from China.

Look, I know the seeds I could buy in my local chain supermarket came from China too. The irritating and dismaying factor here for me is that this "Natural" food store touts that they are the home of "real Natural food" and here they are using all the same slippery and uninformative and misleading "marketing" stuff all the other slimeballs use. In truth, I have no belief that the current structuring of manufacturing, growing and marketing of "stuff" can operate in any way that is going to end up being positive for people or the is going to operate in  a way that is good for "profit" and nothing else. It will mislead, omit and twist information and data any old time that profit might be enhanced by such dancing and this has been the case since the beginning of "profit".

By the way, Adam Smith, author of "The Wealth of Nations" and often referenced by the current crop of profit mongers seemed to only see a profit system working in a small setting where everyone knew everyone else and cheating or greed could easily be discerned by direct experience. This "global" stuff or stuff coming from somewhere that is not easily inspected or learned about personally is a different sort of thing. As I mentioned before, I can easily end up (and have no doubt that I do) paying people to despoil the earth, use toxic chemicals and pesticides, harm animals and people and then take the profits and support politicians to further defang any sorts of regulations that might slow down their headlong pursuit of profit with no regard for the consequences or side effects.

No, I fear that tweaking the system or fine tuning the system isn't going to work...we've been fiddling around with that sort of thing since the days when coca cola actually had cocaine in it can look around and see what is happening and what is happening isn't pretty...or positive...for living beings or the planet herself. We're in a major mess and as far as I can see one of the prime drivers of the mess making has been and is the pursuit of "profit".


Christina said...

Bow to the almighty dollar!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christina. There's been way too much bowing going on.

Bea Elliott said...

A very interesting story about pumpkin seeds... Organic and traveled from halfway around the world. Who knew something so home-spun could be so "exotic"?

I'm totally baffled by global markets... I follow what animal flesh is exchanged between nations and it beats the daylights out of me to try to figure even the "economic" sense of it... Let alone the ethical issues.

With all that we import... dairy, "hams", and other such stuff - Yet, we're shipping out the same into the very countries we got the "goods" to begin with. I am totally confused when it comes to NAFTA. Better minds than I can figure out what's the sense in shipping out hundreds of tons of chicken flesh in exchange for tires... Yet, I see it all the time.

Pumpkin seeds from China. It certainly must be profitable but it's not sustainable at all. And organic? Right... They fly USDA inspectors in to regulate standards - Now that's comical!