Environmental Elitism

In short yes.

Voting with your dollar is a popular phrase that politicians, environmentalists, or really anyone with a cause like to throw around. It means putting your money where your mouth is, and supporting the people, causes and companies that you align with politically and morally. Basically, it is a theory in economics that says the market will change to align with the values of the general populace, based on where people spend their money.

But here’s the thing: the idea of voting with you dollar implies you have a dollar to vote with – a luxury not everyone has.

Will I completely erase the idea from my vocabulary? Probably not.

And this is why: rich white people need to take responsibility for the climate problems they’ve caused. (‘But Miriam, not all white people!’ you cry. Shhh, bench your white fragility for thirty seconds and just keep reading.) Almost every major contributor to climate change (oil companies, industrial agriculture, manufacturing) can be traced back to a rich person (predominantly, if not exclusively, white) seeking profits over people. So the majority of minds that we as environmentally conscious folks need to change are the minds of the people who have the dollars to vote with.

But I don’t really want to live in a society where some folks have the luxury of voting with their dollars and other don’t. It is SUPER important to investigate meaningful ways to fight climate change in which everyone can participate. Not to mention, DailyBloom’s primary audience (aka the friends I bug to read this blog) are younger folks, who range from having no money at all, to plenty of dough. We want everyone to benefit from this site and to be able to give the best they can give to our beautiful little blue-green planet.

This is especially important considering that the major consequences of climate change will disproportionately affect the economically disadvantaged. I doubt the über rich will have difficulty paying exorbitant costs for transportation (many already go out of their way to pay more: think private jets, luxury cars, etc.) and the middle class won’t struggle too much paying higher food prices.

Michael Pollen wrote an article in the NY Times about “voting with your forks” and started with pointing out the unfortunately true fact that it is far more expensive to eat food that is healthy for your body and for the earth than to eat harmful foods. He closes his argument with a direction at policy, stating:

That situation is a public problem and can be addressed only through public action — by rewriting the rules of the game by which we eat. We need farm policies that will somehow right this imbalance, so that healthy calories can compete with unhealthy ones — so that it becomes rational for someone with little to spend on food to buy the carrots instead of the cookies, the orange juice instead of the Sprite. Until that happens, eating well will remain “elitist.”

While this is all well and good — we’re stuck in another ‘elitist’ trap. We’re switching from voting with our dollar/forks to actual voting – which seems like the right solution, but as anyone who has opened a paper or watched a political drama recently could tell you, lobbyists are running the show. Even this approach disenfranchises the impoverished and eliminates them from making decisions or affecting change.

The moral of this story is to say that in no way will we shame folks on this site for not being able to purchase the local, organic, superlative, in-vogue-buzzword is-absolutely-the-best-choice-for-the-environment product. Taking on climate change is about being conscious, and understanding how we interact with our place, our communities, our planet — it is not and should not be about how much we are able to spend at the farmers’ market, which new car we drive*, where we live, or what we sacrifice.

*but please forgive me if I continue to drool all over the new Tesla Model X

Written by miriam

Striving to be "The Infinite Probability Drive within the Heart of Gold," Miriam's interests include accidentally purchasing everything in purple, going deep on the frisbee field, local food, and taking the stairs. She studied film at Middlebury College even though she won't admit it (her degree was in Environmental Studies).

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