I was listening to a podcast about food, food production, and food systems. The host and guest were talking about the fragile and dangerous situation we find ourselves in today and how we can start to make change. Which eventually lead them to the conversation of how to get people to care about the food system. All of this talk was great (well, not great, but okay), until the host became upset that most people just don’t seem to see the connection between our food system and just about every thing that people worry about. Health, environment, disease, safety. The host finally gets frustrated enough to ask, “How do you think we ended up with such an apathetic, lazy, bunch of…my neighbors? Why is this like this?” Totally valid question. Understanding how we got to where we are can help us get to where we want to go. The mechanism is important. The guest starts out with an excellent response, “I think there’s a lot of reasons.” [Great! Yeah! There’s a lot that goes into where we are today. Okay, so let’s hear the big picture, how we got here, as a group, theory.] “We were trained to become consumers. And that goes back a long way. It goes back a century. Of training us about what we can buy. And that’s a huge problem.”

And that’s it.

The response to “Why don’t we care about our food system and its impacts?” is “We’ve been trained to consume things.”

That is not a good enough of a response! It doesn’t help anyone! What are we supposed to do with that? How do we make a change? Stop buying food? I think most of us care enough about food to know that we have to buy it. We had to buy food before the system went down the tubes and we will continue to have to buy food whether we fix it or not.

The question remains, “Why don’t we care about our food system and its impacts?”

Here’s my theory: we’ve been told we don’t need to care. Other, smarter, more informed, better people will care for us. They will take care of us. We’ve been told by the FDA that the food won’t kill us. We’ve been told by the EPA that it must be okay for the environment, otherwise they would shut it down. We’ve been told by the USDA that it’s organic and therefore good for us and the environment. We’ve been told our whole lives about the truth in advertising, so that free-range label on the eggs must be the same free-range I conjure in my head. We’ve been told in history and government classes that we are too stupid to figure this out ourselves and companies are too evil to be trusted to provide good products and that’s why you need to vote. We’ve been told we don’t need to care. And that’s why we don’t.