Friday, July 10, 2009

"pressing your money into hands that are still caked with dirt"

This response was left by my eloquent young husband Kris Lander, in the comment section of my previous post about Industrial America. I thought I would post it so that no one missed it. I keep telling him that he should write more often.

I asked, "why do I hold things like the arts, food, and all other indulgences which are good for soul apart from industry? Why do I think it's ok for the car manufacturers to make decisions based on the bottom line- that they would be ridiculous to continue making a part by hand, when a machine can drastically cut costs, but I am offended when the same principle is applied to dinner and diamonds?"

Kris Said:
I think the reason why you hold a double-standard when it comes to dinner and diamonds is this: You can control the origin of your dinner and, to a certain extent, your diamonds.

If you need a new car you can't help where it was manufactured. The sticker on the window may tell you the origin of the parts, and the countries where they were assembled, but if you want a new Toyota Venza you don't have the choice between the Venza built and assembled in Mexico and one built and assembled in Japan. There's only Venza. Sure, you could opt for a car that's built and assembled in the USA, but that may not always be a practical or financially feasible decision. (As an aside, Marketplace had a story a few days ago that said the majority of new car buyers are no longer willing to pay a premium to buy an American-built car).

When it comes to corn and chicken breasts you do have that choice. And, increasingly, you don't even have to shop at another store to make the choice. Organic milk sits side-by-side with the rBST laden SuperMilk. Organic apples and pears are next to conventionally grown apples and pears. The choice to choose organic is as simple as putting a different item in your cart, and opening your wallet a little wider. (Another quick digression: shouldn't produce grown using organic techniques be labeled as "conventional"? It wasn't until relatively recent times that farming involved huge quantities of nitrogen, pesticides, petroleum, and genetically modified seeds. Perhaps these foods should be labeled as "Industrially Grown").

The same holds true when it comes to jewelry. You could go to the mall and pick out something bright and shiny from Claire's or Nordstrom's. But, you can just as easily walk through your neighborhood farmer's market or arts festival to find something equally bright and shiny, and as a bonus it's probably unique. Or at least unique enough that you probably won't see other girls wearing the exact same piece.

The other bonus to purchasing organic foods and handmade jewelry is that you often see your money changing hands with the farmer or artisan. When you buy a basket of strawberries at the farmer's market chances are you're pressing your money into hands that are still caked with dirt. When you buy handmade jewelry you know the person on the other side of the counter is directly involved in the production of that jewelry. You don't get the same feeling when you buy a new car, or pick up a family-sized package of toilet paper from Target.


Natalie said...

Kris really nails it.

I put my money to things that I feel I can impact: keeping a family farm in business by chosing local, providing incentive to the organic farmer not to move to big agriculture by purchasing organics whenever possible, providing my tourist dollars to organizations that help local artisians, orphanages, using the city search funtion in Etsy to find a local artisian to support, etc.

We don't need to buy a hybrid when our other two cars are in working order. We can, however, ensure that daily commutes are via the Subaru and save the Land Rover for occasional use so that a tank of gas can last two months.

I've accepted that I can't change the world but that I can impact it with my small choices. I just rely on hope...hope that there enough people make small choices to affect change.