Op-Ed: Is smearing food on the ‘Mona Lisa’ a productive form of climate change protest?
A year ago, I read an essay on the topic of climate change that struck me as odd in the extreme. The person writing the essay, a man named Dan Gardner, was an organic farmer – someone who had grown his own food. He was trying, he said, to combat climate change by buying more organic fruits and vegetables and cutting back on meat and dairy products.
He argued that by consuming fewer goods produced and produced by the fossil fuel industry, he was making the world a safer and more stable place.
When he first proposed this idea, he said, he thought “the most effective thing I could do … is buy more organic food” – even though, he said, doing so would cost him “a few dollars a week.”
Now, Gardner is not someone who believes in the reality of climate change – and, as a result, his argument with the world’s energy and food industries hasn’t changed at all.
But what I found most disappointing about his argument was that it didn’t seem to have much to do with the threat – though, I suppose, it could have something to do with the impact.
What Gardner was proposing was to use the threat of climate change – not as a motivation to cut back on our impact on the planet, but to cut back on the impact of our industry on it. By his logic, Gardner was saying that if you could use the threat of climate change to keep consuming less of the things that are causing climate change, you could use it to make the planet seem a safer place.
But I found this line of argument to be deeply flawed. Gardner was confusing a number of things.
First, his argument wasn’t about climate change at all. He was arguing that we needed to be more worried about climate change than about the threats of food and energy industries, because a dangerous global food and energy system, with dangerous levels of pollution, was causing the threat of climate change.
Second, his argument would actually do harm to those industries, as