I think that one weakness in much environmental thought and activism is an over-emphasis on grass roots efforts and consumer choice. Instead, I think we need to look more seriously at ways to force people to do things. For instance, let’s take a simple example: unhealthy food is effectively subsidized, while organic food is expensive. Instead of convincing bourgeois city-dwellers to make the sacrifice and buy organic food, why not reverse the subsidies? Suddenly, you have to sacrifice if you want to enjoy a Big Mac, while the poor are forced by economic necessity to eat food that isn’t actively poisoning them.
The same goes for large-scale industrial farming: why not just outlaw it? Why not limit the size of farms or the number of farming concerns any one person or company can own? Or if neoliberal export-driven farming is the issue: why not outlaw the export of food? If regional self-sufficiency is the goal, mandate it — Congress can regulate interstate commerce, so regulate it in that way.
Maybe it’d be too much of a shock to everyone’s system to do it all at once: okay, come up with a gradual mechanism. Put together a workable program and start agitating. Put together demonstrations: Food justice now! Start up letter-writing campaigns. Flood your congressman with calls. Figure out a way to get this stuff on the Democratic Party platform.
Figure out a way to force people to do the right thing rather than just hoping they do. If our food system is totally fucked and needs to be replaced, then come up with a way to do it other than relying on the consumer choices of concerned liberal middle-class people who, in a few years, will probably get over the organic food fad and be worried about some other cause — just like they got over the issue of sweatshop labor from the Third World, and lo and behold, there are still sweatshop workers in the Third World making our clothes and shoes.