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Not as level-headed as it thinks
on 15 March 2015
While I can’t say I found reading this book a pleasurable experience, I am grateful to Jay Rayner for helping to redefine an important aspect of my life. That is my life-long dedication to local (when possible) organic produce. I have in the past harboured beliefs that by choosing to shop this way I might be doing something positive for my planet and my community. I’ve never really questioned this attitude, or even examined it in all that much detail – until now.
It’s not that this book disproves these beliefs exactly. Most of the arguments presented here contain logical holes bigger than the one in the ozone layer. I say ‘most’ because this isn’t true of all - the air miles argument, to give one example, seems indisputable. But elsewhere we’re asked to accept that industrial farming is OK because ‘I’ve met the farmer and he’s actually a really nice guy’; that because Human Beings are ‘of nature’ it follows anything we do must be natural (LOL); and, my favourite, the you-might-as-well argument e.g. if you buy a phone made in China you-might-as-well buy Strawberries from Peru, and if you cultivate plants to your advantage over millennia of farming you-might-as-well go directly to their genes and do it in the lab. I guess then if you use moisturiser you-might-as-well get a face-lift, and if you’re attracted to your spouse because they are tall it gives you the green light to genetically design your offspring.
But while Rayner isn’t going to win any converts to his cause with such flimflam, he’s right about one thing – and this is something I didn’t fully realise before reading his book. The real reason I shop at the farmer’s market and love the words organic, local, and seasonal, has little to do with hard scientific evidence. If such evidence exists, I admit I don’t know all that much about it and I’m not going to pretend I do. What it has to do with, I now realise, is faith. There I am, every Saturday morning, worshiping at the alter of mud-caked carrots and bowing my head before… wait for it… £18 chickens! I go religiously. I have faith. Faith in what? Well, I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I guess if you must have a word then ‘nature’ is as good as any other.
Rayner doesn’t believe in ‘nature’, and, Woody Allen like, openly admits to feeling uncomfortable outside of the built-up urban environment. More than that, the whole idea of a thing called nature that people should be somehow beholden to makes his blood boil, just as the religious notion of ‘God’ bothers the atheist. And like the atheist, Rayner seems to think that his stance makes him somehow more plausible – a more rational thinker. Maybe. But what Rayner fails to notice, as he blithely jets around the globe referring to massive industrial storage facilities as ‘cathedrals’ and getting all sentimental while staring out over huge fields of monstrously regimented apple trees, is that he’s banished one kind of irrational faith only to replace it with another – his faith in technology.
Now – I don’t share his faith just as he doesn’t share mine. I hold an innate suspicion toward the wonders of our technological age, and, believe me, my mobile phone is as dumb as they come. But my question is this – who’s to say which faith is the more valid? Nobody ever can, and our differences, like all differences of faith, are therefore irreconcilable. But I would say this – have faith, sure. Write books about it, sure. But own it for goodness sake. Recognise it for what it is – a gut reaction, a feeling. Don’t dress it up with a bunch of largely risible arguments and present it to the world as objective fact. And, more importantly, don’t allow yourself in your self-righteous, blinkered state, to sneer and look down your nose at the faith of others – a faith you simply do not understand. It’s immature, and has no place in a genuinely constructive debate.