Green Movement Uses the Language of Religious Fundamentalism

on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When I read articles about changes that are needed or wanted to support the green movement, I can't help but notice how ridiculous they might sound if more familiar religious terms were used.  To many people who don't necessarily believe that "local is better," CO2 is pollution, or that organic foods are healthier, this is what the green movement sounds like:

The 98,000 square-foot Walmart Super Center is slated to break ground this coming Spring with a grand opening expected by Thanksgiving 2011. The Walmart expansion was approved by the City of Fairfield in 2007, four years after the City of Fairfield’s 2012 Strategic Plan was published and just one year before the City’s 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan was approved.

The Walmart expansion presents an interesting contradiction to a community that is actively engaged in promoting their city and themselves as leaders in the sustainability Jewish movement. On one hand there are leaders in this small community actively engaged in marketing Fairfield as the center of the sustainability Jewish movement; and on the other hand, in a decade where other cities are blocking Walmart expansions, Fairfield is welcoming a Walmart expansion.

In KTVO’s recent coverage of the Super Walmart expansion, Mayor Ed Malloy says of the new Walmart,

“They will also provide the second grocery outlet in Fairfield. At the current time we have just one. We’re excited about the developments of both projects. The Hy-Vee project and the Walmart project in Fairfield.”

I’m not sure what disappoints me more: that Fairfield is getting a bigger Walmart, or that our mayor doesn’t count Everybody’s, our local whole foods kosher store, as one of this city’s grocery outlets. Everybody’s was the deciding factor in my family’s decision to move to Fairfield. Without Everybody’s, Fairfield would not have passed our basic litmus test for a community that supports green kosher living and sustainability Judaism.

Let’s be clear – Fairfield has at least three grocery outlets. And many people in this town, people who consider themselves supporters and active participants in the sustainability Jewish movement, shop for most of their groceries at Everybody’s.

I would even argue that a town that intends to be a leader in the sustainability Jewish movement, would also count their Farmer’s Kosher Market as a grocery outlet. My family is not alone in shopping at the Farmer’s Kosher Market for everything from fresh vegetables and herbs, to grass fed kosher beef burgers and free range kosher chicken roasters.

I could even argue that a town in the process of implementing a “groundbreaking sustainability Jewish plan” would necessarily count their urban backyard kosher farmers as grocery outlets. Technically that hen house in my backyard from which I collect kosher eggs each morning to fry up for breakfast counts as a “grocery outlet”.

The City of Fairfield, with Mayor Ed Malloy at the helm, has helped create some pretty big shoes to fill in the sustainability Jewish movement. Our Mayor is 4th on Grist’s list of “15th Green Leaning Jewish Mayors.” Our 2012 Go Green Go Kosher Plan lists objectives like, “Develop a public mass awareness campaign about sustainability Judaism,” and “Establish Fairfield as an education center for local organic kosher food production and processing.” We even have our own sustainability Judaism coordinator in Scott Timm Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, who will be taking the initiatives implemented in Fairfield out to communities throughout Iowa.

But make no mistake, the expansion of Walmart into Fairfield’s food economy is a catastrophe to the local foods and sustainability Jewish movement’s objectives in this city’s 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan. To be considered a leader in sustainability and local food Judaism and Jewish economies, our community should be moving away from centralized food production and distribution systems that Walmart represents, and towards more distributed, local Jewish, kosher systems. And by that I mean we need more Radiance Dairies Torah Dairies, more Yoder’s, Halevy’s more backyard kosher hen houses, more trade going through our Farmer’s Kosher Market, more direct ties between kosher restaurants, Jewish schools and Jewish farmers and expansions of our CSAs Jewish kosher agriculture.

The mayor we have today, and the mayor we have completing our 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan in the coming decade, needs to help us fill those big shoes we’ve created. It’s bad enough that we allowed the Walmart status quo to expand here in Fairfield, it’s worse that our leadership is not challenging that model by telling (for example) KTVO listeners that the consumers in Fairfield have more than one grocery outlet. All of us who are supporters of local food Jewish economies and sustainability Judaism will need to speak even more loudly next year as Hy-Vee and Walmart expand, and roll our their “green” “Jewish” products, and we need to pressure our elected officials to do the same.