Although culinary abstinence might sound downright depressing, if not sanctimonious in its own way, it's actually profoundly empowering. The discipline that permanent dietary sacrifice requires removes agency from the producers of our food and places it directly in the hands of the consumer. It is thus, at its core, activism. But foodies want none of it. Sacrifice isn't their dish. They carry forth under the impression that they can consistently have their local grass-fed beef, line-caught tuna, charcuterie cured in a special cave guarded by a troll. And they never—and I mean never—ask the critical Kantian question: what if everyone in the world consumed these supposedly sustainable alternatives to conventional food? What if their supposedly sustainable and socially just diets were universalized? The answer is that, with the exclusive turned universal, there'd be environmental hell to pay.
Myers's critics have responded to his attacks on foodie-style gluttony by saying that sustainable food is about moderation. But "moderation" according to what standard? We live in a world in which, every evening, thousands of people go to restaurants and practice some version of "moderation" by purchasing "sustainably" raised this-or-that at prices that could feed a poor village in Africa for months. How moderate is a free-range cut of pork or a grass-fed side of beef when one compares the resources required to produce such food against the resources required to grow fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? My sense is that this calculation would yield not moderation, but embarrassing extravagance.
Imagine a less insular, less local-obsessed, and less indulgent food movement. It could do wonders to help address one of the most daunting global food problems humanity has ever faced: the impending transition of the developing world to the meat-and-dairy based diet found in the developed world. It could, in essence, seek to create a global food system that supports a diet based on plants, health, and accessibility rather than one driven by meat, taste, and exclusivity.
To be sure, the sustainable food movement, as it exists now, does have one significant advantage. It offers a hands-on way for us to invest meaning in our wealthy, urban, progressive communities. It is a symbolic form of environmentalism brought into the kitchen, the yard, the neighborhood, the city farmers' market, and the soil of the surrounding countryside. But a food movement truly committed to environmental and social justice would be seeking something much broader, much less elitist, and much more just.