Can the lexicon of local make a global impact? Book review by Stacy Miller


You may want to check out the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development’s (JAFSCD) “Book Nook”, which contains in-depth reviews of current books on food systems. The link at the end of this post directs you to a review of a new book on the language of sustainability: Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton. The review is by Stacy Miller, who many readers will know as the Farmers Market Coalition’s founding Executive Director. Stacy is now working as an independent consultant and as a FMC Program Advisor and also spends some of her time valiantly untangling my words by serving as an editor or by offering some spot analysis for many of the reports that I am doing for markets and their advocates.

Finding the appropriate bright and brave words to describe the energetic nature of a farmers market as well as the larger food system work happening is something we both think about in this work that we do and she probably had to think about daily as the FMC director. I can remember a day in her kitchen when we wrote down and discussed lots of words to describe what became the skeleton of the Farmers Market Metrics project at FMC and how we had to leave it unfinished when I left town a day later, promising to return to it. We did, and still do good-naturedly debate (alongside our colleagues at FMC and University of Wisconsin) for and against the use of different words and definitions within that metrics work.
So, to expand her thinking to this lovely book on the entire realm of sustainability language in our farming and food world seems mighty appropriate. Here are a few of my favorite passages from her review, linked below:

“The idea that language is fundamental to social movements is nothing new. The power to bestow names on objects, people, places, and philosophies is undervalued, so we hardly notice when it gets abused. Noam Chomsky famously observed that
destructive paradigms thrive because they impose on people “the feeling that they really are incompetent to deal with complex and important issues: they’d better leave it to the captain” (Chomsky,1987, p. 42).”

“I give a lot of credit to a former film director who can find a compelling poster child for, and condense the complexities of, expansive terms like economies of community (see Figure 1), soil food web, GMO, or traceability.”

“The hypothesis behind the Lexicon of​ ​ Sustainability is compelling… We tune​ ​out vocabulary we don’t understand, avoid dialogue ​ ​or questions that make us feel ill-informed or​ ​hopeless, and thereby enable a cycle of peripheral ​ ​awareness that looks dangerously like apathy. And​ ​the corporate food monopolies take advantage of ​ ​this whenever they can — on packaging, in advertising,​ ​and in lobbying efforts designed to “protect ​ ​us” from too much information.”

I will pass this review to many of my colleagues and will also get this book based on her review and pass that around too. What better can be said?


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