If you know me (Dave), you know that I don’t like to give my real name when ordering coffee. Instead, I like to give the same name as the person in front of me. Honestly, it’s not that I like to create confusion in the Starbucks queue – it’s just that I don’t see any reason to be on a first-name basis with some random teenage barista.
I’m sitting here in the middle of Santa Monica – temporarily posing as Ned – sipping a latte on the 3rd street promenade, waiting for Andrew who is stuck in traffic on the 405. I have been thinking about the amount of hubris required to assemble a sustainability advisory program. Am I really paid to tell other people what they are doing wrong? The potential for hypocrisy is unending. For example, here is the view I see every day on my way to work in Long Beach:
This is Terminal Island, which is located in the center of Los Angeles Harbor. In this view, you can’t even see the acres of grain storage buildings, or expansive parking lots for brand new cars covered with protective white panels. Up until the 1940′s , Terminal Island was a small, dusty Japanese fishing village where my grandfather lived as a young man. His stories about swimming clear, blue water with large fish (in what is now the inner harbor) are almost unimaginable to me.
My question is, am I really going to condemn (to name one example) some shrimp farm in Asia for transforming their mangroves into shrimp ponds? Really? Are we really going to take Atlantic salmon farms to task for putting fish poo in the ocean? Here’s my thought on the subject: it’s time to stop throwing stones. Because I guarantee you that any human endeavor can be criticized as unsustainable in one way or another. You name it and I can tear it down. But that’s not productive. It’s time to focus on the good things that people around the world are doing to contribute to the health of the oceans, rather than trying to nitpick each other. Let’s move the world through inspiration, rather than condemnation.
There are plenty of chefs out there who are interested in the origin and quality of their meat, seafood, and vegetables. They are the ones who serve the fish and shellfish that come from responsible sources. Such awareness is also encouraged by groups like Real Food Challenge, Slow Foods, and FLO foods (fair, local, organic). All of us benefit: quality local ingredients translate into great meals, healthy food and a better dining experience for everyone.
And that brings us back to where I’m sitting in the story: at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Many chefs in the area (and even in Long Beach) prefer to get their vegetables from fresh, local sources because of the better quality. It’s also a chance for chefs to become familiar with the sources of their produce, to talk to the farmers and learn about how their food is produced.
So even though I have no desire to know the guy who fixes my coffee, I do applaud the chefs who make an effort to know where their ingredients come from. (See below, Andrew scrutinizing fennel at the Santa Monica farmer’s market).