Cultures of quiet sustainability: Consuming organics in the Anthropocene

Giovanni Orlando


This essay analyzes organic consumption in Palermo as a lens to illustrate the presence of a culture of quiet sustainability based on culinary anxieties about pollution. It shows how some Palermitans oppose organic to conventional foods according to notions of healthiness and contamination, choosing the former in order to avoid ingesting harmful substances. Looking at organic foods from a «post-Pasteurian» perspective, the essay pays particular attention to those aspects concerned with the cultural perception of environmental problems and the role of science and technology in food production. By doing so, it argues that the beliefs and feelings of people who eat organic foods allow glimpsing values that stem from a rejection of excess, which has several points of contact with the most recent sustainability theories of the Anthropocene and planetary boundaries. Food anxieties are often criticized for being egoistic and individualistic. This essay suggests that organic consumption can be considered a form of «quiet sustainability». While the essay discusses a case study of the anthropology of food, it also tries to connect local particularities to global socio-ecological processes, thus making an effort to demystify ideologies of growth, development and consumerism.

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