Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beyond The Locavore


The term 'locavore' has been tossed around within the food community to define eating foods from as local sources as possible. But we need to look beyond food and look at the local as important in many things - I believe we need to look to our local community to help out first and that local philanthropy, local activism, local charity, however you want to look at is important as well.

What I am getting at here is - with all the stuff going on in the big bad world, it is very easy to forget that people, animals, and the environment need help right here in our back yard. Of course people elsewhere need help - the people of Haiti and Japan devastated by natural catastrophes; the people of third world countries needing food, water, and rights; wild or domestic animals are mistreated in some foreign place. And it is good to see people at least get motivated to help out somehow, somewhere. And yes many issues are national, international, and worldwide and need to be looked at how to resolve across the board. But we also easily lose sight of the tree for the forest to turn a saying on its head.

I hate to be cynical but often the driving point in these philanthropic efforts is PR. Something happens that becomes a big news item. Company or organization sees they can get some PR or even increased sales by offering a way to donate (buy X item and we will give X - you still had to buy the item, or even come to this website and donate - while there you will be bombarded with ads). Of course, yes, they are helping. But what is their true motivation, how much actually makes it where it is needed, why now when this issue has been there before? These are questions we should ask before we choose these options.

More importantly, we should look right outside our windows to see how we can help right here, right now. There are children starving in another country - but they are starving right here too. There are animals in need in another country or state - but there are thousands in need in Milwaukee. There are environmental travesties everywhere - but everywhere includes here. If you do choose to look locally, which I hope you do, ask questions - just because it is labeled as local (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whatever) doesn't mean all, or even a majority, of the aide stays here. Is it a local chapter for a national organization and the funds are pooled together? Do the services (the homeless animals for example) come from out of state rather than helping or employing ones here?

Why aren't we as outraged and motivated to help our neighbors as we are to help complete strangers? Maybe it is because we feel if we solve the problem elsewhere, in the big world, it will trickle back. But maybe, just maybe, it works the other way. Solve the problem here and the solution may spread elsewhere.