My friend looked shocked when I showed her a picture of this issue’s cover. In her view, fast food stands for many of the lost values of our modern Western world. Fast food is unhealthy; it thrives on industrial agriculture, which threatens the planet’s ecosystems, and it destroys vital family values such as a simple daily meal around the same table.
Of course, Ode’s fast food is different. As Mary Desmond Pinkowish points out in her international report on the new fast food, more and more initiatives are rooted in organic and local agriculture. Fast food, in other words, can be sustainable. But is that enough to convince my friend? What about the importance of a home-cooked meal?
The discussion relates to a conversation I had this month with a potential new employee of Ode. He felt bad that he’d have to drive his car to our offices outside San Francisco, whereas he was able to walk to his previous job downtown. Wouldn’t it be an upside-down world if he started driving his car to work when he started working for a magazine that stands for a just and sustainable world?
I understand the challenge. Fast food and cars are not the first things that come to mind when one envisions a better, more sustainable world. Yet this challenge touches the core mission of Ode. Yes, we want to contribute to making this world a better place. But we also believe in the ingenuity of the human mind. The history of humanity is very much a story about creativity, about finding new solutions for new problems—in short, about progress.
It might be much better for the planet if we all went back to our pre-historic caves and warmed ourselves around a simple fire after the hunt. Better it might be, but it’s not going to happen—unless a meteorite hits Earth.
Our real challenge is to find ways to make our world a better place from the starting point of our current reality. That reality includes cars and fast food. Ode stands for sustainability, but I use a car daily. We don’t want cars to go away; we want cars to be sustainable—much more sustainable than today’s hybrids, which are becoming more and more popular. We would also question when it’s right to use a car. We favour public transportation and bikes (and legs!) whenever possible, and we would encourage governments and businesses to increase investments in such facilities.
I really believe we can make our planet sustainable without retreating to the caves of the past. But we have to do much more. Ode is about the people, companies and initiatives pioneering the creativity we need for a sustainable future. And that future includes fast food as well.
Our family recently watched the Oscars for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 2004. That’s another unhealthy sign of consumerism, I admit. Still, while watching Hollywood stars, we ate pizzas from a restaurant that uses only local and organic ingredients and heats its oven with renewable energy. We enjoyed the evening together, unconsciously blending old and new values—and, indeed, on our way to a better world.