Wednesday, February 27, 2008

unravelled in the supermarket

I know we all have buttons and sometimes people push those buttons and we burst into tears or fly into a rage, but I would not have thought the supermarket checkout lady asking to look inside my bags qualifies as sufficient excuse for a little tanty. Nevertheless, when the checkout woman asked to look inside my bags I threw a little tanty.

I'm not talking stomping my feet or falling on the floor screaming. I didn't even poke her in the eye or spit at her. I just felt furious, and in my fury I glared a little, snakily informed her my bag held fruit and vegetables from another store, and fairly threw my purchases into my backpack.

I don't quite know what happened. I know supermarkets claim checking my bag as a condition of entry; many years ago I worked as a checkout chick and politely asked to check people's bags myself; usually when I am asked to reveal the contents of my bag I feel quite smug about their failure to find any stolen products stashed therein. So what happened today? Why the indignation at the implication I might be stealing?

I suspect the source of my angst can be found in the recent transformation of my thinking on a number of issues. Starting with my horror at the planned construction of a pulp mill not far from my place of residence... no, probably starting way back in high school when I collected newspaper articles on climate change for a geography project (yes, that's 16 years of warnings we've ignored), I have become increasingly concerned about what we have done to this beautiful planet. Gradually I am becoming more and more conscious of the way my lifestyle contributes to climate change. I walk wherever I can, purchase food in glass containers to cut back on plastic waste, grow my own vegetables, open car windows rather than resort to the air conditioner, compost and recycle any waste I can and am becoming better and better at purchasing only what I need. I also use and reuse environmental green bags (only mine is purple) rather than accept plastic bags. Small steps, but with each day I am becoming more and more deliberate in my attempts to reduce my carbon footprint.

At the same time I am reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver and becoming increasingly interested in farming practices and the effect they have on the environment. Apparently (not according to Kingsolver, I heard this from an acquaintance in the industry) Australia has one of the highest rates in the world of agricultural land destruction, where paddocks are no longer fertile and food can no longer be produced due to poor practice, or more specifically, due to mass production and profit making. This is shameful. In addition, modern agricultural practices are destroying the diversity of plant and domesticated animal species in the world. More than that, Monsanto (with the support of the US government and to a degree the Australian government) is producing 'terminator seeds' with inbuilt, genetic engineering that causes the resulting plants to destroy their own embryos in order to prevent 'copyrighted' crops from being resewn year after year. In addition, companies such as Monsanto have steadily reduced the types of seed available to farmers so that as a global population we rely on fewer and fewer crop varieties over which Monsanto et al exert full control. This has scary implications for our future food supply - think disease or pests destroying the few remaining species we possess, while the world goes hungry, deprived by the loss of crops that were resistant to disease but no longer in existence. (Also not forgetting that mass produced food available to us in the supermarket has been bred for long travel and durability, not taste)

With all this in mind I have become more and more passionate about my vegetable patch. (We are not having a great year, but I still haven't needed to buy salad supplies for a few weeks) I am also attempting to stick to foods that are in season or preserved, rather than purchasing food that has travelled long, carbon-fuelled distances to reach me. I shop at my favourite green grocer because I know they choose flavour over mass production. All in all I attempt to be a thoughtful consumer.

So after walking to the vegetable store to purchase my local vegetables, selecting organic milk from a nearby supplier and using a backpack that won't end up in a water way, I was nothing short of insulted when a snippety checkout operator asked to see the receipt for my vegetables, implying my bags might be full of stolen supermarket fruit and vegetables!

How dare she! How dare Coles, who peddle mass produced fruit and vegetables from across the country, and indeed the world, suggest I might have sneaked a few of their tasteless offerings into my bags! How dare they suspect me of a crime when they themselves are caught up in criminal fruit and vegetable practices!

And so my buttons were pressed. Now I'm going to go and research my statutory rights in relation to refusing inspection of my bags.

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At 11:55 pm, February 27, 2008, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

I can't imagine someone checking my bags to see if I've stolen something. It would set me back some.

You should make a copy of this post and if anyone ever asks you to open your bag again, tell them they must read it before you'll open your bag! Then tell them they need a class on how to catch a thief.

Great post Cecily!

At 9:36 am, February 28, 2008, Blogger Cherie said...

Wow, Cecily. You and are on the same page today. I have been pondering writing up a post quite similar to this one. I haven't been asked to show the contents of my backpack, but when it comes to the issue of food, the planet, and health I am right there with you.

I am reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan which just came out last month (January) and it's got me completely changing the way I look at food, from how it's grown and the big corporation domination, to food's impact on my body, my mind, my family. Away from 'nutritionism' and back to eating human food. We've completely changed our outlook. We're planning more space for our summer garden, we're buying whole -real - foods, we're satisfied, unburdened, and it's making a difference already.

While I am in favor of helping the Earth recover from our abuse of it, I am even more in favor of helping my family and I recover from the abuse of our bodies from food products, under-ripe foods that travel long distances to get to my store, mass productions, additive drenched meats, milks, and everything else, and well, all the stuff you said in this post.

Your indignation is righteous. So much is so wrong - it's frightening. And frustrating. Upside down.

GREAT POST!! A thousand stars.


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