The Unsettlers : in search of the good life in today’s America by Mark Sundeen

UnsettlersWe’ve all heard about eating organically, as “organic” foods and products proliferate in most grocery stores nowadays.  But, is eating organically eating ethically?  Particularly if certain organic products are shipped here from Chile and other parts beyond, then how is consuming them an ethical act, considering the fossil fuels required to get them to our tables?

The Unsettlers raises the questions of food ethics as it focuses on three couples who have made it their collective callings to not only grow their own food and sell the surplus, but to live without much of the big box store “conveniences” that modern living entails, even if they have access to such conveniences.

The first couple has created an intentional community in northeastern Missouri.  Their way of life is perhaps the most extreme covered in the book.  Ethan and Sarah completely reject use of automobiles and electricity; those wishing to visit or intern at their farm find out about it via word of mouth rather than electronic media.

Olivia and Greg are an interracial couple; both grew up in the Detroit area but from completely contrasting backgrounds.  They came together sharing a love for gardening and a strong determination to create a future for their crumbling crime-ridden city – a future that includes better food options for inner-city residents and a stronger sense of community.

Steve and Luci are the oldest couple; they have done the “back to the land” lifestyle longer than most.  They have weathered the changes of perception towards natural and organically grown foods, for better and worse – better in that more people are eating said foods, and worse, as organic products become just that – products of huge corporations that are anathema to what these folks have believed in and worked for, for over thirty years.

The couples highlighted in The Unsettlers have their preachy moments, but much of what they expound upon makes sense.  The collective beliefs – eating locally, investing in the immediate community, and using less or no fossil fuels – make much more sense than continuing to support the conglomerates labeling everything “organic” in an attempt to get rich off the feel-good moment, while polluting the world to get it into our grocery stores.

The book will definitely have you considering what you eat, and how you acquire it.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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