What has happened to the boom in certain healthy foods, is that it has produced an inflated market in the countries where the foods are produced, often raising prices high enough so that the farmers cannot afford to eat their own crops. Quinoa and coconut are two good examples.
A coconut farm may be five to ten acres and each coconut, depending on the country of origin, may bring only 10 cents to the farmer. The rise in coconut oil's popularity and coconut awareness has not been passed on to the farmer, unfortunately, but the demand has, so all of the crop then must be shipped out leaving the grower in the face of starvation. This is true, too, of quinoa farmers and those who harvest the current trendy health foods, either grown as a farmed crop, or wild harvested. There are some groups who have realized the plight of the growers and have come to their aid to teach them to co-crop and to feed themselves better. Rather than grow only coconuts as a monocrop, under the trees other crops, such as cacao, can be grown providing a new source of income for the farmer.
We in the western world should think twice about where the exotic products we are suddenly consuming in unprecedented quantities come from, how they are harvested and who gets the money. Coconut water is a good example. Is the pleasure of drinking a bottle, can or tetra pack of this water worth the cost to the environment? First the containers must be manufactured, then shipped, a plant must be set up to process and bottle the coconut water, and then the product must be shipped across the sea to the coconut hungry North Americans. Coconut water has been elevated to a status symbol, unfortunately. "What brand of coconut water do you prefer?" has become an elitist question, with no thought to the poor farmer who grew the coconuts and zero consideration for the processing, packaging and shipping to ensure consumers can have their currently preferred drink. Perhaps we need to rethink this idea of sustainability. Perhaps we need to rethink how we grow food in our own part of the world, how it is processed and packaged and how much we are contributing to the problems of waste and pollution for the sake of eating or drinking the latest craze. Perhaps true sustainability comes from a placid nature to be content with what we need, not what we want. We can survive on whole, natural foods grown locally and we should attempt to eliminate foods that cause poverty for the growers, as well as those foods which are shipped long distances in individual containers.
Does that mean we can never eat bananas again or enjoy coconut water? That depends on how committed one is to the idea of sustainability. How committed are you?