Nobody stares at a salad like me. I have gazed into many a plate of lettuce or spinach and wished that I were one of those folks who could eat anything at all and walk away unscathed. But it is not to be. Instead, I stare, and sigh, and wish that chopped iceberg could become chunky ice cream. In fact, I have said on more than one occasion, “I would love vegetables, if only they were M&M’s.” I’m not alone. It’s a byproduct of abundance. We can afford to produce many delicious, heavily-refined foods, that, however wonderful they may be for the palate, are woefully lacking in nutritional value.
And, let’s face it; we are not a nation that likes to take its medicine. I wonder if any nation is, but certainly, America is not. The pharmacy I’m thinking of in this case is the federal government. A number of programs have tried to tackle the obesity problem. They seem to have succeeded in getting fewer school children to eat lunch at all. A recent study showed as many as a million kids dropping school lunches after stricter nutritional standards were handed down. That’s call an unintended consequence.
But unintended consequences can be good too. A new game emerged on the scene in July, Pokemon Go. The basic idea is that a smart phone tells you where to find mythical creatures, and then sends you to hunt for them—and here’s the good bit—in real space. You collect a virtual egg, say, and then, to hatch it, you walk it around, in a non-virtual space. 5 kilometers, for instance, in the real world, as tracked by that same phone.
Why do people like this? I have no idea. But they are walking, and riding their bikes, and exposing their pale flesh to the light of the sun, from the young, to the surprisingly old. No regulation required. The marketplace saw a niche, one I could not have seen, and one I suspect the government wasn’t looking for. They managed to turn vegetables into M&M’s.
It makes you think. I wonder if, when we see such a problem, we aren’t better off asking our producers than our government. After all, if we ask producers, they have the power to give us, affirmatively, what we want. Government is really more about sticks than carrots, or carrot sticks, for that matter. But here’s the trick: we have to hold our producers accountable. How? By not buying what we don’t want. That’s only possible in a marketplace where we can choose between a wide range of products, with a wide range of pros and cons. It means sticking to your guns, standing up for what you really want. It means demanding A Refreshing Alternative.