Where did the curious idea of buying one’s way to sustainability come from? In no small part, the answer lies in the story of entrepreneurial health reformer J. I. Rodale, his son Robert Rodale, and their company, the Rodale Press. These early advocates of organic gardening cultivated a niche for natural health products in the 1950s, organized the emerging marketplace for organic foods in the 1960s, and in the process published an endless supply of advice books on diet and health.
Rodale’s marketplace environmentalism brought environmentally minded consumers together and taught Americans how to grow food, eat, and live in arguably more earth-friendly ways. Yet the market has proved more effective at addressing individual health concerns than improving public health at large, as liable to champion untested, ineffectual health supplements as to challenge the indiscriminate use of dangerous pesticides. For anyone trying to make sense of the complex tensions between business profits and the desire for environmental reform, The Organic Profit is essential reading.
Andrew N. Case is an environmental historian, grantwriter, and interdisciplinary teacher.
Paul Sutter is series editor for the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series. He is professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has published five books, including Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (University of Washington Press, 2005) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
"Should be on the shelf of anyone looking to understand the history, potential, and limitations of green consumerism."