Were you aware that you’re a terrible person because sometimes, you put almond milk in your cereal? Surely you were already splayed out on the linoleum, wracked with sobs, as your bowl of Cap’n Crunch just gets soggier and soggier. But in case you weren’t, Mother Jones wants you to know that you, the almond milk drinker, are both a complete dupe and an “ignorant hipster.”
The takedown of almond milk, as a watered-down fake product with little nutritional content that sucks up a disproportionate amount of California’s scarce water, is a grim read. It’s not designed to offer alternatives; it’s designed to make non-almond-milk drinkers feel flush with self-righteousness for sticking with good old 2 percent. Basically, this piece embodies the kind of overheated discourse pollution that makes the internet a joyless battlefield where everyone is perpetually inflamed with rage and superiority. Whenever somebody punches a phantom hipster online, you know you have a good candidate for hysterical rage.
Almond milk isn’t toxic to humans (although, some brands contain carrageenan, which some say is a carcinogen, but also an additive in almost every processed food), it isn’t tainted with exploitation more than other everyday products are, and it doesn’t generate weird byproducts the way Greek yogurt does. Although the article paints a picture of a beverage produced by human slaves subcontracted to Koch Industries and gleefully consumed by amoral foodies, almond milk is not the enemy. Instead, might we refocus our energy on eliminating other, more vile substances, like oil from tar sands, water that props up a dictatorship and gets shipped across the ocean – Mother Jones was all over that one – or anaerobic lagoons of hog feces?
The article might almost be fine if its conclusions added up, but they don’t. Yes, pomegranate juice and coconut water and probably almond milk are fads capitalizing off of people’s health worries. But if actual dairy is an industrial nightmare, and soy milk is a hormonal witches’ brew that comes from an unsustainable monoculture, then what the hell are we supposed to put in our coffee? (Note: online fury is not a sweetener.) We’re urged to wake up and take some vitamins instead of trying to absorb nutrition from “jugs of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” But vitamins are kind of bullshit too, and anyway, that’s the same logic Soylent uses when marketing their slurry to people who hate the joy of being alive and the sensation of chewing.
The article does make one excellent point, however. In California’s state of exceptional drought, you might want to cut back on the almonds, some 80 percent of which are grown in the Central Valley. (It takes 1.1 gallons to grow a single nut.) Also, maybe smoke less pot, because cannabis is arguably worse than even almonds. But also realize you’re doing it chiefly as a personal virtue, not as the main solution to the world’s environmental crises, which require massive governmental intervention on a scale that exceeds our behavior modifications, however well-intentioned. Yes, responsible consumption is important, but if you think that together we can save the world through incrementally more prudent purchases, denying ourselves life’s little pleasures, and hating on everyone who doesn’t, it’s just not so. A little almond milk in your coffee doesn’t make you an asshole.
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