A note about language

As I mentioned before, I assume most readers of this blog—judging by their access to the Internet, and English language skills—will be from what some call the “Minority World”. This term represents the fact that people in affluent, often English-speaking contexts—where, for example, functional sewage systems and electrical power grids are widely operational—are numerically the minority of people on the planet. Other people, those who are often described as living in “less-developed” countries, are in reality the “Majority World”. [1]

I’ll be bringing up examples and issues that are pertinent to both worlds—sometimes both at once (for instance: “Fair Trade” chocolate that is grown in Majority World countries and sold mostly to Minority World consumers).

Another distinction that is often used is between “developed” and “developing” worlds. But this distinction implies that “development” (implicitly understood as industrialization) is a positive—something that “underdeveloped” countries need to change in order to become modern, and better. This might be true in some sense and not in others. But the distinction risks devaluing all about less-industrialized societies and idolizing things about “modern” society that may actually be toxic.[2]

I sometimes use the terms “predominantly agrarian” and “predominantly industrial” to describe countries, but these are sort of clumsy, and they also leave out the nuanced reality that within the “Minority World”, there is still agriculture, just as there is industrialization happening in many less-developed countries. Similarly, there are poor people in rich—aka “Minority world”/”developed”/”predominantly industrialized”—countries, just as there are wealthy elites in poor—aka “Majority world”/”developing”/”predominantly agrarian”—countries.

Basically, there is no perfect term to use to simplify the complex realities of geographic patterns of poverty, industrialization, technological access, etcetera—and their exceptions. So I’ll stick with using “Minority World”, if only to remind the reader: if you are reading this, it means (most likely) that there are a lot of other people out there who have a lot less than you do. Let’s try to keep in mind these injustices not out of guilt, but out of commitment to making a global food system that works for ALL people.

[1] This is a take off from the once-widely used distinction of “First World” (i.e. the USA and its global allies like Europe), the “Second World” (i.e. the communist, opposing countries of Russia, China, Cuba, etcetera), and the rest being lumped into the “Third World”.

[2] I’m not even going to get into the endless debates about how some countries ended up being “developed” and not… debates about the roles of colonialism and slave trade in creating “developed” and “developing” worlds…you can find more of that here, from these books, and all over the Internet if you’re interested!