The Jew And The Carrot

Cottage Cheese and Hydrofracking — A Look at Two Boycotts

By Mirele B. Goldsmith

  • Print
  • Share Share
Flickr: Owen Crowley
Anti-Fracking Rally at NY Governor Cuomo’s NYC Office on June 25, 2011.

What do cottage cheese and natural gas have in common?

Earlier this summer the news in Israel was dominated by “The Great Cottage Cheese Uprising,” a consumer boycott of one of the country’s favorite foods. The boycott was prompted by a 75% rise in the price of cottage cheese.

While Israelis were rebelling against the high price of cottage cheese, people in Pennsylvania and New York were waking up to the threat of gas drilling in the Marcellus shale, a geological formation located under much of Pennsylvania and New York.

I know it sounds like a stretch, but cottage cheese and natural gas have something in common. The reason that each product has triggered a revolt is that it is a symbol of a much bigger and more complex problem.

While the price of cottage cheese was rising in Israel, so was the price of other basics. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, the consumer price index has risen by 25% since 2006 while the average salary has risen only 2.6%. Like the United States, Israel has implemented economic policies that have resulted in a shocking increase in the gap between the rich and everyone else. These policies include excessive deregulation and shifting of the tax burden away from direct taxes to indirect taxes that are paid by the poor and middle class. On the surface Israel’s economy is doing very well, but underneath the surface, most Israelis are not doing better and too many are falling behind.

The boycott solved the immediate problem, but not the long term one. Within weeks of the launch of the boycott many Israelis stopped buying cottage cheese. The major suppliers lowered their prices and a Knesset committee was convened to look into the matter. Israelis were not satisfied. Now the cottage cheese boycott is turning into a movement for social justice that continues to bring out thousands of protesters. Maybe the cottage cheese uprising will turn out to be the beginning of a solution to the much bigger problems facing Israel.

What about natural gas? Opposition to drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania and New York is focused on the dangers of hydrofracking. This is a new method of drilling that employs vast amounts of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals to extract gas from shale rock. It poses serious risks to water supplies in local communities and downstream to 15 million people who get their water from the Delaware River. The immediate dangers of hydrofracking are reason enough to oppose drilling in the Marcellus shale. But you have to look beneath the surface to understand the bigger problem.

Our energy system is unsustainable. The fossil fuels we are burning, including coal, oil and gas, are heating up the atmosphere. Although natural gas burns more cleanly than coal and oil, it releases greenhouse gases that are causing climate change just like other fossil fuels. The energy industry calls gas “natural” and “clean” to convince us to buy it, but gas is not clean and it is not the solution to our energy problems.

Of course cottage cheese and natural gas are worlds apart in other ways. Cottage cheese is the perfect target for consumer boycott. The decision to buy or not to buy can be made while standing in front of the refrigerator case in the supermarket. If you choose not to buy it there are lots of alternatives. Natural gas is a different story altogether. It is impossible to make an on the spot decision to boycott natural gas. If your utility company produces electricity by burning natural gas you can’t do much about it in the short term.

But in the long term, there is a lot that we can do as a society to change our energy system. Experts say that we waste up to half of the energy we produce. By becoming more efficient we can reduce the amount of energy we need. And we can expand the use of renewable energy, primarily from solar and wind. Every day brings more good news about the feasibility of meeting our needs with clean energy. For example, a new map prepared by City University of New York shows that solar panels on rooftops in New York City could provide almost 50% of the power needed at peak demand times.

All new investment should be targeted to clean energy, not to expanding our use of fossil fuels. Now is the time to make a commitment to the future, before we pollute the land and water in the Marcellus shale. We need to eat, but we don’t need to eat cottage cheese. We need energy, but we don’t have to burn natural gas.

Dr. Mirele B Goldsmith is a New York-based environmental psychologist and activist. She created the Tikkun Mayim, a ceremony for repair of our relationship with water, available at www.GreenStridesConsulting.com. She is also a member of the board of Hazon.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Social Protest, Fracking, Cottage Cheese

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.