Is Whole Foods Bad for the Planet?
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has probably brought more people to organic foods than anyone else in the United States. And many of the folks shopping at his markets undoubtedly consider themselves to be environmentally aware. They might even believe that by purchasing their groceries at Whole Foods outlets they are doing their part to help the planet. But certainly many of them would probably be startled to learn of of Mackey's position on climate change: he's a global warming denier.
In a recent New Yorker profile of Mackey, the Whole Foods chief argues that there is no scientific consensus regarding the causes of climate change. He lists Heaven and Earth: Global Warming--the Missing Science, a skeptical take on warming, as one of his recent favorite reads. He frets that the "hysteria about global warming" will cause the United States "to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty." He adds: "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."
Mackey, of course, is wrong about the absence of a scientific consensus, and his theory that warmer temperatures produce prosperity is, to say the least, wacky. But his embrace of climate change denial is not truly a surprise, for Mackey is an unabashed libertarian, opposed to the very idea of "regulation" and "taxes," no matter their purpose. He may be the vegan CEO of the country's largest natural market chain, but he voted for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr last year--because Ron Paul wasn't on the ballot. There's long been a debate over whether Mackey is a do-gooder or a simply a profiteer in disguise. (The whole sock-puppeting incident made him seem more of a bizarre egomaniac than anything else).
Though many of his shoppers are concerned about personal and planetary health, his latest revelation so far has gotten scant attention. But when Mackey penned an anti-health care reform op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last August, it spurred a swift call for boycott from progressives. "Whole Foods has built its brand with the dollars of deceived progressives," proclaimed the the "Boycott Whole Foods" Facebook page, which had 33,829 members at last count. "Let them know your money will no longer go to support Whole Foods' anti-union, anti-health insurance reform, right-wing activities." A website promoting the boycott also sprang up. Mackey's anti-labor positions have also triggered considerable ire, after he compared having a union to "having herpes." But there's yet no virtual call to eschew Whole Foods because of Mackey's global warming position.