A Natural Farming Event with Lexus?

We had a surprising request a few months back from Toyota / Lexus of all companies.

Lotte World Tower in Seoul, Korea / image: Patrick M. Lydon
Lotte World Tower in Seoul, Korea / image: Patrick M. Lydon

Apparently Lexus Korea were opening a cafe in Gangnam, in the ground floor of the Lotte World Mall–adjacent Korea’s tower of all towers, the Lotte World Tower. They wanted us to come and show the Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness film, and talk about food and farming.

If you know us, you know we would think this sounded highly suspect, not to mention totally uninteresting.

However, after a bit of digging, we found that Lexus in fact have a program to support young, small scale, organic farmers in Korea, and that cafe was one way to support these farmers, and to bring their message to the general, everyday car-buying public.

To be sure, it’s a bit of a PR scheme. What we do like though, is that young people are being supported to start farming, and to do it in a way that ensures the health of the planet. We need more of that, however we can get it. Now, if somehow all car companies were required to offset the pollution and environmental destruction caused by the manufacture and use of personal motor vehicles, well, then we’d be talking about a really interesting program. For now, it’s just one small opportunity to reach the general public with an important message about how they can help build a more beautiful future.

I’ve been party to multiple conversations lately, where environmentalists and industry are at the table together. In each case, both sides realize they want the same thing, and that instead of making enemies of each other, they can support each other. Both sides know what is at stake. Neither side wants to see a desolate future for humanity, let alone to be seen as the cause of it. In the end, both realize that they have some learning to do in order to achieve it.

In this spirit, Suhee and I accepted the screening and talk as an opportunity to show the film and have a chat with folks in this most unlikely of places.

Patrick and Suhee talk with the audience after a screening of Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness at the Lexus ‘Connect To’ Cafe in Seoul, Korea / photo courtesy of the event

We were surprised.

The audience included many young people who are beginning their farming careers, and who have the desire and energy to figure out how they can grow good food in ways that support the health of people and our planet.

If a company like Toyota/Lexus is moving this way, well, that’s one of many signs we’ve noticed lately, that industry leaders are at least beginning to acknowledge what needs to happen, even if they are not yet necessarily doing anything fundamentally different in their business practices — and let’s be honest, Toyota is still a company that intends to sell as many cars to as many people as possible.

The next step is for Toyota to figure out how they fit into a world where people rely on cars less than they do today, and how the cars that are produced will be built to last generations and cause net-zero environmental degredation.

There’s a lot of work to be done, not just with cars and food, but with all that we grow and build in our society.

This is a start.

Let’s keep going in this direction, folks.

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