The Organic Profit
Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism
- PUBLISHED: March 2018
- SUBJECT LISTING: Environmental Studies, History / Environmental History, Health
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 296 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 13 b&w illus.
- SERIES: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
- ISBN: 9780295743011
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
From green-lifestyle mavens who endorse products on social media to natural health activists sponsored by organic food companies, the marketplace for advice about how to live life naturally is better stocked than ever. Where did the curious idea of buying one’s way to sustainability come from? In no small part, as Andrew Case shows, the answer lies in the story of entrepreneur and reformer J. I. Rodale, his son Robert Rodale, and their company, the Rodale Press. These pioneers of organic gardening were also pioneers in cultivating a niche for natural health products in the 1950s, organizing the emerging marketplace for organic foods in the 1960s, and publishing an endless supply of advice books on diet and health in the process. Rodale’s marketplace environmentalism brought environmentally minded consumers together and taught Americans how to grow food, eat, and live in more environmentally friendly ways. Yet the marketplace has proved more effective at addressing individual health concerns than creating public health interventions. It is as liable to champion untested and ineffectual health supplements as it is to challenge the indiscriminant use of dangerous pesticides. For anyone trying to make sense of the complex tensions between business profits and the desire for environmental reform, The Organic Profit is essential reading.
Authors & Contributors
Andrew N. Case is a teaching fellow in environmental science and studies at Washington College.
"Case’s perceptive reading of the sources has produced a book that illuminates connections to many of the ideas, events, and concerns at the heart of postwar American environmentalism.... The Organic Profit should be on the shelf of anyone looking to understand the history, potential, and limitations of green consumerism."- Environmental History
"[M]ore than just a biography of Jerome and Robert, for it examines the history of the Rodale brand."- The Organic Grower
"Despite the growth of environmental history, first-rate studies of environmental capitalism remain relatively few. Andrew N. Case provides a significant addition to this literature... Case’s refusal to neither lionize nor demonize marketplace environmentalism is refreshing and provides a model for future scholars to emulate in exploring the complex intersections between environmentalism and capitalism."- Journal of American History
"...Case’s book is an exercise in wider social history. It analyses the way in which ‘marketplace environmentalism’ reflected changes in American cultural life and shopping habits."- Agricultural History Review
"The Organic Profit aptly shows the complexities and the historicity of such concepts as "organic," "natural lifestyles," and "marketplace environmentalism." It is a must-read for those who want a deeper understanding of the history and tensions underlying green consumerism."- H-Net Reviews
"The Organic Profit makes a significant contribution to the growing literature on environmental thinkers outside the wilderness preservation and resource conservation wings of the American environmental movement."- Andrew G. Kirk, author of Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism
"The Organic Profit is a provocative history. J. I. Rodale and his son Robert built a successful business by promoting what they considered a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle, and Andrew Case shows that their efforts raise important questions about the market as a driver of environmental reform."- Adam Rome, author of The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation
"The Organic Profit is a great read for anyone interested in knowing how the Rodales and Prevention Magazine helped bring organic foods from cult to mainstream and from pesticide-free produce to environmentally conscious lifestyles. This is biography, social history, and contemporary politics, all viewed through the lens of the fastest growing segment of the US food system."- Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat
"This book deserves a wide readership for its nuanced discussion on the evolving tensions between environmentalism and capitalism. Excellent historical scholarship and compelling contemporary relevance."- Geoffrey Jones, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, Harvard Business School