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Local ≠ Sustainable

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.—H. L. Mencken

I have been growing increasingly disenchanted with the local food movement. It strikes me as a simplistic solution to a complex problem.

Consider our love affair with food miles. In theory, locally grown foods have traveled shorter distances and thus represent less fuel use and lower carbon emissions—their resource footprint is smaller. And yet, for all the benefits of a local diet, eating locally doesn’t always translate into more sustainability. Because the typical farmers market is supplied by dozens of different farms, each transporting its crops in a separate van or truck, a 20-pound shopping basket of locally grown produce might actually represent a larger carbon footprint than the same volume of produce purchased at a chain retailer, which gets its produce en masse, via large trucks. (Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008, MotherJones)

Thank you! It’s easy to buy something labeled organic and take no more thought to whether our actions are helping to solve anything. It’s time for us to tear down some of these icons that we’ve been worshiping.

On a mildly related note, I’m feeling my beans today, so I hereby commit that I’ve eaten my last beef, pork, and shrimp. I’m not advocating that everyone do likewise. Taking smaller actions like eating no meat before dinner can help build a sustainable system.

(via Bitten)

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  1. Lacey said,

    March 5, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

    I felt so much pressure to each the shrimp we had at the restaurant since he had just made it and he just put it right on our plates first.

    Now I know that I’ll have to tell the waitress we don’t eat shrimp ahead of time.

    It’s a good think your wife doesn’t cook those meats you just listed except I do like breakfast sausage still but you haven’t eaten it anyways. ;)

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    March 5, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

    Shh! You’re not supposed to give away how easy it’ll be. :)

    So, yeah. The most difficulty for me will be when I’m a guest at someone’s house.

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