Locavores were admonished of arithmetical problems in a recent op-ed by Stephen Budiansky in the NYT. His premise is that the many-calories-to-transport food equations are incorrect; that only a very small proportion of food’s environmental impact is via fossil fuel cross country transportation. That may be so. But the industrial food system continues to require vast amounts of carbon pollution any way you look at it.
Locavorism is trying to get around this, and embrace food sourcing from more sustainable means. I do agree, however, that many locavores have problems with their arithmetic. Certainly, driving an SUV 40 minutes to a local farm for a single meal’s worth of food is not good in the carbon ledger. I used to run a farm stand and saw a lot of these customers. It drove me nuts. Luckily, there were also the sainted sweethearts who rode their bikes to the farm. I would give them free flowers.
Locavorism does have a lot of varieties. For each verdant eco-activist doing the hard calculations, there are ten on the bandwagon just for the bragging rights. Have you been to a whole foods lately? A lot of this is fueled by wealth, inordinate wealth, the kind that need the society and fashion pages of the NYT. I too am indignant at the chique chicanery of pop locavorism.
Sustainable local food systems require informed and conscientious participants, it doesn’t matter what they are called. Over time, the extravagancies of rich locavorism and profligate industrial food systems will all be seen as a shame, if not an outright sham.
Healthful, sustainably-oriented eaters will continue to look at supporting local economies by paying farmers directly at farmers markets and continue to reduce the environmental impact of their eating habits. The one-third of energy in the food system being used in people’s own homes, mostly for refrigeration, is a huge insight. To what degree can people prepare food using less energy (like in pressure cookers?) or eat food raw (a.k.a. “salad”)? Are you eating lower on the food chain? Are you letting fresh berries and mangoes be rare treats? What forms of food can be stored without refrigeration? How many people are really not letting things rot in their refrigerators? How many people really clean their plates and save the leftovers?
There just is a lot of waste in our food system. The industrialization of food and the cheapening of food have contributed to this profligacy. It is up to each of us to seek to waste less – less food, less spoilage, less pollution from production and transportation, and less fossil energy embodied in the food. Locavores are trying to address all these things at once, and of course industrialized food proponents and industrial media agents are going to try to undermine the efforts of sustainability, as it is a categorical refutation of industrial profiteering.
Eat Well, True Locavores!