Tilting at locavorist windmills

This NYT article scores some easy points against a rigorous or simplistic locavorism (e.g., there are areas of the country where pickings are pretty slim this time of year), but skims along at what turns out to be a pretty superficial level.

“Food miles” is just one consideration when it comes to eating sustainably, and quite possibly not the most important one. Method of production is probably just as, if not more, important. Also, the article conflates proximity with size, implying that “eating locally” means that everyone grows their own food in their backyard or rooftop garden. The concept of what counts as local is a good bit more complicated than that.

Clearly people often have to make trade-offs (e.g., local vs. organic), and there’s no single rule to follow here. All the more reason why we need to address these issues at a more systemic level. For instance, it’s not practical for people to calculate the carbon footprint of their food with any great precision; that’s why we need to put a price on CO2 emissions–whether through cap-and-trade or a carbon tax or some similar mechanism–so that the carbon footprint, from production through transport and sale, is built into the price of food.

UPDATE: My post skirts over a very important issue: many–maybe even most–people scarcely have the luxury of wondering whether to buy local, organic, or any other kind of food other than the cheapest. Clearly any reform of our food system has to focus on making food healthy, tasty, sustainable, and affordable.

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