Friday, August 29, 2008

Food for Thought on a Holiday Weekend

As we prepare for the traditional end-of-summer/beginning-of-school holiday, highlighted by cookouts, tailgates and other opportunities for gustatory indulgence, it might benefit to recall an old saying about "knowing where your next meal is coming from." And in this case, that statement should be taken literally.

There was an interesting post on The Fly Bottle blog, yesterday. Will Wilkinson wrote on the idea of "buying/eating local". One of the highlights was a link to some research done at Carnegie-Mellon University on the Climate Impact of Food Choices in the United States. (The article was previously referenced at the Environmental Science and Technology site.)

The main point was that if the objective of buying/eating locally grown food is to cut down on green-house gas emissions, changing eating habits is probably as effective and may be more. The research indicates that most of the greenhouse gases generated in the food chain come from production and not from transportation. (It seems that shipping trainloads or shiploads of something is actually quite efficient.)

Wilkinson does a good job of bringing the idea of comparative advantage and specialization into the argument, and one commenter actually brings up the problem of "buying local" if you happen to live someplace like Phoenix.

And for those of you who like to worry about international issues (I'm not sure why global environment wouldn't qualify, but I need a transition here), there's this piece which discusses the impact of buying/eating local could have on agricultural producers elsewhere. You're not naive enough to believe that buying corporate branded fruit from another part of the world means all the proceeds go to some poor farmer. But I also suspect you're not one to believe that buying less of the fruit doesn't have an impact on the producers in these poor countries.

It's just one more thing to mentally chew on during the cookout. I look forward to your thoughts. Have a good weekend.

1 comment:

Mike Fladlien said...

thanks for the was just what i was looking for...flad