Thursday, February 07, 2008

A green-washed mind

First, a link in the "useful" category, for web surfing:
Another Seafood Guide
(Our oceans are being poisoned for profit. Buyer beware!)

I was just reading the following article on MiLive, the Jackson Patriot online, and have to mention something here. (I'll insert my commentary in colored font):

Locavore hysteria revisited (the word 'hysteria' in the title already makes me wonder if this is a greenwashing piece?)
Posted by lsmithso
January 29, 2008

As many of you might have heard, the Oxford University Press named "locavore" (one or eats, or attempts to eat, locally grown and produced food) as Word of the Year for 2007.
This was certainly the foodie mantra I learned in South Carolina, where my locavorism was galvanized at the hand of my boss at Charleston City Paper.
I thought I had my take on local tomatoes all figured out. (Now I have to go find out wtf she's talking about there.) Good thing James McWilliams showed up to shake me around. But, as Treehugger pointed out and Boston's NPR (as in National Propaganda Radio?) affiliate reported, there are caveats to that maxim, especially depending on where you live. (People have always moved for jobs... that is how the right to work states in the south managed to grow at Michigan's expense, isn't it? "Where you live" is a choice, now isn't it? May I suggest moving where you live for the purpose of food sustainability? or at least, learning how to eat like a native of your chosen home?)

James McWilliams is a contributing writer for the Texas Observer and currently a fellow in Yale's agrarian studies department. In this "Moveable Feast" piece, he brings thoughtful skepticism (or green washed monkey-wrenching) to the wildly popular (and I might say, rockin' explanatory journalism) go-local credos of Bill McKibben, Barbara Kingsolver and others promoting the concept of "food mileage" and all its ancillary benefits.

His main premise is that geography -- land's ability to actually provide a substantial diet for those who live on it -- is the salient issue when it comes to impact on the earth. And that, rather than focusing so ardently on food miles, we might want to put the Eat Local movement in a broader perspective of changes that accommodate everyone -- and save the planet, of course.
(I'm waiting to hear some ideas he wants us to focus on instead of food miles. {{crickets}}
I'd like to add here, that if you think the status quo is going to save the planet that 'everyone' shares, you are sadly mistaken. A focus on 'food mileage' is the legitimate concern that we should not count our food 'cheap' if it is dependent on burning carbon, carbon from oil, mostly. Burning oil to ship a leaf of lettuce 1,500 miles is killing our shared planet. It is one of many issues in the diverse realm of mindful eating.)

Some of his startling facts:
• Lincoln University in New Zealand "found that lamb raised on New Zealand's fertile pastures and shipped by boat to the U.K. consumed 688 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per ton. By contrast, stock produced within the U.K.'s poorly adapted pastures consumed 2,849 kilograms per ton. In other words, it is four times more energy efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard."
• New Zealand's most prominent environmental research organization, the Landcare Research--Manaaki Whenua, reassessed its position on local consumption after the study was published. "Localism," two Landcare scientists wrote in late 2006, "is not always the most environmentally sound solution if more emissions are generated at other stages of the product life cycle during transport."
(I wonder what other hidden costs those ships are creating? Or maybe lamb, like bananas, should not be cheap or common. Consumers need to understand that their choosing to eat lamb is the problem. )

• McKibben's deeply researched and humanistic accounts of Eat Local victories sparkle for regions endowed with the life cycle systems to pull the victories off. For those of us poor saps stuck in locations where sustainability is a cruel joke, we can only enjoy the experience vicariously, or plan to subsist on beef jerky and well water.
(Okay, I'm missing something here. This writer lives in Michigan , right? She ought to get out more, I mean into nature, a garden, or to a farmer's market. Go over to the Student Ogranic Farm at MSU. Something! Michigan is a cornucopia!

Michigan is a wonderful place for 'foodies'! We can't economically grow coffee, tea, chocolate, olives, bananas, or citrus here, but just about anything else is being done as we speak. Barbara Kingsolver discussed that when she talked about letting the family choose one item they wouldn't be happy without. Id' have a hard time choosing between the coffee and the olives.
I know, Herb could choose to keep the olives and that would free me up to keep my fair trade shade grown coffee.
But as a matter of fact, this year I have severely cut back on buying chocolate, oranges, bananas and out of state and out of season fruit, and we have hardly missed them. Herb still needs his grapefruit and I love an occasional bag of lemons. but we are reducing our food miles by choice. And believe me, we aren't starving or eating badly.

• For environmentally concerned Americans wedded to food mile measurements, the only viable answers for reducing our dietary carbon footprint are to move to a fertile region (Kingsolver, McKibben), to live off root crops, game, and preserved food (Smith and MacKinnon), or to starve (almost Smith and McKinnon).
RUBBISH! add to that ... "Or start to make changes in our personal lives that reflect our values."
My personal take is that we subsidize "cheap" oil by waging trillion dollar bloody wars supported by an unsupportable military presence in the world (we have over 400 military bases on foreign soil.)
To heck with measuring the carbon footprint of a New Zealand lamb that a British Housewife is serving for Tuesday supper! Has anyone ever measured the carbon footprint of the American military?
Your choice is to eat or not eat that "cheap" banana shipped in from some tropical dictatorship, burning that "cheap" oil that my taxes are paying for by a subsidized war machine protection racket... instead of things I would choose to support.
This commentary will be continued on my cranky blog, in the pursuit of happiness and light...

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