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To Eat (Local) or Not to Eat (Local)? That is the Question.

August 24, 2009
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Not as Green as You Think???

I just found a very interesting interview about sustainable food on NPR’s Science Friday.  Author James McWilliams has just written a book called Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly.  In the book, McWilliams claims that eating locally is not the “best” way to be a responsible conservator of the Earth.

What’s McMillan’s problem, you ask?  He feels that locavores have become too fundamental, and perhaps have become uber-local (to the exclusion of all non-local food), thus losing a necessary global perspective on the food supply.  He proposes reducing the consumption of meat as a primary means of reducing environmental impact.  One of his claims is that if a meat-eater gives up meat at one meal per week, the impact is identical to eating exclusively locally-grown food for one week (plants take less energy to produce than meat, ostensibly).

McWilliams squares off against two noted experts in the field, including my hero Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

Pollan doesn’t quite agree with everything McWilliams posits (especially about the importance of “organics”), though he does concede McWilliams’ point about locavore fundamentalism: eating exclusively locally precludes you from enjoying a vast array of foods (think coffee, bananas, cinnamon) and he doesn’t believe that anyone would do the 100-Mile Diet as anything more than “a stunt”.  Even the creators of the 100-Mile Diet (whom I met last fall) admit that it’s a dreadfully difficult, almost Sisyphean task.

One wonderful comment from Pollan during this interview: he hails the Farmers Market as more than a food source – it serves a civic function as the new “town square” where people gather to meet friends and a generally get more “connected” to the world around them.  I get that!  I love going to the market, even if I don’t buy anything, because I always run into friends, and get to be part of my community.

I am definitely adding McWilliams’ book to my “Plan to Read” list.

Well, I think that’s enough of an intro: Listen to the segment HERE.

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