Economic Illiteracy

Yet another weird SF fan points out this example of dueling Luddites.  Here is a particularly nice example:

My favorite definition of local comes from Columbia's Gussow, a
reporter for Time in the 1950s who went on to become a local-eating
pioneer. For 25 years, Gussow has lectured on the environmental (and
culinary) disadvantages of relying on a global food supply. Her most
oft-quoted statistic is that shipping a strawberry from California to
New York requires 435 calories of fossil fuel but provides the eater
with only 5 calories of nutrition. In her memoir, Gussow offers this
rather poetic meaning of local: "Within a day's leisurely drive of our
homes. [This] distance is entirely arbitrary. But then, so was the
decision made by others long ago that we ought to have produce from all
around the world."

It is hard to even begin with statement.  First, I am not sure anyone since Ghandi has really challenged the notion of division of labor, which in fact is what Gussow is lamenting.  Second, it would be interesting to ask Gussow what residents of Chad should do for locally-grown food.  Third, the last sentence is great, in that it works from the Dr. Evil Cabal theory of capitalism, positing that current trade patterns are based on "decisions made by others long ago."  And all these complaints don't even tought the silliness of somehow comparing food calories with calories of work from fossil fuels (unless Gussow is drinking Sterno at night, which might explain a lot). 

  • And anyway, food calories are in reality kilocalories, meaning that a strawberry really has 5000 calories of heat energy. This, I would assume is the proper comparison.

  • happyjuggler0

    Tim Harford has an article on the environmental impact of food miles. One quote: Hardly any food miles are, in fact, air miles. Just under half of them are customers driving to the shops, the rest are vans and lorries shipping food around on the roads. Air and sea miles are a rounding error - 0.1 per cent for air and 0.04 per cent for sea, according to a report on food miles commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and published in July 2005.

    In other words, if you have to travel farther to a grocery store that buys local, let alone to a farmer's market in a rural area, then you are likely causing more emissions per consumed food than if you had picked the most convenient local grocery store.

    The whole article is worth reading in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Its not Ghandi, its Gandhi.