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The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Dietby Pierre Desrochers
Synopses & Reviews
A new generation of food activists has come to believe that “sustainable farming” and “eating local” are the way to solve a host of perceived problems with our modern food supply system. By combining healthy eating and a high standard of environmental stewardship, these locavores think, we can also deliver important economic benefits and increase food security within local economies.
But after a thorough review of the evidence, economic geographer Pierre Desrochers and policy analyst Hiroko Shimizu have concluded these claims are mistaken. In The Locavore’s Dilemma, they explain the history, science, and economics of food supply to reveal what locavores miss or misunderstand: the real environmental impacts of agricultural production; the drudgery of subsistence farming; and the essential role large-scale, industrial producers play in making food more available, varied, affordable, and nutritionally rich than ever before in history. At best, they show, locavorism is a well-meaning marketing fad among the world’s most privileged consumers. At worst, it constitutes a dangerous distraction from solving serious global food issues.
Deliberately provocative, but based on scrupulous research and incontrovertible scientific evidence, The Locavore’s Dilemma proves that:
• Our modern food-supply chain is a superior alternative that has evolved through constant competition and ever-more-rigorous efficiency.
• A world food chain characterized by free trade and the absence of agricultural subsidies would deliver lower prices and more variety in a manner that is both economically and environmentally more sustainable.
• There is no need to feel guilty for not joining the locavores on their crusade. Eating globally, not only locally, is the way to save the planet.
"A Canadian academic couple attempts a soup-to-nuts debunking of the local slow food movement ('locavorism') in this daring, bare-knuckled, frequently sarcastic defense of the status quo in Western industrial agribusiness. From the point of view of the well-off, well-fed North American who does not have to toil much of the day for his subsistence, what's not to praise in the West's ability to provide the world with cheap, fast, uniform, reliable, bug-resistant, vitamin-enhanced food? After all, we've grown literally in stature and size thanks to the Western diet and largely eliminated famine (on our side of the world, anyway); the free flow of food across world borders keeps peace and allows most of us (who can pay) to consume all kinds of unseasonable foods year-round, requiring only a fraction of the fuel needed to keep the local energy-guzzling greenhouses running, they write. Desrochers, geography professor at the University of Toronto, and Shimizu, a public policy scholar trained in Japan, cite impressive experts, from Aristotle to the Hudson Institute's Dennis Avery, to address the 'myths' in what they consider the romantic, risible, irrational movement to patronize one's local organic farmer: indeed, they argue, urbanization has brought prosperity; globalization wields peace and security; 'food miles' is a joke; packaged food is safer than handling it at home; and the notion of peak oil (someday running out of fuel with which to haul all that food across the world) is an 'untenable proposition,' since we'll just go back to coal. A provocative take, to be sure, and one that will invite the ire of the 99%. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A feisty, scrupulously-researched deconstruction of the eat local” ethos—and how it distracts us from solving serious global food issues
Todays food activists think that sustainable farming” and eating local” are the way to solve a host of perceived problems with our modern food supply system. But after a thorough review of the evidence, Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu have concluded that these claims are mistaken.
In The Locavores Dilemma they explain the history, science, and economics of food supply to reveal what locavores miss or misunderstand: the real environmental impacts of agricultural production; the drudgery of subsistence farming; and the essential role large-scale, industrial producers play in making food more available, varied, affordable, and nutritionally rich than ever before in history.
They show how eliminating agriculture subsidies and opening up international trade, not reducing food miles, is the real route to sustainability; and why eating globally, not only locally, is the way to save the planet.
About the Author
Pierre Desrochers is an associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto who writes frequently on economic development, globalization, energy, and transportation issues. He was a research fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University. Hiroko Shimizu holds a master’s of international public policy from Osaka University. Desrochers and Shimizu have both been research fellows of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, and the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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