August 21, 2010 4 Comments
In an editorial appearing in yesterday’s New York Times, Stephen Budiansky drew a good deal of attention from the web’s food writers for dressing down locavore-types who, when making food purchases, blindly favor the apparent geographic origin of the food above all other factors. That “food miles” are only one small part of the sustainability equation is and always has been a fair point. A lot more goes into “sustainability” than simple geography. Budiansky instead craves what he calls efficiency: we can’t all feed ourselves, but we all have to be fed, so we should grow our food where it is best grown, in warm climates, instead of where it might inefficiently be grown, like snowy New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, he does not follow through with a very meaningful argument, and in fact appears to rail against invisible enemies he conjures up, like oranges and bananas overwintered in do-gooder New England hothouses. There are some instances of inefficiencies like these in real life (like eating meat, a subject he avoids), but in attacking the perceived misconceptions of one movement (that local is always better), he does nothing to convince us that this “forced” alien produce is actually a legitimate threat, or that, in slavishly purchasing it, local food lovers are contributing to the downfall of proper social advancement. Nevertheless, he slashes at these evil entities in order to buttress a dangerous prescription: when it comes to our food system, we knuckleheads should all calm down and realize that “non-locavores” are actually doing just great.