30 June 2007

Eating locally

The speakers at today's Galiano Conservancy AGM were Alisa Smith & James B. MacKinnon, authors of the 100-Mile Diet. It was wonderful to hear the thoughts of two bright young people who had touched upon the right topic at the right moment; for those of you who don't know, the book is about their efforts to spend an entire year eating food that was grown within 100 miles of their apartment in Vancouver. The premise is wonderful, and the notion of eating locally has much to recommend it: not only is less energy required to transport the food, but one is naturally forced to eat seasonally.

But as I listened to Alisa and James speak about the manifold advantages of eating locally, I could not help but reflect upon the fact that it is unlikely to be widely adopted. At least not yet. True, it is better for the planet, and these days there is a remarkable groundswell of support for all things green. But such efforts are not sustainable when motivation is tied to altruism; an economic incentive is required as well. Indeed, the epidemic of obesity is linked to the observation that never before in human history have so many calories been available for so little money.

Of course, when the ongoing party enabled by cheap oil ends, eating locally will not just be in vogue but will become a practical necessity. Suburban lawns will convert very nicely into subsistence gardens. Urban gardens will spring up everywhere. Local farms will once again be valued for the edible bounty that they provide. One can only hope that we are not already so estranged from the good earth that we will still be able to make the transition.

Update: James posted a nice piece on the 100 mile diet website about their day on Galiano, including the wonderful local lunch that they had at Rose's home.

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