The Locavore's Dilemma

The Locavore's Dilemma

In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet

Book - 2012
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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.

Publisher: New York : PublicAffairs, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781586489403
Branch Call Number: 338. 19 DES
Characteristics: xxviii, 256 p. ; 25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Shimizu, Hiroko 1965-


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Stan Combs
May 27, 2014

Finally, two people with the guts to counter the myths propagated by noisy "food activists" (who have little or no knowledge of agriculture or economics) with researched information and analysis. As an agricultural professional with third-world experience, I applaud their demonstration that "localvorism" equals a "nasty, brutish, and short" life, both historically and at present. I lived and worked in regional development in a South Pacific archipelago where 85% of the population mostly ate organic food with zero food miles. One year, after poor growing weather, I organized food relief for most of the island I lived on - so much for local food security. Later, I visited many of the islands meeting with local people to ask, "What do you want from 'development'?" The universal answer was the opportunity to raise crops that could be exported for foreign cash so they could buy the things we Westerners take for granted; women added the opportunity to grow new imported crops to better feed their families, and better child-birth facilities (that would require exports for foreign exchange in order for the government to build and operate them) - so much for the social and economic benefits of the "idyllic" locavore life.

Oct 28, 2013

This book clearly demonstrates that contemporary agricultural practices (and globalized agricultural markets) are more efficient than locavorism. Where the book falls down is its failure to meaningfully engage with the peak oil (or peak energy or peak everything) thesis. The authors do touch on peak oil and, in two and a half pages they dismiss it, making the (probably incorrect) assumption (typical of neoclassical economics) that substitutes will arise.

While analytically convenient, dismissing the rapid depletion of the key input to contemporary agriculture and global trade fundamentally undermines the value and validity of their book. This oversight is a bit ironic given that the authors’ charge that locavores “fail to take a broad enough look at the relevant issues to understand some inherent shortcomings of their prescription” (pp. 87-88).

While the Locavore’s Dilemma is a useful corrective to weak arguments for changing agricultural practices, it obscures the more salient issue: globalized food production will be unsustainable within the next 30 years and public policy ought to encourage us to alter what we produce and consume (and how we produce and consume it). Locavorism offers one model; perhaps there are others? Ignoring this issue does readers (and society) a disservice.

Mar 08, 2013

As someone who grew up on the farm, I am so glad to see this book. It's well overdue for people to get real data to counter the incredibly misinformation that's out there.

Unfortunately, it runs completely counter to the politically correct, enviro-narrative, which means the authors have been virulently attacked personally for daring to speak out. In reality, the authors are very approachable - Pierre Desrochers has even responded to me personally through their facebook page. Unlike their detractors, the authors are approachable and open to discussion.

Oct 15, 2012

An important work that cuts through the cacophony of environmental activism and debunks, effectively, its myths.

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