Ever since we lived in England in 1996-7, we have maintained a subscription to the Economist magazine. We appreciate its international coverage and clever sense of humor. Its photo editors/photo caption writers get me laughing quite often–I still chuckle over the “Greetings, earthlings” cover of Kim Jong Il.
Anyway, I typically disagree with their political and environmental perspectives, but somehow feel more informed and not quite so knee-jerk liberal by somewhat tolerantly reading them. This week’s opinion piece on organic, local, and fair trade foods got me thinking. Ethical food | Good food? | Economist.com and Food politics | Voting with your trolley | Economist.com
They generally bashed organic farms for being more land-intensive than factory farms (demanding more habitat destruction), bashed people trying to save energy by eating locally with a finding that a great part of the petroleum/energy used in the food process is in local consumer transit, not shipping. The editorial argued that New Zealand lamb, even when counting transportation to Britain, requires less energy than British lamb (something about the agricultural practices, or maybe climate). In support of this contention, I did hear an NPR commentary about an Ann Arborite who was trying to “eat local” for Thanksgiving (no foods from more than 100 mile radius of his home), and in fact he did end up doing a lot more driving than usual (including driving to Windsor to purchase salt mined under Windsor/Detroit).
The opinion piece basically said, if buying this way makes you feel good, great, but don’t confuse “voting with dollars” with actual voting and political activism. Shoot, now I actually have to go stand with the crazies on the corner and not just hide out at the fancy grocery stores.