Online business directory eLocal USA created the following infographic to visualize the true environmental, social, and economic impacts of our purchases.
(Click to enlarge)
I really like this infographic, but it only tells half the story. What would the energy consumption / environmental damage etc be from growing “locally?” We assume it would be less, but do we really know? I’m assuming that there are some serious efficiencies of scale gained from the current industrial system. I’m not trying to troll here, I am honestly interested in what data is available on the other side of the coin.
You are quite right, this is half the story. When things can be grown locally in an environmentally sustainable way that respects the carrying capacity of the planet, then local is the way to go. But if local means monocropping, high density planting, and compromising biodiversity just for the sake of being local, then it is solely about making the farmer more money. Period. For an alternative take on the issue check out this New Yorker article ‘Big Foot’ http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/0/25/080225fa_fact_specter#ixzz0sFmDpNja.
You’ll find out that roses shipped to England from Holland have a larger carbon footprint than roses from Kenya. And a New Yorker can drink a bottle of wine shipped from France with a cleaner conscience than if it’s trucked from California. The reality is that globalization doesn’t have to be a bad thing…small sustainable farms the world over can be supported with modern transport systems that don’t cause nearly as much environmental damage as many crop growing practices do.
I couldn’t get the link to work.
Here it is again. Hope it works.
@TexansVsHunger: I believe people would be more prone to have more connections with farmers if their food came from within their community. Perhaps the farmer’s kids will go to school with your kids, or maybe you will supply some material to its farm, or live next to it. If so, there is probability to interact outside of the farmer’s market is higher, hopefully it’s positive interaction which could translate to tending the environment around your neighbors as well as possible to prevent contamination from the fields to the parks, creeks, etc. And I don’t mean “just barely” meeting the environmental standards, but going above and beyond to perhaps what is best for your immediate community.
Also, when thinking about comparing local vs non-local, it is important to note the differences amongst different types of growing techniques. Your food could be local but coming from a feedlot which more likely than not, it’s detrimental to the environment and the smell would probably really bother your neighbors. Your food could also come from a permaculture/biodynamic farm from the other side of the country and be really good to its immediate community, but would have to travel a lot to your plate–high embodied transportation energy.
This infograph is not only addressing location but also the size and ownership of farms.
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The comments below generally look at small changes in where we source our current consumption patterns. Our consumption patterns are built by a system which seldom asks what would we eat if we were concerned with the local production possibilities. I believe that when we ask this question we look more deeply at what sustainability means. It also seems that when We look at the limits of our local resources we often get an OMG response that envisions a diet of subsistence. Our current system used our ingenuity to develop both production and consumption patterns which allowed our diverse current diet. Is it possible that we could create a diverse and intersecting set of food choices if we used our creativity to grow and eat local?
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