Saturday, May 13, 2006

Eat Local Challenge 2006

The folks who organized the Eat Local Challenge last year (earlier post) have an even more interesting project this year -- a group weblog by and for people who are exploring the joys and limitations of their own personal local purchase disciplines.

The local eating movement has its detractors. For example, the global culinary perspective from the weblog Too Many Chefs: "There's a movement afoot to eat only food made with local ingredients prepared simply.... To this, I say 'Phooey!'".

Half Changed World argues that other environmental choices -- in particular the choice of where to live, what to drive, and how much meat to eat -- matter more than the local origin of one's food.

In Salon, recently, the ever provocative Peter Singer argues that ethical living demands buying food not from next door, but from Bangladesh:
[T]he idea that you can save fossil fuels by not transporting food long distances... is a widespread belief, and of course it has some basis. Other things being equal, if your food is grown locally, you will save on fossil fuels. But other things are often not equal. California rice is produced using artificial irrigation and fertilizer that involves energy use. Bangladeshi rice takes advantage of the natural flooding of the rivers and doesn't require artificial irrigation. It also doesn't involve as much synthetic fertilizer because the rivers wash down nutrients, so it's significantly less energy intensive to produce. Now, it's then shipped across the world, but shipping is an extremely fuel-efficient form of transport. You can ship something 10,000 miles for the same amount of fuel necessary to truck it 1,000 miles. So if you're getting your rice shipped to San Francisco from Bangladesh, fewer fossil fuels were used to get it there than if you bought it in California.
In fact, if you read closely, the tone of the Eating Local Challenge authors survives this second guessing quite well. Their weblog is nicknamed the ELC, not the ELR ("Eating Local Religion"). I may be too much of an economist to adopt a strict discipline, such as the 100-mile diet, but I am loving the ELC weblog.