Bringing the Food Economy Home
ruCs would be given free
rein-the Seattle protests thoroughly demolished
the myth that globalization is inevitable.
Since then, there have been similar protests in Washington, DC, Prague,
Quebec City, Genoa-almost everywhere policymakers have met to pro-
mote the corporate agenda. By linking consumer, labor, and environmental
concerns and by joining the interests of the Third World with those of com-
munities in the North, the protesters have come to represent a large portion
of the world's people. And virtually all the protestors are demanding a fun-
damental shift in direction.
For food in particular, such a shift is dearly needed. Centuries of agri-
cultural progress in both North and South have taken away farmers' liveli-
hoods, sapped the economic vitality of rural areas, and deeply damaged the
environment-all while reducing the quality of our food. Although the growth
of the local food movement inspires hope that fundamental change is com-
ing, its future remains in doubt as long as government policy remains so
firmly tilted against it.
government policies instead served to level the
playing field, local food systems could once again supply the majority of
people's food needs everywhere, just as they did not so long ago.
Overflowing landfills, befouled skies, eroded soils, polluted rivers, acidic
rain, and radioactive wastes suggest ample attainments for admission into
some intergalactic school for learning-disabled species.
Earth In Mind
A KEY FEATURE OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS is that food miles-the
distances food travels before reaching the consumer-are relatively low. This
tneans that local foods use far less energy, and produce less pollution and
greenhouse gases, than food from the global system. This, in fact, may be
one of the strongest arguments in favor of a shift toward local foods.
It is no longer in doubt that greenhouse gas emissions are altering global
climate. Despite the pie-in-the-sky predictions of some, global warming does
not mean that Scandinavia and New England will become suited to growing
bananas and citrus fruits. Rather than gradual warming, weather everywhere
likely to become more unstable, unpredictable, and extreme. All over the
world, in fact, people are noticing that weather patterns are changing-and
9pt for the better. In western New York, for example, parching drought
fJ"om 1997 to 1999 was followed by torrential rains in 2000, the worst in 50
years. The extreme weather "could be the final straw for many farmers,"
according to the state's governor.!
Climate change of that sort entails risks so high that it is irrational to
Continue business as usual, especially when that includes encouraging people
everywhere to depend on food transported thousands of miles instead of
food produced next door.
is a notion that borders on lunacy, yet this is
exactly what government policies in almost every country promote.
As a consequence of those policies, food miles within the global food