December 20, 2007

I ran across this article in the BBC today about a family in Scotland trying out a “locavore” diet. (Locavore—a combination of “local” and “omnivore”—refers to a person who only eats food sourced within a certain radius of where they live, usually 100 miles.) Those of you who attended our Moving Mountains Symposium on Energy last year will remember our attempt at a locavore lunch—which had mixed success. (Buffalo burgers and brats were good, I hear, but in general the meal was said to be a bit…bland…)

On an average trip to the grocery last week, I bought pineapple from Thailand, tuna from Hawaii and peppers from Ecuador. A locavore argues that our current system of food distribution isn’t sustainable, not to mention that it does little to promote local economic growth. But what would happen if we limited ourselves to only regionally produced food? Right off the bat, you’re left with much less diversity.

Elk—our winter locavore diet in Colorado.

In the winter, our options in Colorado would be severely limited. Visions of sugar plums dance in our heads, but we couldn’t get sugar or plums here. (The closest plums are grown is the Northeastern US.) Chesnuts roasting on the fire? Nope. (Bolivia.) For egg nog, we’d have to leave out the vanilla, nutmeg, sugar (Mexico, Indonesia, Carribean)…and the rum.

So it is possible to eat a truly locavore diet? Is it even desirable? Transporting food thousands of miles is not a new concept. We associate Italian food with tomatoes, for example, but tomatoes were a New World transplant to Italy in the 1500s. Like your Thai food spicy? There is not a single species of pepper native to Thailand.

I certainly identify with the desire to live a more sustainable life, but where do we draw the line?

Posted by Emily Long

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