November 12, 2008

The war on food miles

More on the war on food miles. Ronald Bailey from the conservative reasononline argues that air freighting food accounts for a small fraction of the CO2 emitted in getting food from farm to our plates, and that we're better off growing food where it's cheapest to do so.

Of course, this is capitalism's answer for everything, and explains why it's cheaper to make New York City's manhole covers in India. Capitalism relentlessly seeks to maximize profit and minimize costs, so Detroit built SUV's for years and couldn't figure out how to make money off smaller fuel-efficient cars (and gas prices were cheap so who cared) and now needs government money to produce hybrids, and China builds pretty much everything.

Among other things this results in cheap and plentiful bananas, which are the easiest thing to feed babies (they come with a built-in wrapper.) But all the enivronmental movement is doing by pointing out food miles is asking, Is this the best thing to do? Isn't it worth considering what we are doing with our food supply and why? But the demonization of the environmental movement is part of what is pushing the Right out of the mainstream of rational public discourse. It's pretty clear by now that the "free market" can't even take care of itself, much less our healthcare or food supply.

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erg's picture

I think the against over food mile concern arguement is that even if we included the "real" cost of shipping that we would still make most food not local but where it grows best. The thing you have to understand is, as a society or species, we are not and cannot gear our entire economy and way of life to minimize CO2 emissions. We are going to, and are going to have to, target a specific, global temperature friendly CO2 emission goal and then have our economies find the way to maximize production (a ever larger amount) with that goal in mind. Under most recommendations I've seen that goal would not preclude the long distance shipping of food stuffs. Its not that the right has demonized the environmental movement (though it has, tragically for all of us) but that the environmental movement sometimes has different goals and concerns that policy makers or the general public.