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Locavores – pros and cons

by mel starrs on January 28, 2008

in Opinion, Theory and Comment

 Turns out, there a word for what I talked about in this post , eating within 100 miles – locavore.

Eating locally sounds like it will be of great environmental and social benefit – but is it? Tim Harford, one of my favorite economist/journalists* weighs in at Forbes.com here and the Free Exchange blog takes up the analysis here. More recently, he defends the scale of the problem we face and why carbon taxing or pricing is the only solution which works – lying as it does somewhere between the nanny state solution at one end of the spectrum telling us in minute detail what we are allowed to do, and the other end where the problem is too big, existential and distant to grasp at all.

 The food debate continues a few weeks later with Eric Schlosser (of Fast Food Nation fame) in the NYT . Again, Free Exchange weigh in with their analysis. This time I tend to disagree with FE and agree with the first commenter. More on the issues of low wage workers in the US can be found in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed and to some extent in Felicity Lawrence’s Not on the Label, which looks at the UK and Europe. All that said, tomatoes should be grown where it makes best economic sense, in terms of output and carbon, which may well indeed exclude the US.

 At the risk of exposing my laissez-faire libertarian side and coming to blows with the more socialist arguments behind some environmental dogma, on this issue I believe it is possible to promote sustainability without sticking to a locavore diet – which at it’s heart is merely protectionism dressed up in woolly packaging.

 *I am never sure if he (plus Dubner and Levitt, Worstall, etc) are journalists who write about economics, economists who are journalists or economists who are authors and have a journalism gig on the side. As an aside, I recently found a bookshop who categorised Popular Science as “Pop Science” – is this latest slew of economics books “Pop Economics”?