Were excited to be getting more and more mail from the antipodes, including this recent letter from Alice in Australia, with a question were being asked a lot:
What a great notion! I like the idea that if you cannot source it from within 100 miles - just dont eat it. In Australia we are experiencing a major drought, so rice just shouldnt be grown here, as it is a serious waste of what little resources we have. I guess instead of sourcing rice from Os I could just not eat it!
What are your thoughts on all these great products from community-driven projects in third world countries that are sold through fair-trade and are making an economy for said community, like chocolate, coffee, and hand-made baskets etc? These products have a two-fold effect of income stream and livelihood for the community while being sold to consumers around the world, raising an awareness of the communitys situation
Our response is pretty simple: Local food systems first. The idea of building strong local food systems as our top priority when it comes to food makes sense whether youre in urban New York or rural Africa.
Id also add that, as far as Im aware, no one in the local foods movement is suggesting that we all need to get all of our food from our local food systems: trade has always been a part of human culture. Its a question of balance. Over the past few decades weve swung toward getting most of our food from increasingly distant sources, and as a result were eating worse food at a higher environmental and social cost, and have also lost a critical connection to the landscapes and communities we live in. Local eating is about correcting that imbalance - we eat first and foremost from the places we live in, and then look outward for certain fairly traded, environmentally sustainable goodies.
When we think about global trade, we cant separate it from global consequences. We need to make sure were asking the right questions. For example: air freighted organic fruit from sub-Saharan Africa can bring money to the community that produces it. At the same time, air freight emits a huge amount of greenhouse gases - and sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to be among the places hit first and hardest by climate change. So which makes more sense? Working to build strong local food systems in Africa as a first priority? Or stimulating Africas contribution to the global food trade?
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