Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

While Halifax is Burning is predominantly a radio show & blog focused on music, I'm also going to take the time to promote other important causes too. Case in point: Blog Action Day:

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.

So in honour of this event, I am going to dedicate this post to something that really shocked me this weekend re: an environmental cause.

On Sunday, October 10th, the front page article in the Chronicle Herald was titled: "Is Local Better?"

While I recommend you take the time to read that article in full, here's the jist of it: Buying is definitely not cheaper or healthier for you.

Listen, people who buy local aren't necessarily interested in those qualities when it comes to fruits and veggies. For most people (or at least for me), buying local comes down to two very important rationalizations:

1) Supporting local farmers and the local economy
2) Hopefully making some sort of minuscule environmental impact.

When I get my food box every week from a local food co-op or from the farmer's market on Saturday mornings, I am really not concerned about my calorie intake or the ramifications on my pocket book. I am interested in a) helping a local, worthwhile, community venture and b) doing something small, but hopefully important, for an environmental cause.

Now, like the article states: "'People like to say buying local has lower environmental impacts because it seems objective, even though it may be completely unsubstantiated,' says [Peter Tyedmers, a Dalhousie University professor who researches the environmental impacts of food systems]."

Tyedmers argues that "When it comes to the greenhouse gas emissions, transporting food is one part of the environmental equation. But he says it can be easily outweighed by other factors, such as how much electricity is used to produce and process the crop and whether that electricity comes from coal or wind, for example."

OK, maybe there hasn't been sufficient and/or substantial research done on the balance of factors that Tyedmers is talking about, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that the amount of energy and emissions it takes a local farmer to grow and sell a few bunches of carrots at the farmer's market is probably considerably, most likely exponentially, less than buying a bunch of carrots from California.

Yes, there may be some grey areas - but holy cow. Isn't at least trying to buy local a better start and a better initiative for motivating some positive change than continuing to buy strawberries from Ecuador in the middle of January.

And of course, if you buy strictly local you will be committed to dealing with the fruits and veggies you can get that are in season. But is that so bad? I know we're accustomed to being able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want (thanks capitalism!), but to affect change there has to be some give and take. I'm OK with only eating the best apples from the Annapolis Valley in the fall and leaving the peaches from South America behind. Change takes sacrifice, you can't expect this to come easy. If it was easy, we would have done something a long time ago I presume.

The worst part about this article is that is was on the front page of the only provincial daily. If this article convinces even one person who is on the fence about buying local to not buy local, the Chronicle-Herald has committed a grave injustice and has successfully hindered the progress us locavores (as the article says) are trying to enact in our very own, very small, very personal way.

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