Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Monday, December 17, 2012

On the Hundred Mile Diet

Sometimes on Twitter you can run into a conversation between other people partway, and because it's public, it's possible to weigh in on the matter at hand. Someone I follow was having a conversation with someone about shopping at Wal-Mart, but I didn't see that, and the other person said something about how farming practices on Vancouver Island make the 100-mile diet unlikely (I can't remember her words exactly).

Now this is someone who I once followed on Twitter, and who once presented a workshop I attended. On seeing that her values are not in line with my own, I stopped following her, but I can see (based on the Wal-Mart conversation when I went back to look at it) that she is someone who is fully in the fold of our modern consumerist society and doesn't really get the whole local food thing.

I tread carefully here, because while I'm on a soapbox, I also don't want to be too critical. My friend's part about Wal-Mart was that if you have to use it, it's a good thing that it's there, but we do have a choice. And despite that the ultra-low wages of Wal-Mart employees have been in the news lately, and that outrageous statistic that something like more than half their employees are on food stamps, I would argue that there is a portion of Wal-Mart customers whose attitude is of "I don't care about them, I have to feed my kids".

But the equation is not that simple. Everything we do is a choice. We weigh our choices as a consumer based on our values. What is important to you? There was another study arguing recently that organic food is not significantly more nutritious than conventionally grown food. To base ones choices on whether to buy organic on this single point alone, I think, misses the point entirely. Conventionally grown food uses all kinds of herbicides, pesticides, hormones and all manner of chemical to force food to grow in a sterile environment. I would bet money that if the farmers in the prairies stopped using chemical on their fields, the incidence of asthma in those provinces would be reduced by half. Another point: tons of fossil fuels are used so that we can have Peruvian asparagus in November, and tropical fruits year-round. I went to a grocery store in Cobble Hill earlier this year, passed a handful of cattle farms on the way to the grocery store and they had no local beef, only beef imported from Australia. How does this make any sense?

So I decided not to engage in conversation with this woman on Twitter. I didn't feel like I had the energy to have that conversation and I didn't think it was worth my time to educate her. People don't like being preached to. I don't even know what she meant by "farming practices" on Vancouver Island, but goodness, it sounded like she wanted bananas to grow on the Saannich Peninsula. I commented about the farming practices she referred to, saying that it's not just farming practices, but the kind of diet we have gotten used to. Her reply: "I agree. I prefer fresh out-of-season veggies to preserved local most of the time". GACK!! I was not supporting her in the argument! I dropped the conversation at that point.

I have, since late summer, been reading a number of books about growing food, food preservation, self-sufficiency, permaculture, self-reliance, and more or less being prepared for the decline of our current way of life. Between climate change, energy decline (as in the decline in the extraction of fossil fuel resources from the earth), and the current economic situation in the world (which I believe will never "recover" as the economists would have it), I think it is important, for me at least, to prepare for a life of not finding things at the grocery store, or not being able to afford what is offered there.

Our modern way of life is not sustainable. It's only in the last century that we have even been able to get out-of-season veggies in the grocery store whenever we want them. That is only made possible by cheap fossil fuels. The point I was trying to make to this woman is that the 100-mile diet is possible on Vancouver Island, we just have to change the way we eat, which includes putting food by and eating from the pantry. This doesn't mean we can or even should grow it all ourselves - but I do feel that building relationships in our communities where we can trade or barter our goods and services for things we can't produce ourselves will become an increasingly important aspect of our lives.

//end rant

(So much for not being critical. Just before I wrote this post, one of the bloggers I read posted this about the price of food in the store and being able to grow it yourself. Have a look!)

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