You are here

Local Solutions Not Suitable for Global Issues

From an editorial of the same title by William Falk in the current issue of The Week:

To accurately calculate a product's carbon impact, they found, you have to go beyond "food miles"-the distance that kiwi or artichoke-flecked sausage traveled before reaching your table-and figure in how much fertilizer, transported water, electricity, and other energy was used to produce it. Lamb raised on New Zealand's sunnier, grassier hills and shipped 11,000 miles to Britain, the study found, produced a mere 1,520 pounds of carbon emissions per ton. "Local" British lamb, which requires more intensive care, produced 6,280 pounds-four times as much. As if that heresy were not upsetting enough, a British scientist has calculated that walking to the store contributes more to global warming than driving a car. Walking, it seems, burns calories, which have to be replaced by eating food. And producing food-especially beef and dairy products-is more carbon-intensive than burning a smidgen of gasoline, particularly since ruminating cattle emit so much methane.

It was funny when I read that today because I had just finished listening to a Science Friday segment where the guests were emphasizing the virtues of locally-grown food. There is a New York times op-ed that argues, based on the New Zealand study, that buying local food isn't always best for the environment here. Response letters are here. An article about walking vs driving is here. This reminds me of a talk I heard by a professor within a month or so of joining Dow (fall 1999). He had done an analysis that showed, at least for a particular case, creating fuel from crops was a net energy drain primarily because of the energy used to make fertilizer.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer