How few people in our familiar world of western society eat mostly local food, ever since motorized vehicles connected us so quickly. The diversity of foods available to us now would be truly incredible, if it weren’t so entirely credible by today’s standards. No doubt this is a wonderful aspect of modern life, other than the costs to the planet. But food must be fundamental to the world economy. Even so, when olive oil from Italy is cheaper than the local stuff here in Santa Barbara, one must ask why. Even IF real estate and labor is cheaper in Italy, over 6,000 miles away.
Santa Barbara County is a truly bountiful place. More than 75 kinds of fruits and vegetables are grown here. It is among the top 1% of farming counties in the country, producing over a billion dollars worth annually. There is also local dairy, beef, pork, fish. We produce plenty of wines. (We don’t grow our grains, which is, granted, a large portion of our diets.) And yet, 99% of our county’s food is being exported, 95% of all that we eat here is imported. A study by David Cleveland at UC Santa Barbara has explored this conundrum as part of its associated greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for localizing our economy. The results point to large scale ag. production, fertilizers, processing and packaging as being far worse than the final transport of the goods.
Surely though, some improvement – low hanging fruit, so to speak – is possible. Some years ago the BBC offered a fun science quiz that included this fact: “The energy used to import a kg. of fresh spinach from California to the UK is equivalent to running a 100 watt light bulb for: 1 month!” – this being about half of my daily use of electricity at home for that month.
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Barbara Hirsch, recording engineer, eco-person
“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax, Children’s book by Dr. Seuss
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