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Summary, Synthesis, and Application of Bill McKibben's Deep Economy, Chapter 2: The Year of Eating Locally
In this chapter of Bill McKibben's Deep Economy, the author frames his discussion of the industrial agricultural and food industries with his attempt to eat only local foods through a harsh Vermont winter. His discussion of the advantages and challenges of this decision is interspersed with long commentaries on the basic inefficiencies of producing food and agricultural products on an industrial scale, as well as the environmental in-sustainability of the current system. McKibben also examines the local alternatives to this industrial food complex, providing a more practical use for the frame he provides in his attempt to eat locally for a winter. Ultimately, McKibben is calling for a reassessment of the way we receive our food and the variety of effects-on our health, economy, and environment-that industrial food production has.
While out driving on an Interstate highway several months ago, I moved into the left lane to pass a truck loaded with red and somewhat plasticy tomatoes. I initially began thinking about what I had read somewhere, sometime before this incident, tomatoes had been bred in the twentieth century not to preserve their flavor, but to develop toughness that actually destroyed a lot of the flavor but allowed them to be shipped without bruising and squashing much more easily. I had also heard that tomatoes were often picked early, meaning they would be extra firm as they would be under-ripe during shipping, and that sometimes chemicals were used to enhance a tomatoes redness to make up for all of the deficiencies caused by the other practices. These thoughts were certainly a poor enough comment on the changes industrial agriculture have wrought, but they still didn't prepare me for what happened next.
As I was moving back into the right lane, having passed the slow moving truck with the hardened tomatoes, a similar truck with an identical load of tomatoes passed us both going in the other direction. There was an entire truckload of tomatoes headed East for who know how many hundreds or possibly thousands of miles, and another truckload headed in the opposite direction possibly even farther! There is no greater illustration available for the inefficiencies of our modern food system than had a satellite snapped a birds-eye-view photograph of these two tomato trucks passing each other, on there way to destinations unknown with tomatoes that likely could have been eaten ten miles from where they were picked. When McKibben points out inefficiencies, he mentions many of the alarming figures requiring transportation costs and other factors. But the sheer time wasted, and the logistical ineptitude that is apparent in this incident, are also reasons to abandon industrial agriculture in favor of eating locally.
As McKibben also notes, it will likely be impossible to convince everyone to start eating locally, and indeed a drastic sudden change would doubltess cause major problems for many communities and individuals. But there can be better regulation and coordination of the agriculture industry, which would lead to less waste and better tasting food. If distribution could be centrally coordinated between the various companies and factory farmers, local produce could become a more common item in the large chain grocery stores. Growers wouldn't need to sacrifice taste and texture for ease of shipping which means a better product could be delivered at less cost (due to transportation reductions). If the industry were willing to submit to such regulation it could prove very effective.[continue]
"Deep Economy Response Paper" (2009, September 28) Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/deep-economy-response-paper-19112
"Deep Economy Response Paper" 28 September 2009. Web.2 August. 2015. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/deep-economy-response-paper-19112>
"Deep Economy Response Paper", 28 September 2009, Accessed.2 August. 2015, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/deep-economy-response-paper-19112