Just listened to a 20 minute CBC podcast of the program “The 180,” with Jim Brown. He was interviewing Al Mussel; the descriptor for the interview reads: “Want to Save the Planet? Skip the farmer's market.” The argument wasn't hard to follow, if somewhat hard to swallow: the world population requires efficient, massive food production which local, intensive farming can't deliver. Hence, if we want to feed the world, relying on local, intensive production will require putting more land into agricultural use which, in turn, will devastate wet lands, forests, etc.
Like many, we (my wife and I) have fallen in love with the local food markets. Recently, we went out to a nephew's small market garden and dug our own potatoes, beets, carrots and picked a bushel of tomatoes. A month ago, we joined a group of friends in butchering 113 free range chickens in exchange for our winter's supply. Our experience is that local production allows us to judge the quality of the product, thereby enabling healthier, tastier eating. (The emphasis, I think, should be on “tastier”: eat a tomato off the vine or a chicken off the grass and store produce begins to taste like cardboard.)
But then, we North Americans have choices in this matter; much of the world doesn't.
Obviously, the discussion about food consumption and production can't be just one dialogue. An individual household's relation to the sources of its food is not the same subject as the feeding of the world's population. Unless we have small farms of our own and energy generated off-grid, foodstuffs have to find their way to our kitchens through some means outside of our direct control. That reality alone propels us beyond the mere consideration of our personal diet choices. On a world scale, the fact that some regions can produce so much foodstuff that they're always in surplus and in search of markets doesn't present an obvious solution to world hunger. If the goal is nutritious, uncompromised, balanced diets for everyone, I have no problem reaching its achievement for my household; when I'm asked to contribute to reaching that goal for everyone in the global village, I don't know what more I can do than support emergency aid through MCC or another similar organization.
Logically, everyone in the world should be near the source of his food. An imperative corollary to this would obviously be the curtailing of population growth to match the productivity potential of the general area, an extension of the simple admonition that a couple should never allow themselves 6 kids if they only have means to feed 2. A second corollary—to my mind—would be the internationalization of the world's food supply; when food is raised, bought/sold and consumed like widgets on the world market, it's difficult to see how its production and distribution can ever be made to serve the goal of good diets for all persons.
A third prerequisite would, of course, have to do with ending all wars for all time. I'll get right on that as soon as I'm done this.
Hopeless as it may seem, let's not give up. Thumb your nose at Al Mussel and shop at your farmers' market, dig up a plot in your backyard and grow your own tomatoes, send buckets of money to aid organizations, buy fair-trade coffee at Ten Thousand Villages, write your MP a letter whenever you see government skimping on their aid budget, shop at Mom and Pop rather than at corporate chains, bicycle more and drive less, and recycle, reuse and reduce.
(I took a break right here to brush potatoes and peel carrots—garden fresh—for dinner. How anyone can sit down to new vegetables without thanking creation and gardeners first is beyond me. Segne Vater diese Speise, uns zur Kraft und dir zum Preise. Amen)