Saturday, October 25, 2008

You can be solar-powered

Michael Pollan brings up an interesting point in Farmer in Chief, an open letter to the president-elect.
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study.
That's part of the impetus towards eating local. Most people can intuitively see that it takes so much energy to move food all over the globe. But many are absolutely clueless about the amount of petrochemical input into our food. It turns out, the old way, with solar-powered energy input, is the more sustainable way. It is time to move our food production system back to solar power.

Links:
More Michael Pollan advice at Unhappy Meals.
Read a conversation with small farmer at Conversations with America: Ethan Book. Go read the entire charming interview. (I can just see that chicken running around with the hogs.) He blogs at Epi Log.

3 comments:

  1. Moving to all or mostly local would mean a great loss of diversity in most people's diets; I've also read somewhere that for most US cities, the amount of petrochemicals it takes to grow food locally rivals the amount used to truck it in from places (like California) where food grows easily.

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  2. I should have made Pollan's main point clearer.

    Today's food crops obtain much of their "fuel" from petrochemical fertilizers. Food crops used to be grown with sunlight and fertilizer derived from sunlight.

    E.g. crop rotation (legumes binding nitrogen to the soil with the aid of sunlight) or manure from animals grazed on pasture which grows with the aid of sunlight and no petrochemical input.

    Food does not grow easily in the California desert. It takes huge amounts of energy to move water to these deserts, and then to move the crops over mountain passes to the eaters.

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  3. Thanks for the clarification, it makes more sense now.

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