There is a lifestyle revolution presently taking place in the developed world. It’s a revolution that has been brought about by man’s growing desire (if not out of panic) to find solutions for his planet that is increasingly threatened with collapse.
Without a doubt, climate change is one of the biggest threats of this collapse. Its enormity is in many ways daunting and dispiriting.
Some scientists say that we are past the point of no return and that it’s just a matter of time before our system disintegrates. Others say that we can still salvage our planet and that the elimination of the burning of fossil fuels is essential to this.
These scientists advise that in order to greatly reduce our unsustainable daily consumption of oil, we must now focus our energies towards the search for alternative energy sources and also, that we should localize majority of our day to day operations.
They suggest that by a community localizing its operations in the hope of self sustenance; this can greatly reduce our individual carbon footprints.
This is where they recommend measures such as moving closer to our work places, taking our children to schools in the neighbourhood and even limiting ourselves to the consumption of locally produced foods, all in the hope or reducing the carbon we individually expend into the atmosphere.
This is where LOCAVORES come in. This word was coined in 2005 by four women in San Francisco U.S.A, to describe people who practice the eating of a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100 mile radius.
This word, sometimes termed as Localvore, has sparked a movement that encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better.
Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since importing food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation which is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world.
However, in an ideal world, this lifestyle change is revolutionary. Imagine if societies would be self sustaining, where you could access all your required cheap and healthy food from the local market.
Where the local supermarket would stock foods grown or produced from somewhere not so far away. A society where your child could attend a world class school within a walking distance from home or even better, where you wouldn’t have to endure hours on the road travelling to work.
This, by any standards is brilliant. First of all, we would live healthier as we would avoid the bodily harm that comes from eating imported, pesticide filled and even mass produced, hormone and antibiotic filled foods.
The food would also be tastier as it wouldn’t have to stay frozen in refrigerators for months on end while on transit from some far away place.
By becoming locavores we would also support our local economies as the traders would have a ready and assured market for their goods.
However, this movement assumes too much. It assumes that every society is economically viable. You and I know this is not true. First of all, the world-wide distribution of agricultural products is the best insurance man has against the harsh winters, dry seasons and natural calamities.
Trade is therefore good for providing things where they are needed. And by the way, most of the people in the world that are starving to death are locavores, but not by choice.
Locavores also falsely assume that local is better. The best of anything is not necessarily sold locally! It is sold where you get the highest price which is often far away.
Our best fruits and flowers are targeted first and foremost for the export market. What you find at the local market are the leftovers because, that is what traders do - they look for the best market price.
To ask people to be locavores in the name of saving the planet is asking for a lot. It is asking people to place a lot of faith in the goodwill of business people. This may be a contradiction of terms in our world today.
Also, it is assuming that all societies have the capacities to be self sufficient. We need each other. People in the deserts and semi-deserts need our fruits and vegetables while we need their meat. We are all interdependent.
Proponents of this Locavore lifestyle should go back to the drawing board. This is because in many ways, such a lifestyle can save us from some ridiculous choices we here in Rwanda may be asked to make when shopping at the local supermarket.
We may be asked to buy bottled water from Mount Everest or vegetables from South Africa or beef all the way from Argentina. Many people in the West are being asked to make these choices everyday at their local markets.