Monday, April 04, 2022

The thousand mile salad may actually help us adapt to climate change.

There is news about a very good crop of potatoes, from Maine, headed west to fill-in for poor harvests, in western states, due to the ongoing drought. Traveling west by rail. More than 500 truckloads worth.

I got to thinking the opposite of what a lot of people think. Climate change may increase, rather than decrease, the distance food travels from farm to table.

Food can travel fairly cheaply; especially by rail. Shipping in food can create a lower carbon footprint than having people try to grow their own food by living in rural settings and then having to commute to their real jobs and errands.

Droughts and floods, in various areas, are likely to mean foods travel farther to complete the diet. Foods from farther afield mean more diversity and redundancy of supply. Conditions vary in different areas around the world. If drought hits one area, better conditions in another area can even out the supply.

What's often called the "thousand mile salad," with components from far afield, continues to feed us.

My thoughts, often the opposite of popular opinion.

For most people, it seems like reducing the carbon footprint tends to favor urban living. Rural folks tend to be more dependent on fossil fuel vehicles to live their lives with longer commutes. Urban dwellers are less apt to be living in detached residences. Easer to heat and cool.

Urban living usually means less space for growing food, so a low carbon footprint urban life can mean food still travels a long ways. The food travels instead of the people.

There can be some food growing space in urban areas. There can be community gardens, indoor, vertical and rooftop gardens. The economics of bringing food in from long distances can still pencil out more faverably, however.

The tendency to want to grow one's own food could actually increase overall carbon footprint if it pushes residences out into more rural settings. Food by itself can be shipped long distances at fairly low enenrgy cost versus people having to commute long distances, each day, to maintain their lives and pay the bills.

As climate change reduces agricultural production in certain areas, the ability to source food from a diversity of regions can come in handy.

In some ways, this is nothing new as large parts of the American west has such a dry climate that the main "local" agriculture is grazing beef cattle. One does not live by beef alone.

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