Interesting interview about the downsides of local food

Ever since researching Before the Lights Go Out, my book on energy in the United States, I've been a little skeptical of the locavore movement. Sure, farmer's markets are a nice way to spend a weekend morning, and a good way to connect with other people from my neighborhood. There are arguments to be made about creating local jobs and contributions to local economies. But I see some holes in the idea, as well—particularly if you expect eating local to go beyond a niche market or a special-occasion thing.

Think about economies of scale—the cost benefits you get for making and moving things in bulk. That works not only for cost (making non-local food often cheaper food), but it also works for energy use. It takes less energy for a factory to can green beans for half the country than it would take for us all to buy green beans and lovingly can them at home. When our energy comes from limited, polluting sources—that discrepancy matters. Plus, you have to think about places like Minnesota, where I live. In winter, local food here would require hothouse farming—something that is extremely unsustainable, as far as energy use is concerned.

Basically, I think there are benefits to local food. And I don't think the problems with local food mean we shouldn't change anything about our food system. But we have to acknowledge that the locavore thing isn't perfect, and maybe isn't as sustainable as we'd like it to be. That's why I like this Grist interview with Pierre Desrochers, a University of Toronto geography professor and author of The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet. Read the rest

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": The Poulton Elk

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

What lived in your neighborhood before your neighborhood existed? When did human beings first live on the land you think of as home? Those are the questions that make an old elk skeleton something extraordinary for reader Ant Mercer.

The Poulton Elk hails from the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, England. It's part of an exhibition aimed at telling the story of Preston—or, rather, of the site that eventually became Preston. Here's Ant Mercer's explanation of why this elk is so meaningful:

I should point out that we don't have many exciting, ferocious and big animals naturally living in our habitats and this massive Elk stands out all the more for that. We don't have Elks in the UK anymore and, well, to this day I don't think I've seen one with it's skin on.

The Poulton Elk is a complete skeleton of a prehistoric elk that died in Lancashire around 13,000 years ago. The skeleton was found in 1970 by chance during the excavations for a house in Poulton le Fylde.

The discovery of the elk was of major importance as it had with it evidence of have been hunted by humans.

Read the rest