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Posts Tagged ‘in-class collective blogging exercise’

by Alex Leckie, Georgia Campbell and Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes

Local Organix?

There has been an emphasis in consumption practices that favor local products over those brought from overseas. Eating ‘local’, in the strictest geographical sense, can be detrimental when power relationships are ignored in our conception of the ‘local’. Not all local food production is socially and environmentally responsible. Not everything produced ‘locally’ and close to ‘home’ is necessarily environmentally feasible, ethical and socially responsible (e.g., mass production of chicken eggs).

The imaginary geography of the nation state overlaps with a distance-based approach to defining if a product is local. Since national borders have been set up arbitrarily, informing our imaginary geographies of the ‘local’, we may believe that distance from the food source is less important than the fact that it comes from within the country. For instance, Vancouver is closer to the Washington state border than it is to Kelowna, yet some might believe that apples from Kelowna are more ‘local’ than apples produced much closer, in Washington.

Another question that has to be critically scrutinized is how the idea of ‘local’ is advertised in the public realm, constructing a marketable sense of responsibility. Such a marketing scheme may cloud a clear understanding of exploitative relations that might be taking place ‘locally’. When a concept of ‘local’ is associated with the notion of ‘environmental friendliness’, exploitative power relationships in the system of production run the risk of being systemically ignored. Organically grown apples might be picked by exploited migrant workers.

The point of being and acting ‘local’ is to strengthen ‘community’ and to break our reliance on global networks of profit-driven capitalism. For instance, fertilizers and animal feeds may be shipped from abroad, with severe environmental and social costs to populations that fall outside of your ‘local’ realm. If you are buying and shopping locally you automatically may think you are doing something good for the environment, for the economy, for the people, and so on. Buying ‘local’ does not necessarily mean that positive change is taking place.

Exploitation?

Making consumption a political act is problematic because it places you within a strict realm of an apolitical market. You can’t try to attain a political goal through the market because the market is set up to generate profits and not positive sociopolitical change. What we have to try to uncover are the consequences of our food consumption habits in the wider economic and social spheres. This scrutiny has to be exercised through investigations into the details of the process of production in a product-by-product basis, and not solely on whether the product is advertised as ‘local’. That is, our food consumption practices are more socially and environmentally responsible when they are informed by detailed knowledge of the production process.

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