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Cont of "Why Localism?"

Sustainability: Your Wise Decisions!

Localism invites us to view our decisions as a microcosm of a larger picture. The decisions we make in our small part of the world have global impact. For example, a family who chooses and preserves local apples versus buying apples from New Zealand creates a ripple in the global ocean — however small it may be. And an engaged couple who chooses to register for locally crafted pottery dinnerware versus the glossy imported (possibly lead-glazed) imported dinnerware moves out of a community orientation that has a global impact. And the parents of young children who opt for a durable and locally crafted solid wood coffee table that can also masquerade as a craft table, games table, and welcome finger prints and the possible crayon slip, versus a veneer sleek imported coffee table (for a non – "living room") make a global impact.

This impact is best summed up in the term sustainability. We live sustainably when we view our decisions as a microcosm of a larger picture. We move from an egocentric and what-is-best-for-me-and-my-family mentality to a community orientation that naturally gives way to sustainability.

For example, local living requires fewer resources like fuel that would otherwise be used on transportation. Using raw resources and manufacturing goods from these raw resources in the country of their origin makes sustainable sense. Here's what is illogical in term s of sustainability: sending our raw resources (e.g. lumber) to be manufactured into a product (e.g. furniture) in another country only to be sent back to our country—the place of origin. This requires a complete round trip because it is "cheaper" to manufacture the product even given the fuel cost. Cheaper, yes. Sustainable, no. Here's the point: cheaper doesn't mean best.

Sustainability understands the "bottom line" is not solely financial. Sustainability appreciates that other variables that need to factor into our decisions.

This also applies to food. Let me who show you how. Firstly, one first needs to understand the logic of what conventional agricultural economists purport. They maintain that 80% of carbon emissions in the North American diet are generated not from travel, but from production. And only about 10% in travel. Thus, they say that a local diet (shorter travel distance) is not as sustainable as it appears to be. If a local diet is embarked so as to reduce carbon emission, they maintain, this may be redundant. They are right to some extent. Yes, a typical industrial North American diet is heavy laden in its production cost. And this production cost is not accounting for the fuel-related transportation of the product. The cost to fill an industrial-sized tractor is astronomical. One industrial Canadian farmer shared with me that in 2012 it cost him $1350 to fill up his 300 litre diesel tank tractor, and on average he uses $3-4/acre—that's an average of a quarter to a third of an acre that is worked on per litre of fuel for only one task in the chain of production (e.g. cultivating, sowing, weed control, harvesting, etc). So if the production cost is so high, is a local diet a mute point in terms of sustainability? Here's how I would counter argue the industrial economist's charge of redundancy. While a standard North American diet is heavy laden in production emissions, a local diet most often employs smaller diversified agricultural systems. A local diet can intentionally be rooted in employing the services of smaller farms. Ask the farmers at your local farmer's market how many acres they get out of a litre of fuel—do the math for yourself. You will find these smaller farm families operate from a different paradigm that also requires less fuel per acre.

And this doesn't even account for food that is grown in one's backyard—this of course requires very little transportation! (Back labour, yes!) Thus, while facts remain facts, the call to Canadians is to root their diet in production systems that are sustainable. Thinking small in this regard leads to big impact!

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