Monday, April 16, 2012


Importance of sustainability to protect mankind from impending crisis vis-a-vis energy shortage cannot be over stressed. Practically every knowledgeable expert agrees with the contention that food raising practices will have to cut down on energy intake as existing reserves of non-renewable energy resources are bound to be exhausted sooner than later. No amount of glib talking about renewable or inexhaustible energy sources can mask the reality that it is nothing but a Utopian dream. Emergence of movements like Locavores, Slow Foods, Urban farming, Campaign against industrial farming etc can be attributed to this realization which is slowly dawning on people impacting their living styles. Contrary to the common perceptions that GMO is bad, commercial agriculture is detestable and more local foods must be eaten to safeguard future is debunked by a recent analysis by a reputed economist in the US which is interesting to read. Here is a take on the issue.  

"Food people need to pick their issues," says Tyler Cowen, an economist, blogger, and connoisseur of cheap, ethnic eats in the Washington, D.C., metro area. "I think the issues that are important to pick are meat and antibiotics." Issues that are not important, in Cowen's view? Eating local, going organic, eliminating GMO crops. Cowen's new book, An Economist Gets Lunch, takes a series of unorthodox stands on the best way to eat well while improving the world. It reads like a how-to guide for adopting Cowen's particular brand of conscientious eating and tosses aside certain closely-held tenets of foodies and environmentalists. Locavorism gets the hardest rap, and agribusiness an unusual amount of praise. It's occasionally aggravating, particularly since Cowen often cites details without research to back them up. (In the great dish-washing debate, for instance, he advocates for hand- over machine-washing but apparently wasn't aware of the energy and water-saving advantages of the dishwasher.) Still, it's worth considering the points on which he aligns with traditional food gospel and the points on which he differs. Taken together, they offer a reasonable, alternate vision for how to approach these issues. Like most environmentalists, Cowen supports a policy that would control carbon emissions. His policy of choice is a carbon tax, which would help guide consumers' choices to low-carbon products and activities and release us from the burden of remembering what we're supposed to be doing and what we're not. "Most people, even well-informed people, don't have a good sense of how much an afternoon drive in a Mercedes contributes to the climate change problem relative to buying a batch of flown-in asparagus or subbing in a steak for a chicken breast," he writes in the book. He sees deforestation as a major problem, and supports a higher tax on meat and efforts to support reforestation. He also wants to encourage lower-carbon urban living by eliminating height limits and parking requirements for developers. Most environmentalists could get on board with that vision. But Cowen also defends agribusiness on environmental grounds: its efficiency has kept more land free of agricultural development, he argues, and makes feeding cities possible. He thinks that countries where hunger is still a problem need to adopt similar systems, including GMO crops, and that, on balance, chemical fertilizers have both advantages and disadvantages"

Of course everybody has a right to express his or her opinion on any matter and if there is some substance in such views people are bound to listen. Here is an economist who has expressed his views on to day's issues concerning food and energy which seems to be attracting wide attention. Whether his opinions are based on reality needs to be debated and in a democratic world every dissenting voice must be heard before coalescing towards a consensus. It is for the international community to take note of the new dimensions thrown up by the above report. After all there is no difference regarding the urgent need for cutting down on carbon emissions and controlling criminal energy guzzling practices of to day and variance is only regarding the best solution that can abate the alarming situation being faced by Homo sapiens.  


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