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The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489403
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


from the Foreword by Blake Hurst, president, Missouri Farm Bureau
“In large parts of the world, local trumps science, and people suffer as a result….  Desrochers and Shimizu take the idea of local food to the back of the barn and beat the holy livin’ tar out of it. In a more rational world, their defense of what is so clearly true would not be needed. However, our world is not rational, and most of what passes for thinking about food is as full of air as an elegant French pastry.”

Ronald Bailey,
“Desrochers and Shimizu demonstrate that the debate over food miles is a distraction from the real issues that confront global food production.”
“Desrochers … is the scholar’s scholar. In an age where few read all important material on all sides of their subject, this professor stands out.”

Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy,
“Desrochers … delivers a serious warning to the fetishization of local agriculture as the magic bullet that will solve our food problems.”

Bookloons“There is plenty of food for thought in this unconventional, provocative look at how we should go about feeding the masses. The authors…make some very interesting points and raise concerns that must be addressed.” NATURE Magazine
“The book’s strength lies in the cheerful ruthlessness with which the authors chal­lenge sloppy thinking, special pleading and the lazy logic that assumes that ‘local’ must be ‘best’"
The Locavore’s Dilemma is an ideal weapon in countering the enormous quantities of metaphorical organic manure that pass for evidence in the modern debate about food.”

The Times Literary Supplement
“[The authors] are right to question the limits of 'local'... We certainly need a more sophisticated metric than 'food miles'."

Library Journal
“This often acerbic, thoroughly researched, yet controversial title provides much food for thought on the often oversimplified but ever complex issue of food miles.”

About the Author

Pierre Desrochers is an associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto who writes frequently on economic development, globalization, energy, and transportation issues. He was a research fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University. Hiroko Shimizu holds a master’s of international public policy from Osaka University. Desrochers and Shimizu have both been research fellows of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, and the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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Customer Reviews

So it is all the more strange that they felt the need to write this book at all.
The authors successfully use clear logic and extensive empirical data to contribute to an ongoing discussion that has at times deteriorated into emotional outbursts.
Thomas Grennes
By all means, enjoy your local food, but avoid preaching about its virtues until you have read this essential book.
Peter Gordon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Grennes on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu have produced an excellent book on a topic of great current interest. They ask what are the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining food from local sources versus more distant sources. This issue has been with us since agriculture was introduced in the Neolithic Period, and current issues related to the use of carbon have given it a new twist. The authors successfully use clear logic and extensive empirical data to contribute to an ongoing discussion that has at times deteriorated into emotional outbursts. The case in favor of commercial agriculture and long-distance trade is based on substantial differences in growing conditions within and across countries. By obtaining food from locations where production per unit of land is greater, consumers are more prosperous and land is saved. For example, cutting down forests to clear land for agriculture was a serious problem in the past, and it remains a problem in low income countries today. But the benefits of high productivity agriculture today have contributed to reforestation in the United States and most high income countries. In many poor countries (Haiti is an extreme example), much of food production is for local consumption, productivity of land is low, and deforestation and soil erosion are serious problems. This is one of many issues the authors address applying basic principles of geography and economics.

The book is clearly written for an audience of non-specialists. However, it provides extensive references for the benefit of skeptics or readers who want to pursue more technical aspects of the subject.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. C. Pasour on August 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pitfalls of Locavorism
E.C. Pasour, Jr.
Desrochers and Shimizu have produced an interesting and highly readable analysis of what is called locavorism--the idea that an ever increasing portion of our food supply should be produced close to those who consume it. Blake Hurst, a commercial farmer and current president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, sets the tone for what follows in the Preface to The Locavore's Dilemma. It is Hurst's contention that this book attacking the tenets of locavorism would not have been necessary in a more rational world. However, it is clear that the book was needed-- locavorism is accepted "hook, line, and sinker" by the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: "In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that" (p.5, my emphasis). This ignores the importance of comparative advantage and trade--including international trade. Everything we eat in the United States, including exotic tropical fruits, can be produced domestically. Cost considerations aside, climatic conditions can be simulated for any place in the world! The practical question is which foods should be produced locally and which should be shipped in from other areas of the U.S. or other countries?
Locavorism emphasizes the shortcomings of high tech agriculture. At the same time, it stresses sustainable, organic, local, and ethical initiatives in food production and marketing. Most of the book is devoted to rebutting what the authors identify as five myths of locavorism: (1) it nurtures social capital; (2) it delivers a free lunch; (3) it heals the earth, (4) it increases food security, and (5) it offers tastier, more nutritious, and safer food.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Keith Lofstrom on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The authors get 5 stars. Their editor (presumably acting for the publisher, and responding to the infantile demands of the popular market) gets 3 stars.

7 billion people affect the planet, damaging the land and atmosphere with our activities. Thoughtful people disagree about the extent of the damage, or which activities are responsible. Partisans of all varieties distort the facts to fit their agendas. We should start with the facts and reason towards agendas, not vice versa. This book is replete with important facts, though the editor restricted the authors' use of numbers, to the point of removing page number headings from the references. The received wisdom in the publishing industry is that the general public doesn't like numbers. Perhaps that is true, and perhaps that is why it was necessary to write this book.

The real dilemma is that the people who talk about "food miles" use numbers like religious icons, not as decision-making tools. So if this book used more numbers, it would still not reach the minds it is intended to change. We must understand what numbers mean before we carelessly sling them about.

The most damaging thing humans do is convert wild land to cropland. Most of the CO₂ runup before 1940 came from land clearing, tilling, and other activities that moved carbon from the soil to the air (see Reick et al, Tellus 2009, [link to free pdf at wiley removed by Amazon - what did I say about editors?]). One of the least damaging things we do is move giant freighters around the globe. Big ships moving goods for millions over long distances do far less damage per capita than driving five miles to the farmer's market (the numbers to back this up were left out of the book at the editor's behest).
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