Yesterday and today the 100 Mile Diet blog published a two-part series that thoughtfully considers this question:
This blog and the local eating philosophy are challenging my thinking. My rationale for being a vegetarian has evolved over the past 25 years (and to be honest, so has the strictness of my adherence). My current list of reasons why includes a desire to eat the "greenist" (as in most environmentally-sustainable) diet possible.
The author (JBM) describes some of the complexities in trying to be vegetarian locavore. Here are a two:
- [A] plant-based diet will be possible in many places.....In some places, though, it won’t....The Inuit of the far north, for example, could not likely exist within their chosen ecology without animal foods and products. If eating within the ecological limits of a place requires the consumption of animal foods, what does that mean to the vegetarian philosophy?
- [A food systems study] which appeared in Food Policy in 1998, looked at full life-cycle analyses for various types of diet in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of protein, beta carotene, and calories. The least greenhouse-gas intensive diet proved to be “domestic [local] vegetarian.” But it’s important to note that a local non-vegetarian diet proved to be more environmentally sustainable than an “exotic” vegetarian diet with foods travelling long distances and frequently being eaten out of season.
Although JBM does not end his article with answers and I know I have lots of research, critical thinking and self-examination ahead of me, I think these concluding statements can be a helpful guideline for making choices:
Ecology is complicated, and can only truly be considered case by case with an eye on the big picture. Or, put another way, it can only really be considered locally, with an eye to Planet Earth.