Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Localism and John Taplin

Just a short post today because I have too many other things to do.

Neil drew my attention via his Google reader series to a post by John Taplin. Before proceeding, those interested in the rationale and approach Neil has adopted with Google Reader can be found in Just a quick explanation of “Neil’s Shared Items”. As Neil notes, I am a strong supporter of Neil's approach because it gives me access to a range of interesting items that I would not otherwise see.

John Taplin's post is entitled Rethinking Food Policy. Neil commented “I wonder what Jim Belshaw will think of this Jon Taplin post; I am sure it will interest him.” He is of course right.

I will leave it to you to read John's post, together with his links. His core point is that the modern approach to agriculture - really factory farming - has greatly increased farming's use of energy, along with its emission of green house gases. The comments on the post draw out related issues.

Without boring you with a list of posts, it should be pretty obvious from the things that I write about that I have a great deal of sympathy for John's position.

Take, as a simple example, my complaints about the way Sydney's water restrictions impede gardening. Here I made the point that by reducing gardening, we are actually importing water. We are also increasing green house gas emissions and consuming resources in transporting food that would otherwise be grown in home gardens. Then there are the lost health and pleasure benefits.

Official policies are riven with this type of conflict. We centralise medical and other services in the name of efficiency. This is actually a cost transfer from Government to consumers who have to bear the time and transport costs associated with extra travel. There is also an adverse green house effect.

The term localism has been applied to those who try to eat locally grown food. The term could be much more broadly applied.

In finishing, John Taplin's post reminded me of an old blogging colleague, David Anderson.

David's two main blogs, View Italy and After the Vote, have been in suspended animation for some time. On one side David was trying to argue for what he saw as key Italian values - localism was central to this. On the other, David was arguing against what he saw as major weaknesses in the US economic system that must lead to collapse.

In the end, I think it became just too hard and dispiriting for David to continue ploughing what appeared to be an increasingly lonely furrow. I suspect that he takes no pleasure in the fact that some of his views are now mainstream. I also suspect that he would argue that the key lessons have yet to be really learned.

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