Harvest season is upon us in New England and with it the opportunity to buy organic locally farmed produce for 2-4X what Costco charges to drag the same vegetable or fruit up from Mexico and dump it into your minivan in Waltham.
A variety of analyses on whether or not locally produced food is truly good for the environment have been made, e.g., http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/11/14/the-inefficiency-of-local-food/
I wonder if a simpler analysis would not apply. Let’s assume that every dollar we spend does a relatively constant amount of damage to the earth. If I give a person or a business an extra dollar, a fraction of that will be spent to buy gasoline, buy new manufactured products and discard old ones, buy electricity that will result in fossil fuels being burned, etc. There are some minor variations in how much damage will be done depending on the person or business that I give the dollar to, but in nearly all cases the more money spent the more damage will be done to the planet.
Thus if I buy local food for 4X the cost of food produced in Mexico, I am paying for New Englanders to drive around in cars, heat their houses with oil, purchase new smart phones and tablet computers, etc. Had I instead bought the produce from Mexico, I would have supported Mexicans who walk to work, heat just one room of their house and only when necessary, and make do with devices that they already own.
This analysis seems simplistic, but I am not sure that it is wrong. What do readers think? Is someone who buys local food at high prices hastening the destruction of the earth?
[Obviously there are other reasons to buy local food, such as taste, but this posting is purely about environmental damage.]