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Barbara Kingsolver Courtesy of HarperCollins Each of these books employs the conceit of the authors’ limiting their diet to locally produced food, and each is emphatic about the supposedly irrefutable connection between eating local and energy reduction. “The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf,” writes novelist Kingsolver, “has traveled farther than most families go on their family vacations:’ Her husband, Steven Hopp, reminds readers that, “If every U.S. citizen ate organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels every week.” Concerns over inflated food miles brought Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon to their dietary challenge as well. “Each time we sat down to eat,” writes MacKinnon, a former Adbusters editor, “we were consuming products that had traveled the equivalent distance of a drive from … New York City to Denver, Colorado. We were living on an SUV diet.” Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College scholar-in-residence, made a similar culinary decision upon learning that “the average bite of American food has traveled more than 1,500 miles before it reaches your lips:’ Our food, he writes, “arrives at the table marinated in oilcrude oil.” As a result, “if we took global warming seriously,” we’d start supporting local food systems. The proposition that eating local will reduce energy consumption unifies these books. As presented, it’s an overwhelmingly convincing point. Kingsolver, as well as Smith and McKinnon, generally assume what McKibben \(whose book is the only one of the three with alarming statistics informing the decision to eat local. \(This line of reasoning might otherwise strike skeptical readers as a gimmick designed to sell books; after all, nobody is writing impassioned volumes about their personal experiences solid research, McKibben amasses examples of food miles run amok. We learn that in Iowa”center of the agricultural heartland”carrots come 1,690 miles from California, potatoes 1,292 miles from Idaho, and chuck roasts 600 miles from Colorado. He writes that producing and transporting frozen peas demands 10 times the energy in the peas themselves. Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York statean apple-producing regioncome from the West Coast. On and on it goes. In light of this compelling evidence of market redundancy, corporate consolidation, and “creative destruction,” the only reasonable reaction, it seems, is to slap one of those bumper stickers on the Volvo wagon and start living the gospel of Eat Local. At this point I would normally declare “Amen” and offer capsule reviews of each book, noting how McKibben’s is rigorous, if at times idealistic; how Kingsolver’s is charming but analytically slack; and how Smith and MacKinnon are creative geniuses in the kitchen but, somewhat obnoxiously, rather too proud of it. There are, however, bigger fish to frystarting with the premise that reducing food miles is necessarily good for the environment. The argument that reducing food miles decreases fossil fuel consumption appears so obvious, so intuitively logical, that it would seem anyone who questions it must be insane, work for Exxon Mobil, or live in the food-exporting nation of New Zealand. In this case, it’s the third option. In 2006, New Zealand’s Lincoln University, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” published a study challenging the premise that greater food miles alone automatically means AUGUST 10, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5