The subtitle of this book misleadingly implies that itís primarily an attack on locavores.
Itís not. The author has issues with the locavore movement, but also with other ideology-based
"answers" to the food supply, even as he shares their stated goal of feeding people as well as
possible with as little harm to the planet as possible.
McWilliams raises a key point about locavores et al. when he notes that being in a position
to choose food based upon factors like miles from farm to fork means you are viewing things as a
member of an elite. In his opinion, polemic too often disguises reality in this discussion,
including a tendency to embrace ideas which sound inherently appealing—especially to a
member of such an elite vs. the larger world population concerned with "just food" for
survival—but which arenít necessarily better, or at least not as much better as theyíre made
out to be.
Where he disagrees with the locavores et al. is in the conclusions they draw, both that things
are as black and white as they claim and that there is a single viable "magic bullet" solution.
Take the core locavore insistence on eating local, with fewer miles from farm to fork for a
lowered environmental cost. The book agrees that eating local may be laudable in some ways but
that assumed lower environmental cost isnít always true, is less helpful than its proponents assume,
while reliance on a strictly locavore food supply has inherent limitations the movement tends to
ignore. Itís an option; itís not a solution.
And so McWilliams wrote this book to:
"...reframe the debate about sustainable food production in a way that opens it up
and encourages us to seek less ideologically crafted alternatives—ones that reform the
environmental abuses of industrial agriculture, lend themselves to pragmatic regulation and
enforcement, preserve the profit motive, and adapt to local, regional, national, and global
economies and infrastructures."
Thereís a balancing of pragmatic considerations against the need for reform in this that is too
often missing from the more ideologue positions.
He grounds his discussion in real life examples we can all grasp and relate to rather than
blinding us with science and statistics. This makes the book a surprisingly easy and interesting
read. It also reinforces the credibility of his own conclusions and answers, since they are equally
practical, balancing ideology with realities about how people actually live and behave. The result is
interesting and even entertaining at times, such as the reminder that for all the claims of "all
natural" methods by some food producers, farming itself is against nature, since itís an attempt
to manipulate and control it.