Friday, May 09, 2008

Forces of Evil on the March  

Yet another wacko has popped up with a scheme to control on other people's lives to make himself feel happy:

Chef Wants To Outlaw Out of Season Vegetables

Celebrity British chef Gordon Ramsay said restaurants should be fined if they serve out-of-season fruit and vegetables. "I don't want to see asparagus in the middle of December. I don't want to see strawberries from Kenya in the middle of March. I want to see it home-grown," he said after raising his concerns with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"Fruit and veg should be seasonal. Chefs should be fined if they don't have ingredients in season on their menu," he told the BBC on Friday.  ... "There should be stringent laws, licensing laws, to make sure produce is only used in season and season only," he added.

I'm not going to bother going on about how this would have killed my hardworking father's business shipping produce had such a law been passed in America.  I'm going to even devil's advocate for a second.  The outcome he wants ... eating foods in season prepared locally ... is actually a good thing.   Eating foods that are in season creates variety.  The "local foods" movement takes this further, reducing the cost to ship vegetables.  For example, the excellent Hopland Inn serves food from only a hundred or so miles away, and Google's Cafe 150 is named after the maximum radius of its ingredients.

But many other things we like to eat are NOT local, are NOT in season, and are NOT Gordon Ramsay's business.  Everything he is complaining about is phrased in terms of what he wants to see, and he wants us to pass a law, enforced by people with guns who will come to take your money, to enforce his whims in the presence of no concrete harm?

Ah-ah-ah.  I don't think so.

Tongue in cheek, what is it about Britain that breeds this kind of totalitarian control mindset?  They don't have a recent history of dictatorship, but everyone from Alan Moore to George Orwell to P.D. James keeps writing stories where England goes to hell in a totalitarian basket.  But I guess if I had the experience of these English writers, with springloaded Gordon Ramsays popping up everywhere calling for stringent regulation of everything from seasonal fruits to the proper time for tea, I could see myself popping out a dystopia.


(ObDisclaimer: I have no evidence that Gordon Ramsay is not a nice, decent, humane person, nor do I know that England is populated by an army of springloaded Gordon Ramsay clones popping up everywhere with random totalitarian proposals.  Those were jokes, in case you were wondering; almost all the people I've met from the British isles have been nice).



The local food movement is well-intentioned, but the energy saving aspect of it is not obvious. The Economist magazine argues that in many cases it's more energy and more pollution when you eat locally. How could this be?

Because of scale. If you've got a huge airplane full of bananas, that get brought to the store in a huge truck, you might actually be using less energy and causing less pollution per banana than if every banana you eat is locally brought to you, say, on the back of some local farmer's pickup truck at a market. Pickup trucks are so inefficient that it actually might be cheaper (in terms of financial cost and cost to the environment) flying them in from South America.

As usual the Economist does not cite a scientific study to show that this ACTUALLY happens, but nor have I seen studies on the local food support-side either.

This thought experiment just points to the fact that we should not accept it blindly-- whether or not it's cheaper and better for the environment is an empirical question, not a philosophical or common-sense one.
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 10:57 PM
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