[FoRK] 100 mile diet...

Tony Finch <dot at dotat.at> on Thu Jan 25 16:39:36 PST 2007

On Thu, 25 Jan 2007, Tom Higgins wrote:
>
> Not to get all James Burke here but it is because of how we have moved
> across this land mass, all land masses in fact, that our society is
> what it is in many regards. Take away the diversity of nutritional
> resources, the trade routes that bring influxes of new ideas and
> cultures as well as things like spice and turkeys, the industry that
> is made to support those routes....well things begin to look a lot
> less like us.

I was going to post a copy of this article, but unfortunately my
subscriber login seems to be broken.
https://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=8213

Anyway, the author uses the town of Fray Bentos in Uruguay as an example
of old technology pushed hard, which he thinks is a better way of
reckoning the history than by marking new technologies. I knew Fray Bentos
from the age of about 8 as a brand name for canned beef pies, and it was
only recently (from another source than the Prospect article) that I found
out it was an actual place half-way round the world that did industrial
meat packing. 100 years ago, Britain was the world's largest meat importer
which is why it was worth making pies in Uruguay for consumption in
Europe. At about that time, Fray Bentos had the world's largest
slaughterhouse.

But even in 1900 this was nothing new: the British empire was built on
globalised food production, with tea from China and India and sugar from
the Caribbean being essential drivers, not to mention cotton, spices, and
drugs. (Alcohol too, but British drinks like Champagne and Port are
produced in Europe, so are less impressive indicators of global reach.)
Our economy has been thoroughly, fundamentally globalised for at least two
centuries.

Edgerton also talks a little bit about globalisation of ideas as well as
commodities, pointing out that none of the technologies that were used so
effectively in Fray Bentos were developed there. It's also worth paying
attention to the way that current development in the third world are NOT
recapitulating European or American development, and how modern poor
people are using modern high technology - mobile phones are a spectacular
example, but I think Edgerton would be fonder of the highly efficient
manufacturing that makes it possible to sell presbyopia specs for $2 with
plenty of profit for the retailer and distributor as well as the
manufacturer. (That example's from a recent Economist article which I
can't find online.)

Still, I prefer to buy lamb from Wales not New Zealand, and wine from
France not Chile. I despise cynical use of "fair trade" branding for
things like beer that contains a trivial amount of honey from overseas.

Tony.
-- 
f.a.n.finch  <dot at dotat.at>  http://dotat.at/
BISCAY FITZROY: NORTHEASTERLY 5 TO 7, OCCASIONALLY GALE 8, DECREASING 4 IN
NORTH LATER. ROUGH OR VERY ROUGH, DECREASING SLIGHT OR MODERATE IN BISCAY
LATER. SHOWERS. MAINLY GOOD.

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