A Voice in the Wilderness No Longer?

Reader Lee clues me in to a book that seems right up my alley: The Localvore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile diet by University of Toronto faculty member, Pierre Desrochers and spouse Hiroko Shimizu. It appears to be in the same spirit as my my anti-Michael Pollan screeds but with a lot more real data. Some key quotes about it are on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, check them out. The farm-rapping is fun, too. I know what I’ll be reading tonight!

6 thoughts on “A Voice in the Wilderness No Longer?”

  1. Out of curiosity, have you read Fast Food Nation? Having read your thoughts on Pollan, I was wondering what you thought of it (if you’ve read it).

    1. Hey Jordan! Yes I have, but it’s been a while. In my mind I often confuse it with Pollan’s books because the premises and conclusions are so similar. But I remember being quite frustrated by it, since at the time I was consulting to McDonald’s and knew that much of what Schlosser had to say about McDonald’s — at least operationally — was either factually inaccurate or speculative.

      I crawled all over that company over a period of about five years, from the restaurants to the board room and everywhere in between, writing various things for them. I’m one of the rare outside people who’s ever been inside McDonald’s meat processing plants and can say definitively that they’re nothing like Schlosser describes.

      I have no great love for big fast food companies, mind you. McDonald’s was a client for a while and they treated me well, that’s all. They’re a cheerful if slightly odd bunch. Their execs wear lots of little buttons and pins on their jacket lapels…almost like rank insignia. I always thought that was creepy somehow. But I was a lot more skeptical of them before I spent time with them than afterward.

      I remember I did a story on one guy in purchasing who saved about ten thousand square miles of Costa Rican rain forest in an afternoon, pretty much because he felt like it. That’s when I realized the power that megacorps have to do either good or evil. I came to see big companies as cities in their own right, mostly populated by ordinary decent people, but with a few crooks and heroes mixed in, just like in any town.

      In general they mean awfully darn well at McDonald’s, and compared to most other big corporations, they operate in the harsh light of day, under almost constant scrutiny. So they can’t get away with much even if they aspired to it. They’re just very visible, so they make a convenient target. I’ve consulted to many other companies that I’ve been a lot more worried about.

      Speaking of which, I have work to do! Thanks for the email,

      – Joe

  2. There’s a discussion of this book ongoing at the blog Crooked Timber. Some posters there claim that the book was underwritten by people who don’t want a COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) law to pass. The debate at Crooked Timber is spirited and would expose you to many different points of view on this controversy.

    1. Hey Karen!

      Thanks very much. I’ll probably hold off until I finish the book. You know, judge the merits first before the motive. But I’ll definitely head over there soon! Cheers,

      – Joe

  3. Joe, I love your site! I haven’t been really keeping track of your critiques of Michael Pollan, but everything pastry is awesome.

    But let me just say how awful The Locavore’s Dilemma is. The authors half-invent the perspective of the ‘locavorism’ against which they argue, constructing a straw man out of opponent views in which they imagine local eating means “grow anything you want to eat all-year-round, wherever you want to live.” Though much local eating is season-specific, greenhouses can be powered with sustainable energy too. The landscape of local/sustainable food production is much more complex and varied than this book suggests. However, they make one or two useful points, and regardless I would still read it to become aware of how their arguments sort of fail.

    The Salon criticism of the book by Jill Richardson is worth checking out, and some of the Amazon reviews are pretty thorough.

    Thanks for such a great site!

    1. Interesting. I must not have come to those parts yet, but I’ll be on the lookout.

      Thanks Mike!

      – Joe

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