3, 2, 1 . . .

. . . let the locavore backlash begin.

Or, really, continue.

David Tamarkin’s piece in this week’s Time Out Chicago is has raised hackles across the internet–much as I’m sure was intended. It’s a pretty solid piece of contrarian provocation: create a straw man representing an extremist fringe, dress it up with some facts, some sober and unassailable, others decontextualized and vague, and top it off with an incendiary headline. Bloggers, start your engines.

I don’t have a lot to add, though I would agree with those commenters pointing out that his basic premise is  kinda bunk–something like the Green City Market’s Localvore Challenge is obviously designed as a consciousness raising stunt, not some prescription for living, and few self-identified locavores would argue otherwise. He ascribes an absolutism to the “movement” that, frankly, I have rarely if ever seen. Even Barbara Kingsolver didn’t beat herself up about olive oil–the very open-mindedness that Tamarkin endorses in one paragraph and mocks as an inconsistent “exemption policy” in the other. (And to which I say, “policy?” Can I see the position paper on that?)

Also, speculation as to the inner life of your (nonexistent, not-real) subjects (“it’s easy to see why localvores wouldn’t want to think too much about their lifestyle”) is just icky journalism. Want to know if locavores think about their lifestyle? Why not ask? 

But I do think it’s interesting that amid all the discussion of food miles and Peter Singer and protectionism v. fair trade and the welfare of third world farmers, the question of the poor here at home doesn’t really come up. There’s a lot about the locavore agenda that I like–fresh-picked fruit and veges taste better, and learning how to grow, forage, can, or otherwise source your own food is a great gateway to a richer understanding of the community around you, be it human, geographic, botanic, whatever. But the question of how all this raised consciousness can effect change here at home, in the backyard, for people who can’t afford a backyard garden of their own, seems more and more the issue. Wall Street is tanking, jobs are vaporizing, mortgages are defaulting helter-skelter: the fact that the farmer’s market takes LINK cards is nice and all, but hunger and malnutrition are such explosive problems that, like I said, heirloom tomatoes are just a drop in the biodegradable shopping bag.

I don’t know what the answer is, but there’s got to be some bridge building between (to paraphrase Mike Gebert) the narcissistic lifestyle choices of yuppie consumers and those who have the most to gain from structural changes in the industrial food system. These folks, and these, are doing just that–and they’re looking for help. Maybe I will give them a call. After I’m done wrangling with 5,000 thirsty Neko Case fans.