Why go to the trouble of growing your own food when it’s so easily available from supermarkets? It may seem a strange question to ask on a website dedicated to gardening but sometimes it’s useful to take a step back and ask why we invest so much time and energy. The answer to that question will vary from gardener to gardener but understanding the reasons can help us focus on the most enjoyable aspects and motivate us when the weeds seem overwhelming.
Fossil Fuels and Fresh Produce When you take into account the typical energy cost of transporting food to your local grocer, it is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is traveled before the food is consumed. This large-scale, long-distance transportation of food relies heavily on the energy from burning fossil fuels. In fact, it is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food. Why is this bad?
Of the many public health and environmental risks associated with burning fossil fuels, the most serious, in terms of its potentially irreversible consequences, is a phenomenon we have all become familiar with – climate change. As Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai states, “Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it’s the developed world that has precipitated global warming.”
Despite fossil fuels containing large amounts of energy, they are rarely found in a pure, untouched state. More often than not, fossil fuels are refined and purified into a usable form, leaving excess waste material that requires disposal. The disposal and handling of this toxic waste takes a large toll on the health of the environment, the health of wildlife, and the health of surrounding communities.