Sunday, 24 April 2011

Ghost Acres (Response to a Fruitarian)

I think that if you lived at altitude, or at extreme latitudes, or in an environment where you had to live more tightly by the seasons, if you saw an animal, one that your peers hunted, you WOULD think to kill and eat it. Especially if you were hungry.

Of course in YOUR comfy western environment, you can pick and choose your diet. But I know one thing, trying to grow fruit year round in northern Europe is unsustainable – it’d carry a massive environmental footprint. I also know that shipping fruit in to such areas year-round from warmer countries is also unsustainable for the same reasons.

And I know that the reason early man ate meat was because herbivores thrived on vegetation in these marginal areas that would be unpalatable to him, but he in turn could eat that herbivore. This turns out to have been quite a good strategy as it fuelled our evolution as a species.

7 comments:

Fruitarian Mango said...

These are reasons one might argue if one were seriously in such situations. But if you've got broadband, it's likely a scenario far afield from the reality of where any of us readers are at. Bringing up the situation of Inuits is a typical defense toward meat eating, but bares no real relationship to the world we find ourselves living in. Let the Inuits argue their own case!

You state matter of factly your assumed knowledge that trying to grow fruit year round in northern Europe is unsustainable – it’d carry a massive environmental footprint. Firstly, "trying" is never unsustainable, and if anything the attempt would lessen ones environmental footprint, not increase it.. This seems pretty clear, as environmental footprints are partially offset through the fact that one might choose to try to grow ones own food at any time of the year..

You also write that you know that shipping fruit in to such areas year-round from warmer countries is also unsustainable for the same reasons. But might only be considered an issue while we are still reliant on fossil fuels to transport those goods. A reliance that I personally believe is being imposed on us, until the oil wanes. There already exist alternative energy sources that could be employed to move the fruit a fruitarian would need to northern Norway.. With the added bonus that were the whole world to turn fruitarian, then more fruit trees would be planted everywhere, clearly offsetting somewhat the transport issue in the whole environmental footprint scheme of things..

I think you are not fully seeing the whole picture.

I think the issue about not eating other animals is more one of compassion than anything else. If at all possible, try to imagine yourself in the proverbial shoes of the victim animal.. Still feel hungry for flesh?

Asclepius said...

Hi FM - thanks for taking the time to commment.

There is a lot to 'digest' in your post so I would like to take a step back.

First of all, you tacitly accept that some areas would have to rely on imports of food. Do you think there is a moral issue to the creation of ghost acres? Also, given that the fruit would draw nutrients from the ground and that fruit would be consumed elsewhere, how would you consider we replenish the soil nutrients?

But my biggest question is how do you defend monocropping complex ecosystems with fruit crops ("the added bonus that were the whole world to turn fruitarian, then more fruit trees would be planted everywhere").

The fruit crops would be seasonal and many fruits are perishable, so we'd have to flatten a lot of areas to provide for us. Monocropping allows parasites to swarm so we'd also require a lot of pesticides and insecticides. Does this sound ideal?

Methuselah said...

"If at all possible, try to imagine yourself in the proverbial shoes of
the victim animal.. Still feel hungry for flesh?"

Quick answer: yes. Honestly I think the compassion, environmental and moral debates that surround the vegan/fruitarian/paleo movements are a sideshow and if you've got time to do much hand-wringing over them then it's time to find a hobby. I guess some people see their stance as part of their identity - and if so then good for them. It's admirable.

But my view, to which of course I am no more or less entitled than the hand-wringers, is that life is too fucking short. During that time I'd like to be as healthy as possible and enjoy my food. I know that suffering is a part of the process to realise that desire so I take steps to reduce that suffering when it's practical (buying meat from small-holdings etc).

But I this is a Darwinian world godammit and will never be anything else, so I am not going to squander the opportunity to optimise my short time in it by urinating into the wind - because beyond perhaps a little self-esteem (which can be built in other ways,) the rewards for it our scant.

Methuselah said...

P.s. That should say "are scant" !

Fruitarian Mango said...

Hi Asclepius, I am not familiar with the term "ghost acres", so am unable to answer the question on moral.

As for feeding the soil, I really think this need be far less of an issue than you imagine. The demands of a fruit tree are far far less than those of the average monocrop, with tap roots often penetrating very deeply drawing nutrients from the depths.. For sure, some trees would require some sustenance in addition and on a steady basis, but just through cutting long grass and weeds, and mulching heavily this could be accomplished. If it turns out that the remote places have too much fruit compost, then that could be collected and delivered back to the fruit tree growers. If we are talking sustainable transport technologies, then it might even be a good idea delivering compost back to the growers.

I don't defend monocropping of any kind though, the more people can release themselves from the hold city has on them, and move into more natural environments, the better. Permaculture techniques could be applied to grow ones fruit, with an emphasis on biodiversity.. but in any case, monocrops of grain and annual food crops (for human or animal consumption), is far far more destructive to the environment then monocrops of fruit trees, which at least provide long term shelters and habitats for other species, and are not so regimental about not letting anything else grow.. Having worked myself as a farmer, and witnessed field after field of wheat or other annual monocrops, I can assure you that these practises are slowly depleting and desertifying the soil regardless of which part of the globe they are on. Besides, it's always the case that the bulk of the fruit taken even from more local sources, does not end up back feeding the soil. So really, I ask you the same question, - given that most food is grown, exported somewhere, and consumed offsite, how would you consider we replenish the soil nutrients?

Hermes said...

I like fruit, and I like meat. In my book, they are not mutually exclusive tastes. (And I have no moral objection to a bear eating me for food, as worms certainly will do when the time comes: no embalming for me!)

Asclepius said...

Hermes - you and me both! I understand my part in this deal we call life and am happy to fulfill my destiny in the nutrient cycle - as a feast for some organism or other!