Episode 3.6: Is the local a romantic eco-myth? A critical appraisal of 'Thinking Globally, Acting Locally'

Does the environmentalist motto, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’, point us towards sustainable food systems’ solutions? In this episode, Dr. Navin Ramankutty from UBC and Ken Meter from the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis explore whether locally produced foods, provided by small-scale farmers, are inherently more sustainable than that which comes from larger producers many miles away. The discussion suggests that scale and proximity are not necessarily correlated with better environmental performance across the board, but that there are still good reasons for building strong food systems at the community level, and ensuring that small scale farmers can earn a sustainable livelihood.


Peter Andrée
Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University


Ryan M. Katz-Rosene
Assistant Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa


Dr. Navin Ramankutty
Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs | Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Guest Bios


Ken Meter
President, Crossroads Resource Center

Guest Bios

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Guest Bio

Navin Ramankutty

Navin Ramankutty is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and Food Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the PSG College of Technology in India, a master’s degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a PhD in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thus his interest and training shifted over the years from engineering to climate science, global ecosystem science, and land & food system science. His research today uses global Earth observations, data science, geospatial analysis and ecosystem models to understand how humans use and modify the Earth’s land surface for agriculture, evaluate the global environment consequences, and explore solutions to the problem of feeding humanity with minimal global environmental footprint. He is a co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Land Programme. He was a lead author of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, a contributing author of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and contributing author of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. He is an Associate Editor of the journals Environmental Research Letters, and CABI Agriculture and Bioscience, and was formerly an Associate Editor of the journals Global Food Security and Global Ecology and Biogeography. He is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow. He was awarded the 2020 Wihuri International Prize for his work on sustainable global food systems.

Ken Meter

Ken Meter is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the U.S., integrating market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. Meter holds 50 years of experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building. His local economic analyses have promoted local food networks in 144 regions in 41 states, two provinces, and 4 tribal nations. He developed a $9.85-milllion plan for local food investment for the state of South Carolina, and completed similar studies for New Mexico, New Hampshire, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. He developed strategic regional food plans for nearly 20 regions across the U.S. Meter consulted with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and Colorado State University as one of 14 co-authors of a toolkit for measuring economic impacts of local food development. He is author of Building Community Food Webs, published by Island Press in 2021. He is one of 3 co-editors of Sustainable Food System Assessment: Lessons from Global Practice, published by Routledge (UK) in 2019. Meter is also a member of the International Economic Development Council, where he presented at several annual meetings. He has taught at the Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Minnesota.