Some thoughts on Bananas

I love bananas. I eat at least 1 every day. They’re easy to carry, easy to eat without making a mess, easy to grab when I’m running late to class … They’re so common place, it hardly strikes me to think of them as a tropical fruit, but they are tropical and they have to be transported through a complicated system to get to Safeway before I buy them.

According to wikipedia: “In the current world marketing system, bananas are grown in the tropics where hurricanes are not common. The fruit therefore has to be transported over long distances and storage is necessary. To gain maximum life bunches are harvested before the fruit is fully mature. The fruit is carefully handled, transported quickly to the seaboard, cooled and shipped under sophisticated refrigeration. The basis of this procedure is to prevent the bananas producing ethylene which is the natural ripening agent of the fruit. This sophisticated technology allows storage and transport for 3-4 weeks at 13 degrees Celsius. On arrival at the destination the bananas are held at about 17 degrees Celsius and treated with a low concentration of ethylene. After a few days the fruit has begun to ripen and it is distributed for retail sale.”

So, why does this matter? Well, lately, I’ve been thinking about how to eat more sustainably. Based on wikipedia’s summary of banana transportation, it seems like it takesĀ  an enormous amount of energy to get the bananas to my local grocery store. Eating them may be easy on my lifestyle, but is it easy on the environment? And say the whole process of importing bananas to Canada was environmentally unsound enough to convince me to stop eating bananas and start eating another fruit grown in the near vicinity of Vancouver? What if a whole bunch of other people did the same thing to the point where the global demand for bananas was significantly reduced? What if a relatively poor country like Dominica, where the economy depends primarily on bananas, became even more improverished because of a steep drop in banana demand? How would the country climb out of this poverty if they couldn’t export bananas anymore?

I realize I’m using slippery-slope logic and that such a banana-driven disaster sounds ridiculous. Yet, as I try to think about what it means to eat sustainably (and I’ve become convinced that in many ways that can mean eating locally) I’ve also been wondering about how deeply interconnected all of us are by the global markets that bring us our food, especially when our food comes from developing countries whose economies depend on agriculture exports….

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