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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…..

Hello again my faithful Chef Fan’s!! We are getting down to the wire and this class is almost wrapped up. It strange to think that I only have 4 more weeks of school but at the same time it is a wonderful feeling. As most of you have come to expect here is the latest assignment, and this time we are moving into more modern days. There was the option to pick different technology but I decided to go with transportation…..Enjoy!

1.      How would you characterize or describe the innovation or technology you choose? In your opinion, why is it important?

When it comes to the actual movement of food around the world, I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that transportation has had the biggest impact of our food systems. As a people and society we have always needed a way to move goods from the farm to the markets. This started out as people walking the goods to the market but as technology changed we began to use horses or other labor animals to pull carts of goods to market. We see this trend being used across all walks of history, from ships and wagons of goods making year’s long trips to distant parts of the world; to the invention of railways, trucks, and even the airplane being used today to move tons of food from one part of the world to another. In the modern world we live in we are able to get out of season fruits and vegetables year round because of the option to have them shipped from around the world.

Since the transcontinental line was completed in 1869 transportation has been the driving factor in the movement of people around the United States. Rail-lines crisscrossed the country bringing hordes of European settlers to the western frontier and bringing their crops and cattle back to the eastern urban markets. In the wake of WW1 trucks caught up to and passed the railroads as the primary conveyors of agricultural products to markets and consumers. But it took three postwar developments to make that revolution possible. First, the transportation revolution required better roads, second, it required better trucks and engines, and third, it required refrigerated trailers. Pressure from farmers to get them out of the mud forced the government to build the first federal highway system. In 1944 Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, and committed the nation to building a modern, four-lane interstate highway system across the country. One of the arguments for the interstate highway system was that it would help farmers get their produce from rural areas to city markets quickly and efficiently. Ironically, trucks have never been able to match the low per ton per mile cost of railroads in transporting food. But the speed and flexibility of trucks won the battle for farm to market transportation.

This revolution in transportation also allowed huge changes in the marketing of food products. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, cattle producers would drive their herds to rail yards, where the stock would be shipped to a central cattle market in places like Chicago. There, packinghouses would cluster around the pens and bid for the cattle they needed to supply their customers with meat. As trucks took over, the markets decentralized. Packing houses found they could build slaughterhouses in rural areas closer to their suppliers. In 1938 a Minneapolis trucking executive, Harry Werner, teamed up with Joseph Numero, who brought in his mechanics to work on the problem of losses in transportation because of a lack of refrigeration. By 1941, they had patented designs for a shock-resistant refrigeration unit that would be mounted on the trailer. Soon the company had exclusive contracts with the U.S. military to ship food to the troops. That contract kept the company and the industry alive. After the war, refrigerated trucks meant that a local farmer’s market expanded beyond the 50 miles around his or her farm. Before the war, trucks were “refrigerated” by packing ice into the truck and turning on a fan. When the ice melted, the “cold” ran out and the food spoiled. Farmers in California might be growing lettuce in the winter, but they couldn’t get it to consumers in Nebraska, let alone the East Coast.

Refrigerated trucks changed all that and spawned the entire frozen food industry. As that industry grew after the war, refrigerated modular shipping containers were put on ships, and later planes, and a new industry was born. Today we now have the option of flying a cargo planes worth of refrigerated or even frozen foods around the world. This movement of food has the power to supply troops in combat zones or to drop much needed relief to starving nations almost anywhere in the world. The ability to move food vast distances in a few hours means that we are able to see freshly grown fruits and vegetables year round. This power to circumvent the natural order of the seasons and mother-nature makes transportation one of, if not the most important factor in our constantly evolving food systems.

2.      Identify short and long-term consequences, outcomes, or results of this invention or trend.

The cost of transportation is more than just the cost of fuel for all the different modes of transportation. Some of the other cost we are well aware of like the pollution and other ecological disasters like oil spills, but there is also the cost of life to build the railways and roads we use each day. Look at the millions of Chinese immigrants who were used almost as slaves to build the railroads, and you will have an idea of what I am talking about. Working conditions aside, the constant fluctuation in the cost of shipping translates to the market and shop owners, which in turn are passed on to the customer. This fluctuation in cost has made it so that prices are always changing for the goods that most people consider essential parts of their everyday lives.

When it comes to just how long or short term these consequences/ problems are cannot truly be said. We don’t currently know just how much damage has been done by all of the pollution that comes from transportation, and as there are no eminent changes, or alternatives to our current methods of transportation this pollution isn’t going to get any better. One of the problems is that everyone is attached to the current way of life and we are not willing to change our ways. Unless we see some kind of catalyst or new technology to prompt a change in our transportation ways it is unlikely that we will ever truly know just how far reaching the effects and consequences of our global transportation network really are.

3.      Would you like to have been the creator of this technology or trend? Why or why not?

As there is not one invention or trend that sparked the transportation revolution I don’t see how one person can really be the sole creator of transportation. Too many years and different small inventions went into the creation of our global transportation network that it would be silly for one person to claim all the credit. Yes the inventions of some things like steel and steam engines paved the way for roads and modern day combustion engines but there are many years between these inventions. If however it was possible for one person to take all of the responsibility for creating our transportation network then I would like to be that person.

Even with all of the pollution our transportation network is doing more good than it is harm. It is connecting people on a global level which is something that only a few systems and technologies can do. As a people we are able to experience other parts of the world that before this global transportation would take months if not years to actually do. Today it takes a few days to maybe a week or two before we receive goods made around the world from us. This is an astonishing aspect of life today and if it was possible for one person to be credited with this then I would very much like to be that person.

Literature Review:

                         When it came to the first question I really didn’t have to look much farther than one of the assigned reading articles this week. It was an article about how transportation changed and helped revolutionize farming in the 1920’s. In this article it talks about all of the different people who had a hand in shaping our massive global transportation network. It was a really great article to read and gave me a lot of really good ideas about different ideas to talk about when it comes to the positive side of transportation.

The second question was more about the negative aspects of transportation. I ended up reading three different articles about the problems with transportation and the pollution it causes. Two of the articles are from the New York Times and the third is from Eco Evaluations, and all three of them talk about the cost of transporting goods around the world in both pollution and actual cost. They didn’t really proposes any real solutions to the problem, and I think this might be because the problem is so big and so far reaching that no-one can hope to figure it out all by themselves.

Works Cited:

“The Environmental Cost of Food Transportation.” Eco Evaluator. N.p., 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

Reed, Stanley. “GREEN COLUMN; In European Union, Emissions Trade Is Sputtering.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

Reporting., Elisabeth Rosenthal; Daniele Pinto Contributed. “THE FOOD CHAIN; Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Apr. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

“A Revolution in Transportation for Agriculture during the 1940s.” Living History Farm. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.



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