Food & agriculture - Feb 4
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Ragan Sutterfield, Plenty Mag
One of the issues that always comes up in sustainable agriculture discussions is food security, and there’s a good reason for it. If something were to happen to the centralized food system, whether it be a bird flu outbreak or a terrorist attack, the only way to feed ourselves would be with local farms. The problem is that most of the farms we now have aren’t diversified enough to feed us.
I don’t like to dwell on big catastrophes though. I agree with the philosopher Slavoj Zizek that it’s sad that the only time world peace occurs in movies is when the earth is about to be hit by an asteroid or attacked by aliens. I don’t think we should base our food system on a “what if a nuclear bomb hit” sort of argument. I think that decentralized and local agriculture should be the standard way to feed ourselves simply because it’s neighborly, better tasting, and more fun.
There is a joy in the task of growing things — a joy that comes from our 10,000 year old agricultural habit.
(29 Jan 2007)
One of Sharon Astyk's recent posts captures this joy also.
Vandana Shiva on Food Relocalisation
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Vandana Shiva is the most extraordinary speaker on environmental issues I have ever heard. Period. It was entirely appropriate that she should deliver the keynote lecture on Taking The Oil Out of Our Food which she did very powerfully and is essential listening. You can now hear the podcast at the Soil Association website.
During a previous panel discussion, I asked her the question “there are now communities around the UK looking at how to relocalise their food systems in response to peak oil, but they are working against the cultural trends and the direction most see as logical. Do you have any advice for such groups?”. Here is a direct transcript of her reply;
Ultimately any of these changes, whether it’s a question of re-ruralisation or bringing agriculture into towns where the towns have been assumed to be merely consumer and never producers of food, every one of these changes is, at the ultimate level, a cultural and ethical shift. We need every bit of a cultural rejuvenation and a cultural revolution as well as an ethical revolution. The moment we have this, the rest works very easily and very quickly, because what is holding us back but false ideas of what it is to be civilised, what it is to be developed, what it is to be advanced. All kinds of adjectives that are forcing us to carry the non-sustainability burden to prove we are more human in the process of doing it.
I think what we need for a One Planet Agriculture is to celebrate another humanity beyond oil. That’s a cultural shift. Why is Slow Food so powerful as a movement? Because they turn the celebration of quality food into a cultural revolution. We need to do the same with localisation of food systems, we need to do the same with reruralisation, we need to do every one of these things exactly how the fossil fuel people did it.
“What’s the next step? - Give up your bullock cart…”, in India that’s how they did it. “The Bullock Cart Age” they call it. “The Automobile Age”, it’s called. The Automobile Age is 100,000 people being knocked down on our roads! Farmland being eaten up by highways. There is not enough land in India to live like America anyway. So, for us, the whole issue is to celebrate resource prudence and simplicity as human intelligence.
(1 Feb 2007)
See also: Vandana Shiva has the last word on the Doomer/Powerdown Debate…
City Farmer Interview
Bruce Darrell, Food Urbanism
When I was in Vancouver a few months ago for the Bridging Borders Toward Food Security conference, I visited a number of Urban Agriculture projects, the most significant of which was City Farmer. City Farmer has been focusing on Urban Agriculture for almost 30 years and their web site is, for many people, the main portal into the diverse world of growing food in a city.
To visit City Farmer is to "step on hallowed ground". I was very fortunate to spend a beautiful October morning with Michael Levenston, Executive Director and Founder of City Farmer, and Joe Nasr, co-author of the seminal reference book Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities (which is due to be re-published later this year).
I really like Michael's approach to Urban Agriculture, which is focussed on helping people to grow their own food. Thankfully, Michael agreed to be interviewed for my blog, and I asked him about the history of City Farmer, their main activities, the changes over the last 3 decades and about his own viewpoints on Urban Agriculture.
(17 Jan 2007)
Bruce Darrell was organiser of the FEASTA conference Food Security in an Energy Scarce World: What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out, some of which is now available as online video. Other posts on Food Urbanism:
Parker, Within Our Lifetimes
Deep in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest there lies the ruins of a Michigan town
Built by Henry Ford in the 1929, Fordlandia was Henry's answer to a growing dependence on foreign rubber supply-chains that were desperately needed to produce the millions of tires demanded by the developing world of the automobile in the U.S.
As the automobile began to re-shape human settlement in North America, the industries that produced and maintained this emerging society began to reshape the lands and people who held the resources necessary to effect this change.
Henry Ford sought to control every aspect of supply and manufacture along the way. He would follow his supply lines down to the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil to begin what would be the first and last attempt at factory-style mass production of rubber, on rubber tree plantations. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he failed. There are several primary causes for this failure that I believe can serve as examples of larger trends within the dominant culture.
(17 Oct 2006)
A fascinating piece of history. -AF
Yes - in 10 years we may have no bananas
James Meek, Guardian
It is a freakish, doped-up, mutant clone which hasn't had sex for thousands of years - and the strain may be about to tell on the nation's fruitbowl favourite. Scientists based in France have warned that, without radical and swift action, in 10 years' time we really could have no bananas.
Two fungal diseases, Panama disease and black Sigatoka, are cutting a swath through banana plantations, just as blight once devastated potato crops. But unlike the potato, and other crops where disease-resistant strains can be bred by conventional means, making a fungus-free variety of the banana is extraordinarily difficult.
(16 Jan 2007)
No direct relevance to energy. It just shows to me how we are dependent on the natural world, of which most of us have little understanding.
Hat tip Big Gav. -BA