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Fueling the Food Revolution: CoFed to train New Generation of Student Leaders

This weekend a group of college students and regional organizers from across the country gathered in Sebastopol, California at a training retreat to learn and discuss how to successfully implement student run food co-operatives on their college campuses. The energy was high from the start.

Friday night, car loads of excited students arrived to a delicious meal and welcoming regional organizers who promised a weekend full of and inspirergizing workshops on every element of starting a food co-operative. There were students ranging from Lewis and Clark down to Riverside and all the way from Smith College and The George Washington University. Each group had their own unique situation, some already have co-ops and were looking for further guidance, others simply had a concept, and some just an idea, but what everyone had in common was the desire for healthy, student-controlled, sustainable food at their schools.

A recent Newsweek article titled Divided We Eat featured CoFED supporter Michael Pollan, who pointed out that although organic foods are gaining popularity among the middle class, “The food movement, is still very young”. To the leaders at CoFED, this is a sobering yet “inspirgizing” reality. The fact that the food movement is young means that college students like us have the amazing opportunity to help shape it’s future – and that’s exciting!

Which is exactly why in January, 20 recent college graduates will converge on the famed Cric House Retreat Center of Sebastopol, California for a week of intensive leadership training that will teach them how to take the CoFED model of ethically-sourced, community-run cafes to campuses all across the country. CoFED will then place these new regional organizers in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southwest regions, joining six West Coast campuses to lead summer trainings for 100 students at over 20 campuses, and teach them how to open their very own organic cafes!

The week-long training will cover a wholesome diet of critical issues such as: food systems, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, cooperation, leadership development, economy, university politics and youth empowerment. In other words… the whole enchilada. Intensive, participatory workshops will be lead by famous food figures while collaboration between attendees will be facilitated by the CoFED staff and other prominent activists in the field…
(10 December 2011)

How Sweden turns human body heat into useful energy
Xanthe Hinchey, BBC News

Engineers in Stockholm have discovered a new way to trap and use human body heat.

At Stockholm’s busy Central Station, engineers use heating exchangers to convert body heat into hot water and then pump that water to an office building next door, providing it with environmentally friendly and cost effective heating.

The process can reduce energy costs by up to 25%.

Xanthe Hinchey reports.
(7 January 2011)

Vision: 8 Reasons Global Capitalism Makes Our Lives Worse — And How We Can Create a New Kind of Economy

Tara Lohan, AlterNet
To many of us, a society where no one goes hungry, where there is no unemployment, where people are happy and they have spacious homes and lots of leisure time seems like fantasy. But it’s not a fantasy for Helena Norberg-Hodge — she saw it firsthand in the tiny Himalayan region of Ladakh, a remote mountain community that borders Tibet.

During the course of 35 years there, she also saw what happened when Ladakh was suddenly thrown open to the outside world in the 1970s and subsidized roads brought subsidized goods to the region. The local economy was undermined, the cultural fabric was torn apart. Unemployment, pollution and divisiveness emerged for the first time.

“This was Ladakh’s introduction to globalization,” says Norberg-Hodge. The “story of Ladakh can shed light on the root causes of the crises now facing the planet.”

The account of Ladakh’s transformation opens the new film, The Economics of Happiness, created by Steven Gorelick, John Page and Norberg-Hodge, the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture. As Bill McKibben says early on in the film, according to a poll conducted every year since the end of World World II, happiness in the U.S. peaked in 1956. “It’s been slowly downhill ever since,” he says. “But in that time we’ve gotten immeasurably richer, we have three times as much stuff. Somehow it hasn’t worked because that same affluence tends to undermine community.”

Our consumer culture, driven by the engine of globalization, has resulted in an economic and environmental crisis — and, the film’s creators say, a crisis of the human spirit.

…1. Globalization makes us unhappy.

…2. Globalization breeds insecurity.

…3. Globalization wastes natural resources.

…4. Globalization accelerates climate change.

…5. Globalization destroys livelihoods.

…6. Globalization increases conflict.

…7. Globalization is built on handouts to big business.

…8. Globalization is based on false accounting….

…So how do we truly improve our standard of living — including protecting our environment, building healthy communities, having a stable economy? Localize, the filmmakers say. We don’t need to eliminate international trade entirely or be completely self-reliant, says Norberg-Hodge. But we do need to create “more accountable and sustainable communities by producing what we need closer to home.”

…Two new books build on many of the ideas in The Economics of Happiness. The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crisis looks at the convergence of population, water, energy, food and climate threats. All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons shows how communities are reclaiming shared spaces and resources to better the economy and the environment.

Those books and the film bring home three essential points. First, we simply cannot continue to follow the trajectory we’re on. Local economies are being decimated and the global economy hangs by a thread that will snap, likely in short time. Our planet cannot support our hunger for resources, our disregard for sustainability and our shortsightedness.

And second, there are alternatives to globalization and suicidal capitalism. As Asher Miller writes in The Post Carbon Reader:

Our starting point for future planning must be the realization that we are living today at a critical moment in the long arc of human history when numerous crises are not only converging simultaneously, they are interdependent and affect virtually every living thing on the planet. The sheer scale and complexity of the challenges at hand are unprecedented … It may sound bombastic to say, but it’s nevertheless the truth: The success or failure of the human experiment may well be judged by how we manage the next ten to twenty years.

Which brings up the third point: It’s time to get going.
(16 January 2011)