Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Community Powerdown session 6

This session was on food systems. The article The Case for Local Food was by Helena Norberg Hodge, which was interesting as I'd visited her ecological centre in Ladakh in northern India in 1998. Ladakh is an incredible place, the systems that have been used by local people to thrive at 3500m above sea level, where they have created amazing irrigation systems for example, where people dam off the communal channel using stones to that it runs into their plot for their designated few hours a day, before the next farmer gets a turn at the water, with miles of stone channels bringing the precious water to the gloriously green fields. I managed to find a photo of the centre and brought it with me to the class but was slightly too embarrassed to show it to more than a couple of people.

An acronym CSAs in the articles was referred to be someone in the class as standing for Community Share Agriculture, where people pay a certain amount towards a local farm, and get a share in its produce, popular in the US apparently.

The icebreaker was ways to reduce our food carbon footprint, and the group session at the end was similar, so we chose to focus the group work on community solutions. The main ways people were suggesting were:
Buy seasonal food. Buy local. Support farmers' markets. Grow your own food. Check labels and become more educated about where food comes from and what's in it. Increase social education about these issues. Ask the shops and supermarkets about where their food comes from. Go to local and smaller shops. Eat at restaurants that source local food - that last something I think of but it doesn't get emphasized enough.

Only half way round the group did someone say, eat less meat, or no meat - which is a colossal way to reduce carbon production from food. You need so much more energy, most of which comes in the form of oil, to produce meat than to produce grain - up to 10 times more in intensive cattle farming, according to the course facilitator. Eating less meat is necessary, and essential if we're to tackle climate change - I do hear people making this ecological argument occasionally, but it could be front and centre.

Vandana Shiva says we're eating oil. The importance of looking at the global implications of going local I think can't be forgotten - what about fair trade, what about poor farmers in the global South earning a living from selling to the global North. And it's those farmers that will be squeezed out first, and suffer most if pressure appears not to trade internationally. I get constantly worried that the rhetoric of climate change will be used to move us towards some dangerous and destructive ends - such as nuclear power or killing the poor or leaving them to die - this is already happening but its implications are hidden, the 'consumption choices' of the North contribute to and in some cases cause death and destruction in the South. These two issues, the implications of eating meat, and the global-local relationships, are close to my heart, but I'm not expressing them well here. As I said to someone in the class who asked what are the solutions, what systems thinking teaches us is that we have to look at the whole picture, it's not enough to address climate change at the expense of people's lives, we have to find a system that works for everything we value, and I think human life, has to be high on that list. It's a person or speciesist perspective, but it can't be forgotten.



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