Sunday, 27 October 2013

Transitioning from wasters to savers - can we do it?

Simple fresh vegetarian food can be a feast
A third of all the food grown in the world is wasted, according to a new report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The FAO estimates that this waste is responsible for 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent which makes it the "third top emitter after U.S.A. and China".

Amazing stuff that  highlights the importance of work that community organisations and groups like SecondBite are doing in saving food.

If you haven't read the earlier case study on Christ Church Community Centre, you can check it out here. It's one example of the good work being done by many community level organisations.

Other interesting initiatives I've found out about through Twitter recently are Remote Indigenous Gardens and Basin View Integrated Garden.

The Remote Indigenous Gardens aim to improve access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which are often hard to obtain and extremely expensive in remote areas. Prior to European invasion, native fruit and vegetables formed the majority of Indigenous people's diets, so it's great to hear about bush tucker, bush medicine and useful plants being grown in gardens like Banatjarl.

Some of the community gardens in this research project also feature Indigenous plants and I plan to highlight them in case studies soon.

The Basin View Integrated Garden is a large sustainable garden design incorporating aquaculture. It looks as if it would be too expensive for most community organisations in its complete form but it is a very interesting concept.

General information about community gardens in Victoria can be found through Cultivating Community or through some local Councils.

(Update 28 October - just want to add that there are now over 400 schools participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.)

Community gardening and food saving initiatives can be part of a broader move towards community self reliance and resilience, by improving access to fresh food, promoting healthy eating and social justice and inclusion. This also reduces the carbon emissions caused by food waste, food processing and transport (food miles).

In moving towards local self reliance, local communities are inevitably at odds with large scale capitalism. The community movement is essentially about thrift - making the most of limited resources - and sharing, whereas capitalism is about growth and profit - using more resources to produce more things to sell to more people.

Although community gardeners might not think it, they are in competition with capitalist organisations like supermarkets. Inevitably I think this division is going to become more apparent and  the community reliance movement will face opposition. However the movement from a society based on growth (and waste) to a society based on thrift and conservation seems essential if we want to create a fairer and more sustainable society.

Population growth may sustain the growth imperative of capitalism for some time but it is possible that population growth may start to decline globally this century (as it has in wealthy countries). This would depend on many factors particularly increasing access to education and human rights for women in poor countries, better sharing of global resources to reduce poverty and improved access to contraception.

Moving to a stable population and a society of thrift and sharing, rather than competition and growth, requires a huge change in the governance of society at national and international level, including the need to ensure that people still have meaningful participation and employment. While these concerns may seem remote to health promoters and community members working at local level, such people actually have a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to contribute.

I was therefore very pleased to come across the Community Economies Collective recently. The work of the collective aims to:

  • "produce a more inclusive understanding of economy
  • highlight the extent and contribution of hidden and alternative economies
  • theorize economy and community as sites of becoming
  • build sustainable non-capitalist economic alternatives
  • foster ethical economic experimentation
  • engender collaborations between activists, academics and communities".

It is also based on the feminist theory of J K Gibson Graham. I hope to make contact with the collective soon and explore possible links with the work of this research project and the participants in it.

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