Farmer and activist Julian Rose has his thinking cap on. Starting with a critique of the wasteful and unheathful industrialized food system he then sketches a practical template for shifting from depending on global markets with high transportation and storage costs for packaged, chemicalized and GMO foods to interdepending and recreating local, and — only where necessary — regional markets for fresh and organic foods.
BTW: If you wonder why I focus so much on food in this blog, it’s because food must be our number one priority if we wish to transform the way this world works. With the exceptions of water, protection, and security, every other consideration takes a very distant back seat. Unless we can redesign our food system to become much more decentralized, locally and organically based, we will no chance of reducing waste and energy costs and reconfiguring the way our civilization works. Not to mention regaining our spiritual, emotional and mental and physical health! This switch in priorities is profound. And we may not be able make the switch, or make it in time. If not, at least we will have known that we were on the right track when we blinked out of life on our profoundly beautiful, severely poisoned, intensely destabilized home planet.
February 9, 2015
by Julian Rose
www.zengardner.com, via Lance
Intro: Julian Rose lays out a pragmatic model for bringing together local and regional food production and consumption. Julian has had more than 30 years experience in this field; selling the great majority of his organic farm produce within a ten mile radius of his farm. This article is drawn from his book “Changing Course for Life – Local Solutions to Global Problems.”
If Cathedrals are meant to stand as symbols of man’s aspiration to a higher spiritual consciousness, then hypermarkets are surely monuments to society’s lowest level of material greed. While the farmers and factory workers who toil to provide the products that line their plastic shelves receive the absolute minimum economic reward for their labour, the hypermarkets boast huge profits and evermore grandiose expansion plans. So distorted is the scale and motivation of this form of trading – and so destructive to both human and environmental welfare – that any caring individual should find it abhorrent to carry on worshipping at this golden calf.
In a world where everything is subordinate to the Free Market, the superstores are indeed the gods. Their emissaries specifically include the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, the United States Food and Drug Administration and virtually all Western governments, as well as the dominant agrichemical, genetically modified seed and food conglomerates. It is a club that knows no end in its ambitions to dominate and control global resources and international trade. A club that stands squarely behind the clinical cloning of farm animals and the genetic engineering, patenting and declared ‘ownership’ of our common genetic resource base.
In order to reinforce the revival of appropriate scale, local rural economies that are the antithesis of this apocalyptically reductionist approach, we must stick to some important basic principles. These I have described in other publications under the heading the “Proximity Principle”, a phrase coined to emphasise the need to create a reciprocal supply and demand chain within the immediate circumference of population centres. A system that ensures that full utilisation is made of the local resource base, before turning to areas further afield for the community’s basic needs.
There are number of simple steps to be put in place to achieve this:
Firstly: the town or village committee must do some simple calculations concerning approximately how much food, energy and building materials (fibre) are required to maintain the sensible needs of their community.
Secondly: Farmers and local foresters must be approached in order to establish how much of this need can be supplied. Initially a round table discussion between all parties concerned can set the process in motion.
Thirdly: A contractual agreement should be established between the local farmers and local citizens (consumers). Preferably led by the local citizens, who will be able to tell the farmers approximately what volume of specific products they would like to have grown for them on an annual basis.
Fourthly: the economic return to the farmer must be fair, with no attempt made to exploit his or her labour or to use the threat of going elsewhere to buy cheaper food or commodities. In return the farmer must guarantee to use ecologically benign systems of agriculture, and to strive to produce good quality nutritious and flavourful foods that can be enjoyed by all. The same applies to foresters, who must adopt sustainable, environmentally sound practices of timber management. Both will need to save their seeds and swap them locally to perpetuate native diversity.
Fifthly: The means of transportation, display and sale of these goods must reflect the minimum use of non-renewable polluting fossil fuels and non-degradable packaging. This is fundamental and reflects the pride of place essential to any homogeneous community, as well as to broader environmental care.
Sixth: The consumers and producers must not act like entrenched camps. There should be a sharing and mutual understanding of needs in recognition of the fact that good community care is a common responsibility and a rewarding process, in which everyone plays an important part.
Seventh: Cultural, spiritual and artistic expressions should be encouraged to flourish; particularly those that give expression and impetus to the evolving way of life of the community. Young and old alike should be involved and recognise the values of their respective talents and wisdom. Rural communities all have the potential to be dynamic and colourful centres of life. Our world is composed of millions of such communities – even big cities are a composite of hundreds of interconnected communities or boroughs.
This is the way we should consciously see and design the world in which we live, because the scale, lay-out and visual beauty of our landscapes, villages, towns and working places must find harmony and resonate with our own sense of inner peace and security. The laws of man and the laws of nature must find themselves ever more closely intertwined, harmonised and mutually enhanced.
Eighth: The Proximity Principle establishes a model which can be replicated right across the land, so that all villages, market towns and even larger towns re-find their connection to the land upon which they were built – and re-establish their direct links with the surrounding landscape and natural resource base.
Market towns have a particularly important role to play here, as they were historically designed to attract trade to their central market places through a road system radiating out from the centre like spokes from the hub of a wheel. Their pedigree suggests that they should now become ‘rural enterprise hubs’, echoing anew their historical raison d’etre and leading the way towards the development of thousands of similarly placed local economies. The widespread adoption of the Proximity Principle will ensure that local, fresh, seasonal quality food will be available to all citizens, not just a minority currently able to afford such produce.
Where the production of local food, fuel and fibre is insufficient to meet the needs of the community it connects to, then the nearest area with a surplus can make up the difference. Likewise, communities with considerable surpluses can be providers of adjacent under supplied communities and so on, replicated throughout the country and monitored at the parish, district and county levels so as to fulfil the internal self sufficiency and food, fuel and fibre needs of each region of the land. Ultimately, only any national surplus or deficit will trigger an export opportunity or an import requirement.
But the random import and export of globally or inter-continentally traded basic commodities has no place in this system. It does not preclude the continued trading of products that are not what can be defined as ‘staple needs’, but it will cut out the appallingly wasteful practice of importing and exporting foods easily grown or raised in both countries of origin. Thousands of communities, all operating to the simple criterion of the proximity principle, can and will provide a major reduction in polluting emissions which simply cannot be successfully achieved in any other way.
It is a question of re humanising our existence and re nurturing our deeply wounded planetary health. It is only when we have created some momentum in bringing about these changes that we will be in a position to offer so-called ‘Third World’ countries a reasonable model to emulate. The practice of sending ‘experts’ to teach natives of less industrially developed nations how to repeat our own bad habits is one of the outstanding examples of post colonial arrogance still widely practised today. In fact, were we not so headstrong and so falsely sure of the innate superiority of our western ways, we would have long ago recognised that we had as much, if not more, to learn from the peasant farmers of the world than they have to learn from us.
This lesson will soon come home to roost, whether or not it is voluntarily absorbed. Most of what we call ‘progress’ and ‘development’, is essentially a profit motivated, blinkered and completely unsustainable rush to cash in on the last ounce of available wealth still there to be stolen from unsuspecting communities across the world.
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, an international activist and author. His latest book ‘In Defence of Life’ is available at www.amazon.com and via his website www.julianrose.info ‘Changing Course for Life’ is also available
from this source.