Warning, this is a rant inspired by a meeting I attended last week. The following statement was said (name purposefully omitted) and I wrote it down for a future reflection:
Cultivating all land takes away from local farmers… and doesn't this go against sustainability?"
Picture this: what would it look like if we literally, "grew food everywhere?" For one, there wouldn't be as much grass. There also would be much less (or no) world hunger... and the world would be on path toward true sustainability. After imagining that world, shouldn't we all be asking ourselves, "why wouldn't we want to grow food everywhere?"
Economically, it makes sense [more so locally]. We would have to outsource far less food and our money could stay in the local economy. However, our current measure for economic growth [GDP] would be adversely affected. I will explain later why it's not necessarily a bad thing to have very low or near 0% growth (negative is bad, but so is the super growth like we've been having since the industrial revolution.)
Environmentally, local sustainable food production is sound (less transportation = less fossil fuels used, and less heavy machinery needed for large-scale production / distribution. More oxygen produced by plants and more carbon sequestration from trees. Also, more shade on asphault / concrete means less heat reflection and lower ground temperatures… plants will also absorb rainwater and decrease the amount of [polluted] runoff into nearby water sheds.
Socially, it gets people outside and working together toward a common goal: growing food (on the micro scale), and creating a sustainable world (on the macro level). Being outside has been found (in numerous studies) to help people's mental, emotional and physical health. For some, spiritual health as well. Therefore, the quality of life would improve as a whole.
Any community, town, university, city, etc. who implements this would have a sustainable model for the entire world to see... why would anyone not want this?
Richard Heinberg sums it up best when he describes our measurement of economic success (GDP) on a planet that has finite resources. Think about those two ideas and ask yourself can they realistically go hand-in-hand forever? No they can't – the two ideas are mutually exclusive. We cannot continually increase our GDP when our population keeps increasing and our resource levels do not. This system we are all living by is so completely flawed but it's the norm. And Everyone is following it.
It's going to take someone very ballsy and with very deep pockets to stand up against the current measurement of economic success (GDP)… to prove that the world can still function effectively with very little or even 0% economic growth. Or rather (and more realistically) it will take a collective movement among the people (it is happening now, but more support is needed) to really make this change happen.
I hypothesize that by decreasing our GDP (not have a negative GDP, but have a very low or near 0% growth figure) we will create other successes that are much more important to us as a species. These successes I speak of are human happiness, true sustainable living and an overall improved quality of life for all.
I'm not suggesting that everyone begins to grow all of their own food and strive for total self-sufficiency (this is nearly impossible to do, even on a large-scale.) That is completely the wrong goal to have - we are a social species that works much more efficiently together rather than separate. Instead, I'm suggesting that people grow all the food they can and buy/barter for the things they do not produce themselves. There will still be plenty of jobs if everyone grows their own food… however, the farmers who are currently growing food for the masses might have to restructure their approach of making money and begin to focus on other forms of income such as educating the general public on how to grow food responsibly.
No matter what positive actions you take in this world, there will be some unexpected or adverse affects. Farmers will lose part of their income stream if people have access to free food in their own yards and on local public spaces. That is the down side to an otherwise brilliant model. What we must do is help the farmers (not let them "starve", speaking in financial terms), for they have provided us with food that we needed to live for thousands of years. But the system we have in place is not working... and some unsustainable jobs will need to be eliminated in order to continue progressing as a species.
This transition will not be easy, and some people will be unhappy with the changes we must make. A community effort must take place (financial, emotional and loving support) to help the current large-scale farmers become integrated into this new world. We need to help our fellow brothers and sisters make a complete life restructuring if that's what it comes down to. I doubt that with the surplus amount of food being produced that farmers will be able to afford the huge chunks of land they currently have… it may need to be sold to local conservation groups or town/city governments…and then it can be reforested or used in some other responsible way.
What it all comes down to is if people are willing to make this change: meaning (1) live a community-based (2) less consumptive and (3) more [not completely] self-sufficient lifestyle - then this system could actually work. If you only take what you need, grow all you can and share in community with others… the world will transform into a better place for us all. And it wouldn't just be the future generations benefiting from our actions... we could actually see the results happening right before our eyes.
So get inspired people... and start small by planting your own garden. If enough of us do this - imagine the impacts... and if you want help, give me a call - I have a feeling this will be my life's work.
Grow food everywhere!