Posts Tagged ‘farmers markets’
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
I find it fascinating to watch the blossoming of the sustainability movement in New Zealand, as hundreds of thousands of Kiwis make conscious lifestyle choices to reduce their energy and carbon footprint. New Zealand was a relative latecomer to globalization and a lifestyle based on the cheap Asian imports that have come to dominate our retail shelves. Many women of my own generation talk of growing their own fruit, veggies and chooks (chickens) in their backyard when their children were young, as well as canning surplus fruit and veggies for winter, sewing their children’s clothes, knitting their jumpers (sweaters) and saving and recycling string, rags, scrap metal and any other household waste that could be used for some other purpose. It is intriguing to watch many of them fall back on these deeply engrained habits, as they make a conscious choice to adopt a less energy intensive lifestyle.
Most of New Zealand’s sustainability groups are formal or informal members of Transition Towns New Zealand, a member of the global Transition Towns movement that started in Ireland and the UK. In perusing the TT New Zealand website, it is interesting to see how many local groups have taken up concepts that originated with the Y2K movement of the late nineties – which was advising people on preparing for the possible “End of Civilization as We Know It.” The following are key examples:
Initiatives to improve local food (and water) security:
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and food crops.
- Development of “bioregional” transportation security (that doesn’t rely on imported oil) for delivery of food and other essentials (99.9 percent of human existence has relied on a bioregional economic model – which entails sourcing the majority of food and other goods within a 100 mile radius)
- Development of strong community networks to provide neighborhood patrols in the absence of police services.
- Neighborhood systems of rainwater collection and purification
- Strong local credit unions and locally owned businesses and cooperatives
- A local currency or trading system
- Building a solid tradition of neighbors sharing with one another and helping each other one other out.
- Increasing local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, should industrial fertilizers and insecticides (which are manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable or prohibitively expensive.
Initiatives to improve energy security:
- Neighborhood and community solar and wind power energy systems
- A shift in urban planning to put essential services closer to residential areas (the urban village concept), facilitating increased use of public transportation and an increase in active transport (walking, cycling, skateboarding, etc.).
- Neighborhood, as opposed to household, disaster planning. Ensuring that everyone in your neighborhood has access to dry firewood, candles and oil lamps and ensuring that schools, churches and other neighborhood gathering sites are similarly prepared.
Like the Y2K movement that proceeded it, the Transition Town movement emphasizes the over-riding importance of building strong social networks to cushion the impact of a sudden economic shock or infrastructure breakdown. This approach is supported by extensive medical and psychological studies showing that people with strong social networks recover more quickly from any major illness, personal crisis or catastrophe.
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Although it rarely makes the nightly news, the global sustainability movement is a growing influence in the lives of the educated middle class in most industrialized countries. Millions of people world wide accept that they face a less energy intensive future (whether due to a shrinking global economy, fossil fuel depletion or international treaties to reduce carbon emissions). Which means millions of people are already making conscious lifestyle choices to reduce their energy and carbon footprint.
I am wondering if a self-described “second world” country like New Zealand might possibly offer a useful perspective on this worldwide “greening” of consumerism. The terminology first, second and third world was originally coined during the Cold War to designated capitalist countries aligned with the US (first world), communist countries aligned with the USSR (second world), and countries aligned with neither (third world). More recently, however, the terms first and third world are used to describe economic status, as opposed to political alignment.
A New Definition for Second World
The expression “second world” has definitely taken on a new meaning in New Zealand – especially since the IMF came knocking at our door last week. I wonder if this might also be the case in Iceland, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal – other countries facing unsustainable debt levels as they struggle to keep vital public programs going.
I have often heard New Zealand referred to as second world, mainly by new immigrants from Europe, South Africa and North America. As evidence of New Zealand’s second world status, they cite the fact that Kiwis wear thermal underwear, down vests and mufflers to work in the winter (owing to ambient indoor temperatures of 60-63 degrees F – energy is already extremely expensive here); that most professional women feel guilty using a close dryer and still hang their washing on the line; and that Do It Yourself and jury-rigging with duct tape and Number 8 wire are a matter of national pride and summoning a repairman is seen as an unmanly extravagance.
A Latecomer to Globalization
It’s a historical fact that New Zealand was a latecomer to globalization and the pressure this produced to become an export-driven economy. Prior to the disastrous “structural adjustment” New Zealand underwent in 1984 (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/01/26/in-new-zealand-they-call-it-rogernomics/), Kiwis got along just fine without the billions of dollars of cheap Asian imports that dominate our retail shelves at present. In fact women of my own generation talk of growing their own fruit, veggies and chooks (chickens) in their backyard when their children were young, as well as canning surplus fruit and veggies for winter, sewing their children’s clothes, knitting their jumpers (sweaters) and saving and recycling string, rags, scrap metal and any other household waste that could be used for some other purpose. It is intriguing to watch many of them fall back on these deeply engrained habits, as they make conscious choices to reduce their energy and carbon footprint.
New Zealand also has the advantage of having a mainly agricultural economy and a slower rate of urbanization than other industrialized countries. At present 55.6% percent of Kiwis live in New Zealand’s 12 cities, as opposed to an average 75% urbanization rate for other industrialized countries. Thus making it relatively easy for at least half of New Zealanders to undertake concrete local energy conservation, alternative transport and waste reduction initiatives, as well as creating community gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture schemes.
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
(apologies to V.I. Lenin)
Re-energizing Local Communities and Economies
The movement to rebuild and re-energize local communities is probably the single most important initiatives to reduce US carbon emissions (by reducing the fuel consumed in transporting food and consumer goods across the country and from the other side of the world). Even more important the ability of local communities to withstanding the coming crash is going to depend on their economic strength and resilience.
The great tragedy of the total corporatization of the developed world is that it totally destroyed the economic base – consisting of small neighborhood businesses – that underpinned community life in the US. When strip malls, maxi supermarkets and big box discount retailers like Wal Mart invaded the American landscape in the early seventies, they totally undercut well-established small businesses that were the cornerstone of the US economy. The big box retailers flourished during an era of cheap imports manufactured with sweat shop labor which, thanks to ridiculously cheap oil, could be transported vast distances at very low cost. Thanks to a volume of sales and low overheads, they easily undercut smaller specialty retailers. The corner butcher, baker, book stores, florist, hardware and specialty clothing stores couldn’t compete and simply disappeared.
Owing to their size, malls and big boxes are almost always situated at the periphery of residential areas and rarely accessible by foot, bicycle or bus. This leaves residents of hundreds of cities all over the US with no choice but to get in their cars and create tons of carbon dioxide emissions with daily errands they once did on foot.
Ordinary People Organizing in Their Communities
Unfortunately very little of the important work around rebuilding local communities and economies originates with state or local government – but with non-governmental, citizen organized groups. Thanks to decades of community education and organizing, American consumers are beginning to make conscious choices to reduce their carbon footprint. They are beginning to make the choice to patronize small local retailers (instead of corporate big boxes) and to make food choices with low “food miles” – the term for fuel used to transport food from the farm which produced it.
The 100 Mile Diet
In many communities around the world this has translated into a resurgence of farmer’s markets and backyard and community gardens where people grow their own fruits and veggies. Obviously busy working people could never expect to grow all their own food. However an encouraging number of Americans have committed to a 100 mile diet – a commitment to make the majority of their diet locally produced food in season.
An extension of the 100 mile diet is a commitment to reduce or eliminate meat products in the diet – as meat production in itself creates not only massive amounts of carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide, which are far worse greenhouse gasses. Unfortunately total vegetarianism is impossible for people, who because of pregnancy or other health reasons, cannot derive sufficient protein and from non-animal sources.
Buying Food from a Farmer – a Political Act
When people are unable to grow all the food they consume, the next best option is to buy it at a farmers market. Besides being good for you, buying your food directly from the farmer who produces is a political act in clear defiance of America’s corporate agenda.
It actually accomplishes several important goals simultaneously. First you make sure your money goes directly to the producer – instead of a corporate middleman. Our corporate food giants pay farmers pennies for their crops and reap enormous profits from the “value” they supposedly add by way of processing, transportation, packaging and marketing. Second you support the very survival of family farmers, who have become an endangered species. This is mainly owing to Kellogg’s, General Foods, Nabisco and the other corporate food giants keeping more and more of the food dollar for themselves in the form of profits. However their move to take over increasing amounts of US agricultural land for “factory farms” that mass produce chicken, eggs, meat and dairy products has also really hurt farmers by forcing up land values and property taxes – costs that small farms simply can’t cover from their shrinking revenues.
Presently this industrial farming model responsible for most of the meat and dairy products we find in the supermarket – as many chickens, pigs, cows and steer spend their entire lives confined in buildings and pens that are so small and crowded they can barely move.
Besides being incredibly inhumane, the massive amount of fecal waste (shit) these enterprises produce is discharged into local streams and groundwater, at enormous cost to local authorities who are left with the responsibility of cleaning it up. Moreover meat raised in this manner is highly susceptible to contamination by E.coli, campylobacter, salmonella, mycobacterium avian paratuberculosis (MAP) and other bacteria causing illness in the people who eat it.
Keeping Your Dollars in Your Community
In addition to frequenting local farmers markets, Americans can also support their local economy by banking with local, community owned banks (it was the recklessness of our corporate banking giants who caused the October 2008 crash in the first place). And, where possible, by giving your business to local retailers and producers rather than corporate chains. When you buy from local retailers and producers, the dollar you spend stays in your local community rather than adding to the profit of a multinational corporation.
Creating a Community Currency
To this end many communities (not just in the US – the movement is worldwide) have established local currencies that can only be spent locally at local businesses. Ithaca New York was the first community in the US to create a modern local currency system. Their unit of currency is called an Ithaca Hour. Every Ithaca Hour that is spent on a local product is re-spent hundreds of times, enabling hundreds of local residents to sell products and services to one another. The beauty of a community currency is that people can be unemployed and have no income at all in US dollars – but can still trade in Ithaca Hours so long as they have a product or service to offer that someone else wants to buy.
In contrast one dollar spent at a local MacDonald’s enters the coffers of a multinational corporation and leaves the community forever.
When Ithaca Hours first started in 1991 a massive amount of work was required to print the actual currency and visit and recruit local businesses to participate. Now most local currency systems operate via (free) on-line trading systems. The best and most reliable I have come across is the Community Exchange System run out of South Africa www.ces.org.nz. It currently handles transactions (free) for 179 local currencies, including 32 in the US.