The most rational way to feed ourselves is as locally as possible. This means fresh, nutritious, sustainably-produced food. Such a food system also creates jobs, livelihoods, and a strong local economy; more people know each other, education and health standards rise, crime falls, wildlife flourishes, and people are more fulfilled.
I’m unconvinced by this argument — and I hope I’m wrong! Food is, well, vital. And because of that, food has become not just our bodies and minds, but central to conviviality, sociability, joie de vivre . . .
Nonetheless, I doubt feeding a city (such as Birmingham where I live) can be achieved by locally produced, sustainably produced food. And feeding 9bn or 10bn of us on the planet by 2050 is going to be really difficult.
I suspect we need radically different ways of viewing society. A recognition that food shapes our cities and societies would be a great start. (Have you read Carolyn Steel’s ‘Hungry City’?
Here in Brum, we’re just embarking on the generation of possible food futures, a scenario planning exercise to 2050. Any input, comment, links to other people in other places doing similar things, gratefully received!
Thanks for your comment. Do you have a project website?
I agree that the foodshed of a major city is going to be pretty big – justifiably and viably including large parts of the rest of the world. The key phrase in there was “as locally as possible”. (Actually if I were rewriting that it would be “as sustainably as possible”.) Bananas are awesome, but lets get them by boat, not by plane; apples are wonderful, but lets get them from Dorset, not New Zealand. That’s just embarrassing.
Looking forward to reading more on #tnofood and launching @sustaination soon!
We’re already blogging about Birmingham food futures at http://newoptimists.com/blog — and there will be live blogging during our first event on 2nd November. It kicks off around 5-6pm that evening.
So please do join in by commenting to the blogposts, especially on the evening as they’re uploaded, and/or join conversation on twitter, using the hashtag #TNOfood . . . We want as many perspectives as possible!
Re local: In the short-term, long-haul is often the better option now, low carbon matters included . . . Moreover, eating only local can lead to a restricted diet (e.g. it’s unlikely you can have a vegan diet on foods grown only in the West Midlands; you wouldn’t get enough protein!). Or a diet that’s pretty manky; winter diets in much of the UK used to be dire even in my childhood, simply because some foods can’t be grown locally.
That’s not to say local is a weaker option. Indeed, it might be the only option in some future time! Add in advances in technology, plus the skills and conviviality of food growing, and growing local eating local is important. Indeed, I’ve heard it said that secondary markets (e.g. allotments, market gardens and the like) are not only vital to our well-being, they will also play a significant role in food security.
Or, as Simon, one of the newoptimists.com bloggers said, we are where we eat!
Look forward to your involvement on 2nd November . . . Please spread the word about too!
I suppose what I’m saying is the whole shebang is complex! That’s one of the reasons why the Birmingham food futures project will draw on such a wide range of scientists and others.