Daily Archives: June 14, 2017

As Climate Change Threatens Food Supplies, Seed Saving is an Ancient Act of Resilience by Sarah van Gelder — YES! Magazine

In Norway, a high-tech seed vault flooded from melting permafrost. In Montana, locals keep their seeds in the library.

Sarah van Gelder posted Jun 07, 2017

On Feb. 26, 2008, a $9-million underground seed vault began operating deep in the permafrost on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, just 810 miles from the North Pole. This high-tech Noah’s Ark for the world’s food varieties was intended to assure that, even in a worst-case scenario, our irreplaceable heritage of food seeds would remain safely frozen.

Less than 10 years after it opened, the facility flooded. The seeds are safe; the water only entered a passageway. Still, as vast areas of permafrost melt, the breach raises serious questions about the security of the seeds, and whether a centralized seed bank is really the best way to safeguard the world’s food supply.

Meanwhile, a much older approach to saving the world’s heritage of food varieties is making a comeback.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a group of volunteers in the northern Montana city of Great Falls met in the local library to package seeds for their newly formed seed exchange, and to share their passion for gardening and food security.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen to our climate in the future,” said Alice Kestler, a library specialist. “Hopefully, as the years go by, we can develop local cultivars that are really suited to the local climate here.”

…(read more).


Organizing Alternative Food Futures in the Peripheries of the Industrial Food System « Journal of Sustainability Education

By Sam Grant


Miguel Altieri (1995), one of our great bioneers in agroecology, has done much to demonstrate that we can feed the world with bottom up resilient, local agriculture based on sound ecological principles. Similarly, the work of La Via Campesina (2010) – the global peasants movement organization – is demonstrating the cooperative power of many agro-ecologies from diverse cultures of the world combining with one message to the rest of us to respect and support full food sovereignty. Everywhere we look, whether in the Global North or Global South, we see people reclaiming an integral relationship with nature and each other through regenerative agriculture and regenerative community building strategies. Looking forward, there are many exciting intersections of regenerative agriculture and sustainability education to amplify.

When we look back on this part of the twenty first century, I hope enough of us will be able to look back and smile, reflecting on the contributions we made to address climate change with a climate justice approach. This would allow us to face the biggest challenge of the twenty first century, with what W.E.B. DuBois recognized as the biggest problem of the twentieth century – racism. I bridge these two major problems in my theorizing by recognizing that the whole period of Modernity has been founded in a pattern of ecological apartheid – divisions of people from the earth and from each other.

I write this article from Minnesota, a state that is at once among the best places in the world to live, and yet, if you are African American it is statistically the worst on a composite index of racial inequality. So, what has this got to do with regenerative agriculture you ask? I will tell you. When we combine regenerative agriculture and sustainability education through a climate justice orientation, we heal ecosystems and people simultaneously. It is because I recognize regenerative agriculture as vehicle that helps us co-create healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people on a healthy planet that I want to do my part to connect people to their own possible contributions.

This essay aims to share two examples of work being done to bridge sustainability education and regenerative agriculture. One is set in a mixed income urban community in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. The second is set in a network of very poor rural villages in Sierra Leone.

…(read more).


Why America Can’t Escape the Cycle of Hunger – CityLab

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A shopper fills her cart at the Food Bank For New York City Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
The new book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups argues that food banks and pantries don’t chip away at underlying issues that keep people food-insecure.

In many metropolitan areas, the food bank is viewed as a vital and beloved community institution. Companies send teams of volunteers down around the holidays to sort through canned soups and boxed macaroni. Can drives at schools and offices warm the hearts of those who give and fill the shelves of food banks and pantries. To most, the food bank is utterly non-controversial, revered on both the political left and right for its steady work helping to feed the roughly 40 million Americans who sometimes wonder where their next meal will come from.

The longtime Portland, Oregon-based anti-hunger activist Andy Fisher tells a different story in his new book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups. Fisher, a founder of the National Food Security Coalition, writes that food banks and other anti-hunger organizations (as well as federal programs) are far too cozy with big corporations. He describes the result as “toxic charity” that has barely moved the needle on American food insecurity in more than 30 years.

CityLab sat down with Fisher to hear more about why he views much of the emergency food system as unhelpful—and what can be done to improve it.

How has our approach to addressing food insecurity changed over time?

In the early 1980s, there was a large recession. The Reagan administration came in and slashed federal programs such as food stamps. There was a decline in manufacturing jobs. So what had been just a few food banks around the country grew dramatically to about 180 by the end of the decade.

We began to really embark on a charity approach as a more serious attempt to address what was considered to be an emergency at the time—which is why it was called the “emergency food system.” But that emergency never really went away. It just became institutionalized, and there’s been a permanent amount of food insecurity around the country since then. That’s one approach.

Another approach was welfare reform [under the] Clinton administration. That also reinforced the need for a charity approach because it lifted the government’s role in providing for basic income for the most impoverished people in the country.

(read more).