25 September 2009

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Great vid from Canada's Real Food Movement - I wonder what the Australian version would look like? Includes a useful Local Food mantra: look/ask/fill - look for local food, ask for it, fill your bag with it.

London Suburb Launches Own Currency

Posting in full from Government News, 24 September 2009

'The South London suburb of Brixton has become the first city council in the UK to launch its own currency, in a bid to keep businesses afloat during the recession.

With denominations of one, five, ten and twenty pounds, the Brixton Pound was launched amid much fanfare by the community volunteer group Transition Towns and with support from the London council of Lambeth. More than 700 people and 60 local businesses have already signed up to the scheme.

Josh Ryan-Collins, a local currencies expert at the New Economics Foundation, who helped to develop the local Brixton pound, said that the currency would keep business in the area and embolden the community.

“The Brixton Pound is a community currency that will enable local people to vote with their wallets for a strong and diverse Brixton economy," he said.“If you spend with a large chain retailer, over 80 per cent of your money leaves the area almost immediately. With the B£ [Brixton pound] we know that our money will stay working for Brixton.”

The notes, which will feature local historical figures such as Vincent Van Gogh, who lived in Brixton at the age of 20, cannot be paid into a bank or used outside the inner-south London area.

The Brixton Pound is the fourth local currency to be launched in the UK since the small town of Totnes in Devon introduced its own monetary system in 2007.'

South Australian Councils Launch Obesity Project

Excerpt from Government News, 23 September 2009

'Six South Australian councils will pioneer a push to root out the causes of childhood obesity with an ambitious project announced by the State Government.

The $22.3m Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (Opal) program for children and families will involve the councils of Mount Gambier, Port Augusta, Marion, Onkaparinga, Salisbury and Playford.

A team of six co-ordinators will start work on the project this week, which is aimed at tackling obesity and chronic disease in the community.

South Australian Minister for Health John Hill said Opal was based on a French model and is one of the few programs in the world that has proven results in combating childhood obesity...

The OPAL managers will work closely with local groups to come up with community wide solutions to these important health issues.'

Meatless Mondays - Baltimore USA

Excerpt from The Daily Table, 24 September 2009

'The city of Baltimore is taking significant steps towards local, sustainable and healthy school lunches. Tony Geraci, the system’s new director of food and nutrition, is working to get frozen, TV dinner-style meals out and fresh food in. Maryland grown fruits and vegetables are showing up in cafeterias, and meat has been taken off the menu on Mondays in all Baltimore public schools.

Assistant White House chef Sam Kass and officials from the US Department of Education recently visited Hampstead Hill, a public charter school, and were very impressed by what they saw (and ate)! Hopefully this will push them to get healthy, local food into all public schools in conjunction with the upcoming renewal of the Child Nutrition Act.'

Emphasis on Growth Is Called Misguided

Excerpt from New York Times, 22 September 2009

'In a provocative new study, a pair of Nobel prize-winning economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, urge the adoption of new assessment tools that incorporate a broader concern for human welfare than just economic growth. By their reckoning, much of the contemporary economic disaster owes to the misbegotten assumption that policy makers simply had to focus on nurturing growth, trusting that this would maximize prosperity for all.

“What you measure affects what you do,” Mr. Stiglitz said Tuesday as he discussed the study before a gathering of journalists in New York. “If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing.”

According to the report, much of the world has long been ruled by an unhealthy fixation on swelling the gross domestic product, or the quantity of goods and services the economy produces. With a singular obsession on making GDP. bigger, many societies — not least, the United States — failed to factor in the social costs of joblessness and the public health impacts of environmental degradation. They allowed banks to borrow and bet unfathomable amounts of money, juicing the present by mortgaging the future, thus laying the ground for the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

The report is more critique than prescription. It elucidates in general terms why leaning exclusively on growth as an economic philosophy may yield unhappiness, and it suggests that the incomes of typical people should be weighed more heavily than the gross production of whole societies. But it sidesteps the thorny details of slapping a cost on a ton of pollution or a waylaid career, leaving a great mass of policy choices for others to resolve...

The resulting report amounts to a treatise on the inadequacy of GDP growth as an indication of overall economic health. It cites the example of increased driving, which weighs in as a positive within the framework of economic growth, as it requires greater production of gasoline and cars, yet fails to account for the hours of leisure and work time squandered in traffic jams, and the environmental costs of pollutants unleashed on the atmosphere...

Indeed, the difficulty comes in turning these general principles into new means of measurement. The report notes that its authors concur on the big picture, but diverge on the methodologies to be employed when it comes to factoring in the value of a better education and cleaner skies.

The old mode of measurement has taken a beating, and yet the new one, it seems, is still a work in progress.'

Global Climate Wakeup Call - 21 September

Sourced from Avaaz

'Monday's Global Climate Wake Up call was unbelievable - 2632 events in 134 countries, tens of thousands of phone calls crashing government lines, unbelievable creativity and diversity of events, directly reaching heads of state and cabinet... ministers from Australia to Europe...Avaaz is now 3.6 million members strong in 14 languages, in every country of the world. On Monday, we showed that we can not only send millions of messages to leaders or donate millions to worthy causes, but that in just a few days we can flood the streets and crash phone lines from Mexico City to Mumbai.'

Globalization Goes Bankrupt

Excerpt from TruthDig, 20 September 2009

Our global economy, like our political system, has been hijacked by a tiny oligarchy, composed mostly of wealthy white men who serve corporations. They have pledged or raised a staggering $18 trillion, looted largely from state treasuries, to prop up banks and other financial institutions that engaged in suicidal acts of speculation and ruined the world economy.

They have formulated trade deals so corporations can speculate across borders with currency, food and natural resources even as, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 1.02 billion people on the planet struggle with hunger. Globalization has obliterated the ability of many poor countries to protect food staples such as corn, rice, beans and wheat with subsidies or taxes on imported staples. The abolishment of these protections has permitted the giant mechanized farms to wipe out tens of millions of small farmers—2 million in Mexico alone—bankrupting many and driving them off their land. Those who could once feed themselves can no longer find enough food, and the wealthiest governments use institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization like pit bulls to establish economic supremacy. There is little that most governments seem able to do to fight back.

But the game is up. The utopian dreams of globalization have been exposed as a sham. Force is all the elite have left. We are living through one of civilization’s great seismic reversals. The ideology of globalization, like all utopias that are sold as inevitable and irreversible, has become a farce. The power elite, perplexed and confused, cling to the disastrous principles of globalization and its outdated language to mask the political and economic vacuum before us. The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs caused the crisis. It led the G-20 to sacrifice other areas of human importance—from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution—on the altar of free trade. It left the world’s poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits in human history. Globalization has become an excuse to ignore the mess. It has left a mediocre elite desperately trying to save a system that cannot be saved and, more important, trying to save itself...'

Time in Nature Supresses Mental Fatigue

Excerpt from Psychological Science in The Medical News, 18 December 2008

'If you spend the majority of your time among stores, restaurants and skyscrapers, it may be time to trade in your stilettos for some hiking boots.

A new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveals that spending time in nature may be more beneficial for mental processes than being in urban environments...[which] provide a relatively complex and often confusing pattern of stimulation, which requires effort to sort out and interpret. Natural environments, by contrast, offer a more coherent (and often more aesthetic) pattern of stimulation that, far from requiring effort, are often experienced as restful.

Thus being in the context of nature is effortless, permitting us to replenish our capacity to attend and thus having a restorative effect on our mental abilities.'

Know Your Farmer

The US Department of Agriculture has launched a great new initiative to:

'...create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. It is also the start of a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate. Today, there is too much distance between the average American and their farmer and we are marshalling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption.'

24 September 2009

Binary Thinking - 20th Century Relic


'The State Government released its draft 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide – a vision to prepare for Adelaide's growth and infrastructure needs – in July. [Planning Minister] Mr Holloway has described it as a blueprint for tackling the economic and environmental challenges that face our generation to ensure SA remains one of the most liveable, competitive and sustainable cities in the world...

[Greens Member of the Legislative Council Mark Parnell says] By loading up the population forecasts, the Government is artificially creating an argument for more housing estates on Adelaide's outskirts that are simply not required.

"And by the time we realise the Government's population targets have been overcooked, the city would have well and truly sprawled unsustainably into places like Mt Barker, Gawler and Buckland Park."...

Image comparing Adelaide's density [data over 15 years old!] with other urban areas by Paul F Downton

[Minister Holloway responded] 'The question for Mr Parnell is whether he supports continued and sustainable economic growth for South Australia or is advocating a smaller population and a decline in our state's enviable living standards," Mr Holloway said.'

'Or'? Is population inextricably linked to standard of living? Why can't we have an economy that serves people and the environment? Is this the 21st century equivalent of 'Jobs vs The Environment'? How binary!!

Fascinating that this either/or question is still being posed in this state...considering the questioning of perpetual growth is being challenged and now its coming from far beyond the environment movement.

Klima, The God of Climate Change!

Comment from a climate change skeptic on the original New Scientist article about the role of cultural themes/myths:

'Hulme's new religion needs a god. I propose Klima, the god of climate change. Klima helps us to understand our real nature and brings meaning to life.'

I like it!! Has this denier unwittingly given us a useful meme?

Sustainability Lucky Dip!

...every player wins a prize!

No wonder we can't figure out where to deploy our efforts...Venn diagrams! Three legged stools! the I-Ching(?)!

Sourced from Computing for Sustainability, 15 March 2009

'How to convey the essence of sustainability in a few sketched lines? I’m wading through the net and my bookshelves to find examples of the genre. I’m looking for schematics of the notion of sustainability itself rather than the underlying science – greenhouse, carbon, meso climate process, ground water, etc for which there are a zillion diagrams.'

To my mind, these are the three that say the most [for humanity as a whole, not a corporation or a local community] - the first because it articulates limits [economy
within society, within biosphere] and the second because it shows what we need to be working towards, and the third because it depicts the two big storylines - increasing demand, decreasing resource base.

Planetary Boundaries and The Failure of Environmentalism

...bold is my emphasis [related article in Melbourne's Age today]

Excerpt from Worldchanging, 23 September 2009

'Planetary boundaries are the natural limits on humanity's use of the planet. Strikingly, until recently, no one had made a serious effort to quantify these limits in measurable ways. That's why a new report fromthe Stockholm Resilience Center, attempting to give hard numbers for most of these boundaries, is so crucial.

The Resilience Center focused in on nine boundaries: climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution...

The research has been nicely summarized and presented in a package of articles in Nature, and seems to be generally receiving a very positive reception as an important contribution to the scientific debate...

Furthermore, boundaries don't always apply globally, even for processes that regulate the entire planet. Local circumstances can ultimately determine how soon water shortages or biodiversity loss reach a critical threshold.

All sorts of uncertainties present themselves in how we determine, measure and apply meaning to these planetary boundaries - and that's before they even enter the mainstream debate, where dishonest players spin scientific uncertainty for political ends as a matter of course (look, for instance, at the geoengineering debate).

But even if we can come to some global consensus on the facts here and their meaning, the really tough work will have just begun.

That's because, fundamentally, planetary boundaries challenge two strongly cherished ideas in Industrial Age culture: that the planet's capacity for material growth is infinite, and that the answer to material poverty is to grow the total amount of material wealth.

We may well soon be able to decouple increasing prosperity from material impact, operating our economy in ever more tightly closed loops, and substituting intelligence, good design and clear thinking about the real sources of human well-being for overconsumption and wasteful living; but the fact remains that getting people the basics of life now remains a very resource- and energy-intensive (and thus ecologically destructive) business, and will remain so, at least to some degree, for several decades to come.

So if our planet has only so much ability to provide the raw material for certain fundamental building blocks of prosperity before triggering catastrophe, how we equitably divide the capacities of the planet - both between the rich and the poor today and between the generations alive today and those to come - poses the trickiest set of questions we face as a species.

It is with that set of questions in mind, I think, that we need now to be assessing how we think about sustainability. To be blunt, if our efforts in rich communities aren't explicitly aimed at creating a new prosperity (with almost no ecological impact) in time to be adopted by communities becoming newly wealthy (within the next couple decades, really), we're simply living in a dream world.

Small steps, personal responsibility. incremental reform, gradually better standards, 50-year targets for action - most of the solutions offered in the green tool chest right now are, unfortunately, completely insufficient. Not insufficient in the sense that we'd like them to be better in a perfect world: insufficient in the sense that if we do them all, we still face a strong possibility of planetary catastrophe and the collapse of civilization.

We need to challenge the assumption that we can live much as we do today, with improved gadgets and standards (suburban, consumerist life with an electric car here, a green building there, a CFL in the next room). We can't. It won't work. We need to change how we live. If we're smart, we'll end up better off - with more wealth, higher qualities of life, healthier families, and safer communities - but we must start to talk not about doing things differently, but about doing different things.

It's been the failure of environmentalism that we haven't really engaged what a bright green, sustainably prosperous life might be like. We talk a lot about consequences, but talk too little about what prosperity in a world of hard limits can mean, and we demand far too little from the pundits and publications weighing in on these questions. If planetary boundaries mean anything, they mean it's time to stop pretending that "greener" is good enough. We need pragmatic brilliance and transformation. Anything less is just cluttering the discussion.'

You're Always At Most 107 Miles From A McDonald's

...comforting to know.

Excerpt from The Consumerist, 23 September 2009

'Stephen Von Worley has figured out that while located in these United States of America, one is always within 107 miles of a McDonald's.

He also created this nifty map to illustrate the concept. According to Mr. Von Worley, "Between the tiny Dakotan hamlets of Meadow and Glad Valley lies the McFarthest Spot: 107 miles distant from the nearest McDonald's, as the crow flies, and 145 miles by car!"'

Eight Laws of Social Change, Quotes

From Spiritual Wiki

'Social Change requires wisdom, character, patience, and the willingness to forego any personal credit.

Law – Individuals (individually) and the group (collectively) share a common intention.

Law – Individuals and the group may have goals and cherish the potential outcomes.

Law – Individuals in the group authentically accept that their goal may not be reached in their lifetimes.

Law – Individuals in the group authentically accept that they may not get either credit or acknowledgment for what they have done.

Law – Each person in the group regardless of gender, religion, race, or culture enjoys fundamental equality while the various roles in the hierarchy of the effort are respected.

Law – Individuals in the group forswear violence in word, act or thought.

Law – Individuals in the group make their personal lives consistent with their public postures.

Law – Individuals (individually) and the group (collectively) always act from the beingness of integrity.

Source: * Stephan A. Schwartz Ph.D., futurologist, THE POWER – The Eight Laws of Social Change, Powerpoint presentation* Audio interview with Stephan A. Schwartz Ph.D., The Eight Laws of Social Change, presented by Blogtalkradio Paranormal Perceptions, host Dee Disparti, aired 17. January 2008

'The secret of change consists in concentrating one's energy to create the new, and not to fight against the old' - Dan Millman

'New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies,then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths' - George Bernard Shaw

'We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing' - R. D. Laing, Scottish psychiatrist

'Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people' - Napoleon Bonaparte

'It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change' - Charles Darwin

'Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, cancelled, made nothing? Are you willing to be made nothing? Dipped into oblivion? If not, you will never really change' - D. H. Lawrence'

Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet

New book by Tim Jackson, published by Earthscan

'Economic growth is supposed to deliver rising prosperity. Higher incomes increase wellbeing and lead to prosperity for all, in this view. But the conventional formula is failing. The ecological and social consequences of unfettered growth are devastating. Climate change threatens long-term wellbeing. Resource scarcities undermine the basis for future prosperity. Persistent inequalities still divide the world and a growing 'social recession' haunts the market economies. Growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally. Development remains essential for poorer countries. But are ever-increasing incomes for the already-rich still a legitimate goal for advanced nations? Or should we be aiming for prosperity without growth?

In this ground-breaking book, Tim Jackson, an advisor to the UK Government, acknowledges that society faces a profound dilemma: economic growth is unsustainable; but 'de-growth' - or economic contraction - is unstable. The prevailing 'escape route' from this dilemma is to try and 'decouple' economic activity from its impacts. But there is no evidence at all that this is working. Global resource consumption is still rising (in some cases faster than GDP). Meeting climate change targets will require reductions in carbon intensity two orders of magnitude higher than anything achieved historically. Faced with this challenge, the book engages in a critical re-examination of the economic structure and social logic of consumerism. Prosperity without Growth calls for a new vision of a shared prosperity: the capability to flourish as human beings - within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling that vision is the most urgent task of our times.


1 Prosperity Lost
2 The Age of Irresponsiblity
3 Redefining Prosperity
4 The Dilemma of Growth
5 The Myth of Decoupling
6 Confronting Structure
7 Keynesianism and the 'Green New Deal'
8 Macro-Economics for Sustainability
9 Flourishing - within Limits
10 Governance for Prosperity
11 The Transition to a Sustainable Economy
12 A Lasting Prosperity

E-Waste: There’s an App for That

E-waste follows the path of least economic resistance, finding its way to where environmental and worker health provisions are non-existent - this Chinese town began importing e-waste in 2000; by 2001 they were also importing water, as the local water was no longer safe to drink.

Imported e-wastes that cannot be recycled pile up along side the many waterways in the Guiyu region. Guiyu, China. May 2008 ©2008 Basel Action Network (BAN)

Open burning of plastic encased metal printer and motor parts. Open burning of plastics and other material is common in order to reduce the waste to metals. Guiyu, China. December 2001. ©2006 Basel Action Network (BAN)

Excerpt from Foreign Policy, 23 September 2009

'Before year's end, Apple and China Unicom will finally launch the iPhone in China, leaving hundreds of thousands of affluent Chinese cell-phone users with an increasingly pressing question: What should they do with their old handsets? Sure, some will pass them on to friends and relatives, and others will stash them in drawers. But for those precious few who decide that they'd like to recycle their old cell phones in an environmentally sound manner, they'll be mostly out of luck.

Unlike in the United States, Apple doesn't offer to collect and recycle old cell phones for its customers in China. And the Chinese government, which has long decried the developed world's exports of e-waste to its shores, has done almost nothing to handle the growing tide of its own, homegrown e-waste, generated by its expanding middle class. In short, as China grows, consumes, and gets hooked on the iPhone, the environmental disaster that is South China's e-waste processing industry is about to become much worse...

In a 2007 speech, Liu Fuzhong, an official with the China Household Electrical Appliances Association, noted that Chinese consumers own 1.5 billion televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, and air-conditioning units...with 120 million such appliances entering the waste stream each year. I saw what the result looks like in December during my last visit to Guiyu, the most notorious of South China's e-waste villages. Giant piles of cell phones were strewn across the yards of home-based dismantling workshops, from which the smell of acid, used to extract gold, wafted.

This outmoded processing system probably sounds a bit mad if you're among those who have read the increasing tide of studies suggesting that e-waste is a potential profit-making "gold mine." It is a bonanza - but only if it's done in exactly this primitive, environmentally ruinous way. China's e-waste villages provide South China's burgeoning manufacturers with cheap and plentiful sources of raw materials. So profitable is the trade that, for two decades, local governments and port authorities in Guangdong province have openly flouted Beijing's customs and environmental laws, charging lower-than- mandated duties on other recyclable materials while turning their eyes away as prohibited materials - such as old computer monitors - moved through the borders.

Environmentally friendly processing, by contrast, is expensive, highly technical, and time-consuming. The most common method used is shredding, after which the resulting waste is subjected to a gauntlet of magnets, and other, more technologically advanced means of separating plastics and various kinds of metals. In Japan, which enforces some of the world's strictest environmental laws, these technologies are widely utilized, but only because they are heavily subsidized by the Japanese government, which in turn collects fees from consumers and manufacturers. Even in strict Japan, more than one-third of the resulting waste stream is incinerated or landfilled. And Japanese regulators concede that a large volume of the country's e-waste still flows to developing countries like China, Pakistan, and India.

China, of course, is the "beneficiary" of this profitable environmental nightmare, garnering junk from eager dumpers abroad. One notable result is that South China has some of the lowest raw-material costs in China and, hence, the country's e-waste processing industry offers some of the world's highest prices for old computers and cell phones...

Despite the domestic consumption twist, a recurrent subtext in documentaries about South China's digital dumping grounds still concerns foreign consumers and their responsibility for the pollution their throwaways are yielding. If only Apple's consumers in California would take their old laptops to authorized recycling centers, Guiyu would cease to exist, the argument goes. But if this were a possibility in 1999, it's certainly not one now. Over the last five years, China has launched several environmentally responsible e-waste pilot projects that have failed for - among other reasons - their inability to compete for e-waste in China's vast, informal network of processors. Two years ago, in fact, one of these pilot projects became so desperate for e-waste that it actually asked for formal permission to import the junk from abroad (the request was denied). As it happens, due to the global economic crisis and a crackdown on scrap-metal smuggling in South China, the actual volume of imported e-waste in South China has been in decline for nearly a year. And yet, despite that optimistic development, Guiyu is just as busy as ever.

It's a sign of the times: China is simply consuming more and making more of its own trash. The items being processed down south have certainly included some of the handsets replaced by the reported 1.5 million iPhones brought (unofficially) into China over the last two years. Unlike in the United States, where Apple accepts phones for recycling from any manufacturer, in China it only accepts Apple-branded products (and requires its consumers to ship them to, of all places, Hong Kong). They have all but guaranteed that, at some point, millions of Chinese cell phones will contribute to the government-supported disaster in Guiyu as shiny new iPhones fill China's up-and-coming pockets.

Apple did not respond to repeated requests for comment in regard to its e-waste recycling operations in South China. Regardless, Apple, just like Dell, is surely aware that it won't forever be able to continue running an e-waste program that is worth more in PR value than environmental value. Last August, the Chinese government approved guidelines requiring manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling the products they manufacture and sell in China. The details are still being worked out and it will likely be several more years before implementation, but the rules will probably include subsidies to help recyclers compete with the workshop processors and requirements for producers to take additional responsibility for the proper disposal of the products that they manufacture.

In other words, in a few years Apple might just have to clean up the post-party mess from all those iPhones it's about to make a killing on. The hangover might not be so fun.'

22 September 2009

Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change

Derrick Jensen: gold medal...

Excerpt from Orion Magazine article, July/August 2009

'Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance...

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.
The second problem—and this is another big one—is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.'

21 September 2009

Maptivism - Maps for Maps for Activism, Transparency and Engagement

The amazing possibilities for this are endless!!

'Mapping technology has matured into a tool for social justice.' - The Economist, 4 June 2009

Sourced from crisscrossed [adj. marked with crossing lines; resembling or forming a network]

'Digital maps have brought three major changes.

1. Digital maps, in contrast to paper maps, can be combined with all kinds of data even in real time.

2. Nowadays, everybody can access huge data from the public domain and combine these with maps.

3. Citizen maps are created through voluntarily worldwide effort and participation, are freely available and offer new ways for transparency. '

See also:

The Economist, 4 June 2009

'Mapping technology has matured into a tool for social justice. Whether it is to promote health, safety, fair politics or a cleaner environment, foundations, non-profit groups and individuals around the world are finding that maps can help them make their case far more intuitively and effectively than speeches, policy papers or press releases.

'All this has made it much easier to create maps that explain—at a glance—something that might otherwise require pages of tables or verbiage...

The Food Trust, a campaign group based in Philadelphia, used maps as part of its fight to reduce diet-related disease and malnutrition in urban parts of America.

“I remember the first supermarket-commission meeting,” says Jennifer Kozlowski, special assistant for the environment to David Paterson, the governor of New York. “Some of the maps in the report mapped obesity-related deaths and access to produce markets. It was as clear as day that something needed to be done.” In January Mr Paterson announced the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, including $10m in grants and loans for supermarket projects in under-served communities...

“We don’t just want to be about mapping,” says John Kim of Healthy City. “Maps don’t change the world—but people who use maps do.”'

Tactical Technology Collective - Maps for Advocacy

'The Darfur Project undertaken by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) where mapping was used to expose a humanitarian crisis in Sudan is a prime example. Combining mapping and rich content, witness testimonies, satellite imagery, data and other information placed on a Google Earth map, the USHMM raised awareness of the reality of incidents in the Sudanese region...

Recognising the power of maps, we have published a booklet - Maps for Advocacy - which is an introduction to Geographical Mapping Techniques. The booklet is an effective guide to using maps in advocacy. The mapping process for advocacy is explained vividly through case studies, descriptions of procedures and methods, a review of data sources as well as a glossary of mapping terminology. Scattered through the booklet are links to websites which afford a glance at a few prolific mapping efforts.

Hosting a map on your website can now become a reality as the guide takes the reader through the specifics of the process. Examples of valuable data sources like youtube, facebook, flickr, socialight etc have been cited along with a brief outline of their mapping features.

The fold-out offers an illustrative sketch of the inside story while the fold-in lists a swift and easy method to create a map.'

Green IT Cuts Carbon - UK

Excerpt from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 18 September 2009

'The UK Government has saved at least £7 million over the past year by making its IT systems greener, Cabinet Office Minister Angela Smith said today.

Changes including extending the life of PCs, making double-sided printing the default option and making sure computers are turned off at night have helped cut the carbon footprint of central Government computers by 12,000 tonnes - the same as taking 5,000 cars off the road.

Speaking at the Greening Government ICT conference in London, Cabinet Office Minister Angela Smith said: "Information technology is one of the hidden causes of climate change - worldwide, computers are responsible for the same amount of carbon emissions as the airline industry, but few people are taking action to improve the situation."...

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is responsible for up to 20 per cent of carbon emissions generated by Government offices. Each year it generates around 460,000 tonnes a year, the same amount created by a million households in a month or a jumbo jet flying around the world more than a thousand times. Last year the Government was the first in the world to introduce measures to tackle the huge financial and environmental cost of ICT.

Departments were asked to take 18 key steps including turning off all machines at night, extending the lifecycle of computers, reusing as much IT equipment as possible and increasing server efficiency. In the first year alone some of the success stories include:...

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) saving £2.35 million by replacing 9,500 computers and 2,500 printers every five years rather than every three...

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will save 200 million sheets of paper a year through cutting down the number of printers in the department and changing the default setting to double-sided printing

Last month the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) praised the UK Government for being the only Government taking serious action to tackle the Green IT issue...

Following the publication of the Greening Government ICT strategy last year, 110 public bodies have produced Green ICT action plans establishing measures for improving the energy consumption and carbon cost of their ICT. The action plans not only clarify what steps are completed but also set out actions with delivery dates for the remaining steps during the next 18 months.'

Europe - Consuming the World's Resources

Excerpt from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 18 September 2009

'Europe is using increasing quantities of the world's natural resources, according to a new report launched by Friends of the Earth Europe at the "World Resources Forum" in Davos, Switzerland. The report also shows that Europe is more dependent on imported resources than other global regions.

How to Measure Europe's Resource Use. An analysis for Friends of the Earth Europe", SERI (for Friends of the Earth Europe) - Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) in Vienna, Austria and GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria), in collaboration with Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland (FOE EWNI)

The extraction and use of natural resources such as food crops, fossil fuels, minerals, agrofuels and timber has major environmental and social impacts. Case studies in the report - including of oil extraction in Nigeria and biofuel production in Indonesia - demonstrate some of these impacts. Europe does not just import such materials directly, it also imports them as part of finished products, for example a computer imported from China will have large amounts of resources associated with its production.

Dr Michael Warhurst, who leads Friends of the Earth Europe's Resources and Consumption campaign, said: "Europe is using an ever-increasing amount of the world's resources, and our society is already very dependent on imports of materials - yet we have no targets to reduce this resource use, and new policies are not assessed for their potential to increase our resource efficiency.

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the EU to take the first steps to tackle this issue through ensuring that our resource use is measured, and by adopting new policies to increase our resource efficiency, such as higher recycling targets. The EU must also start to devise long term targets and strategies in order to radically reduce our resource use."Friends of the Earth Europe and Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) have analysed possible methods of measuring Europe's resource use, and are proposing that four key aspects be covered:

material use (the focus of this report)
land use
water use
greenhouse gas emissions

Each of these analyses must properly account for the impacts of Europe's consumption on the rest of the world, by incorporating the 'rucksack' of the resources used to make products which are imported into Europe.

Dr Warhurst added: "In order to continue to thrive on this planet, our societies will need to become less resource dependent, so that we are able to protect our natural resource base and the fragile eco-systems on our planet.

Europe is using more than its fair share of resources, and reducing our consumption will also free more resources to increase the quality of life in the developing world. In addition, a more resource-efficient economy will be a competitive advantage for Europe as resource availability becomes more constrained in the future." '

Climate Change, Warnings And The Car Alarm Problem

...bold is my emphasis

Excerpt from Campaign Strategy newsletter, September 2009

'Most campaigns focus on a problem. Those that promote a solution need the problem to create a dialectic for ‘news’ or a psychological fulcrum for action.

The ‘alignment stage’ of the Motivational Sequence - awareness > alignment > engagement> action - needs to get the sender and receiver ‘on the same page’ about the problem and the solution before you can move along towards action. And a solution without a problem is not a solution. Meanwhile, whereas a problem without a solution is a tragedy: one with a solution is a scandal, as it is avoidable. Finally, problem and solution need to be specific, they need to fit together like a lock and key. We are all about to be battered by a wave of problem-pushing on climate change, as the most important international climate talks ever are due to take place in Copenhagen in December.

Campaigners, politicians and media will deploy a host of strategies to try and push action. Seized of the problem when others do not seem to be, it is natural that activists should turn to sounding the alarm as perhaps the most basic strategy of all. For instance, the UK Climate Change Campaign is currently publicising its Climate Emergency Rally (December 5th London), while the US-based Avaaz recently reported to its supporters “more than 100,000 Avaaz members took part in the worldwide vote about whether we should go all out to organise a massive global wake-up call on climate change on September 21, and over 96% of us voted YES!”.

Activists will respond to such calls, which is great. But will it work in terms of convincing others? And what does make alarms work anyway?

Not surprisingly, there is actually a large body of research on why alarms do and don’t achieve their intended purpose. Most of this comes from the ‘alarm industry’ (dealing with alarms designed to warn operators or workers of an acute hazard) and from studies of responses to flooding (awareness, perception of risk, preparation, evacuation, recovery) but much of that is also relevant to climate and other attempts to ‘sound an alarm’ in campaigns, because it is all about basic human behavioural psychology.

At his useful website Marc Green writes: "…recent research suggests that effective warning design depends as much on the contents of the viewer's head as on the contents of the warning's message. People who see a warning must decide whether or not to comply. However, "warning viewers" (people for whom the warning is intended) are not blanks slates but rather start with a mental model containing three components.

First, the viewer has general knowledge about the world and how it works. Second, s/he has a set of beliefs and expectations based on experience with the same or similar environment, product or technology. Lastly, the viewer enters the situation with a goal and strategy for achieving that goal. The goal can be specific ("I want to arrive at my destination as soon aspossible") or more diffuse ("I want to feel good about myself"). Understanding what the viewer "brings to the table" is critical forcreating effective warnings."

Although he is talking mainly about visual warnings, the underlying processes apply to the spread or not of campaign alarms through networks and the media, and whether they are noticed or engage and lead to any form of action.

In a 2000 paper in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, DenisLoreti and Lori Peek provide an instructive analysis of why people door don’t respond to warnings associated with nuclear power stations. Loreti and Peek note that ‘the perceptions that are formed in emergencies follow the same processes as those formed in response to any other social event’. They say that the basic process ‘is the sequence hear-perceive-understand, believe, and personalize-respond-decide about alternative protective actions and perform them’. If NGOs and other campaigners are to use the ‘Wake Up’ or ‘Emergency’ Alarm’ frame for any issue, eg ‘climate’ then their communication has to pass the tests of the frame.

Loreti and Peek point out:

"the risk information must be understood. Understanding is not meant to refer simply to interpretation, but also to the attachment of meaning to the information. Those meanings can vary among people and may or may not conform to the understandings intended. A 50% probability may be interpreted as almost certain by some or relatively unlikely by others. In this sense, understanding includes the perception of risk".

It hardly needs be said that relatively few people understand the layers of probabilities involved in climate scenarios, and fewer understand the differences in perception. When confronted with something we don’t understand we use ‘heuristics’ - rules of thumb -to help make a decision. Eg: “its from a source I like so it’sprobably true”, or the converse, or “it’s like a one of those or oneof these so I’ll judge it like that, or its familiar (so probably true)”, or “I owe them so I’ll go along with it”.

Similarly we tend to respond more strongly to prospective loss than gain, and over-estimate the likelihood of recurrence of those events that haveoccurred recently. However many campaigns seem to ignore these realities. In the case of ‘alarms’, the signs and signals are important...

Broadly speaking if a warning is sounded people ask themselves

- is it for real/genuine?
- will it affect me?
- is it immediate?

You can see this behaviour every time a fire alarm sounds. Is it a test? Does it apply to our office/ room/ lab? What’s everyone else doing?Apply this to ‘artificial’ alarms as in the case of campaigns and we have an obvious problem. We can signal that we think this is an emergency but is it for real? Is it genuine (decided for example byreference to trusted sources, which vary)? There are plenty of potential sources of climate scepticism. Will it affect those hearing or seeing the ‘message’? Is it immediate? If it fails two out of three of those tests then the conventional emergency frame probably will not work. Campaigners attempting to use the ‘emergency’ frame need to anticipate what the response may be.

Loreti and Peek point out that it is a myth, even with the much more formulaic nuclear hazard warnings, that ‘people take protective action immediately after the first warning’. They write:

"People simply do not take action in response to warning messages as soon as they hear the first warning. Instead, people seek more information about the impending hazard and appropriate responses from those they know personally, from the news media, and from authorities. People call friends, relatives, and neighbors to find out what they plan to do, and they also turn on the radio and television to get more information. Unless there is a clear explanation of the need for an immediate response, they might wait for a second, third, or fourth official warning before responding. For this reason, a good warning plan should call for frequent messages in the early stages of emergencies.’ Perhaps therefore campaigners can take solace from the thought that their warning call, their alarm, will be echoed by many others? But if reinforcing signs of reality or imminence do not transpire, then they may simply fall victim to the dulling effect of familiarisation.

Repeated false alarms or even repeated genuine alarms with no severe personal consequence can reduce the impact of an alarm to close to zero. This is the effect of car alarms in a densely populated urban area. Genuine or not, after a while they evoke little or no response except the purchase of additional domestic sound proofing and a desire to move to ‘a better area’, not least because they do not apply to your car (no personalisation). In the run up to Copenhagen therefore, even repeated clarion calls to perceive and respond to an emergency will probably run into difficulties. They will mobilise those with a long time horizon, understanding and a concern for global issues and universalist values but not others - the majority.

To engage and potentially mobilise others, campaigners bent on using the ‘emergency’ frame, need to supply ‘evidences’ and ‘proofs’ that an emergency is real, applicable to the audience and ongoing. Where for example, are the blue flashing lights? The ‘emergency’ frame is a powerfully embedded one. In the absence of verifying visual or other signals, invoking it is unlikely to do anything except undermine the credibility of the messenger. Loreti and Peek note that research shows that ‘false alarms’ do not necessarily have this effect if the reason is seen to have been genuine: ie there were good grounds to sound an alarm. Preventing the ‘cry wolf’ effect therefore depends upon having your alarm-call verified by trusted sources, and even more so by seeing others acting upon it.

Much research also shows that people are, by and large, inclined not to change what they are doing. The more campaigners frame their alarm-call as a wake-up to the need to make huge changes, the more likely this is to be the response. In other words, the bigger the proposed change, the more uncertainty and possible downsides it involves, and the more effort is implied, the greater the incentive to find a way to ignore it. The easiest way of all is to observe that others, especially Significant-Others, are not responding. Lacking specialist knowledge (not being immersed in ‘the issue’), the ‘public’ are likely to use ambient and media cues to decide their response.

Campaign planners would do better to create the cues and attach meaning to them, rather than launch a claim and leave people to find their own cues to decide whether or not to believe it.

It may well be that the best way of doing this is not by talking about climate change itself but by causing or focusing on responses to it which are consistent with an emergency having been recognized: ie consequences. These should be put in terms which do not signal giving things up or acting altruistically but which resonate with safety-security-identity values, or success (esteem seeking) values...

Green says of warnings: "People are most likely to comply when behavioral consequences:

- have greater magnitude
- have lower response requirement
- occur immediately after the response
- occur with high probability’

That could serve as a campaign design brief for what to focus on. So, for example, an alarm call which focused on the need to undertake relatively small, real actions in the here and now (which recipients could plainly undertake), and which had some sort of deadline to avoid a loss, and which was verified by seeing larger actors doing a bigger version of the same thing, would be much more likely to evoke amobilising ‘domino’ effect than a contestable ‘tall and shrill’ open-ended call from a minority that “something must be done”.

It is hugely advantageous to make the action about a problem/solution which can be readily seen and experienced rather than something like ‘climate change’ or the ‘industrial system’ which is a ‘cognitiv eissue’ or problem - ie it has to be thought about and can only be thought about (in the case of climate, through science), rather than touched, seen etc.'

Agenda for a New Economy - Review

Excerpt from review by Richard Clark of David Korten's book

'For all the societal and personal pain created by the recent financial collapse, it is in the larger view a blessing because it demonstrates so conclusively that the economy we had come to worship as an engine of perpetual wealth-creation was based on little more than fraud, delusion and self-deception. And now we have in this book the outlines of a path to a new economy.

Kortens basic message is that we can change the course of history by changing the `stories' (i.e. the assumptions and theories) that currently frame America's dominant culture. These currently prevailing `stories' celebrate the individualism, violence, greed linked to the pathologies of our collective human immaturity, while at the same time denying the potentials for community, love, and nurturing service that define the more mature aspects of human nature.

The turning from domination by Empire community to a more democratically based Earth community depends on changing these stories through conversations that make public the transformative inner wisdom we possess as individuals. Institutional change will follow from that.

The root causes of our current socioeconomic crisis are three-fold.

1. Overconsumption: Growth in human consumption, resulting from a combination of population growth and growth in consumption per capita is depleting the natural life support system of the planet, disrupting natural water cycles and climate systems, thereby posing an ever greater threat to ever more Earths inhabitants, human and otherwise.

2. Inequality: An unconscionable and growing concentration of financial power, in a world of ever more intense competition (for a declining base of material wealth) is eroding the social fabric to the point of widespread social breakdown. Hence the growing number of children who die each year, the vast majority from easily preventable reasons.

3. Pathological Governing Institutions: The most powerful institutions on the planet, global financial markets and the transnational corporations that serve them, are institutions of an empire dedicated to growing consumption and ever larger measures of inequality. These institutions convert real capital into financial capital to increase the relative economic power of those who live by money, while at the same time depressing ever more the wages of those who produce real value through their labor. These same deadly institutions respond to environmental and social crises with palliatives that sidestep the need to reduce overall consumption and reallocate resources from rich to poor - to do otherwise would be contrary to their legal and financial imperatives. So it is folly to expect the institutions that got us into the crisis to get us out of it.'

Renegade Lunch Lady

Anne Cooper is the 'Renegade Lunch Lady'...

"My life work is to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students — one school lunch at a time"

Excerpt from Participant Media newsletter, August 2009

Cooper's latest book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, is filled with strategies (and recipes) for parents and school administrators to become involved with the movement to bring healthy foods into schools. She is also a past president of The American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont and a former board member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board and Chefs Collaborative.

Last month, the self-proclaimed "Renegade Lunch Lady" launched the "School Lunch Revolution" program with Whole Foods. The national campaign enables schools to revolutionize and improve the way children eat, and includes a new website, The Lunch Box, which provides the necessary resources for food service directors to make tangible changes in their cafeteria menus. It also provides nutritionally analyzed scalable recipes, tools to help schools work with smaller scale food vendors, and resources for procuring real, natural foods regionally and locally."

Eating habits are learned behaviors, so what your children learn to eat at home early in life sticks with them well into adulthood.

Today we are disconnected from our food sources in a way that is unprecedented in human history," Chef Cooper says. "Fewer Americans cook meals from scratch often because of time and money.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your kids eat more healthy foods and get more healthy foods into schools."'

French President to Press for Tobin Tax

Excerpt from BBC News, 19 September 2009

'French President Nicolas Sarkozy will urge fellow G20 leaders to introduce a special tax to reduce risky behaviour by banks, the BBC has learned.

Mr Sarkozy wants a levy known as a Tobin Tax to be applied to every financial transaction. The move is aimed at cutting excessively speculative trades and encouraging long-term decision-making.

But senior EU officials told the BBC that the chances of getting a global agreement were "less than minimal".

The proposal does not yet have the formal backing of the EU or Germany - France's largest trading partner - and according to the BBC's business reporter Joe Lynam, it is widely expected to face resistance from Britain and the US, home to the world's largest financial centres...

The Tobin Tax is named after the US economist James Tobin, who first suggested it in the 1970s.

While it was originally supposed to be used for aid for developing countries, it could now be used to fund some of the bailouts in the financial industry or the multi-billion dollar stimulus packages under way to kick-start economies around the world.

The idea was resurrected in August this year by Lord Adair Turner, the chairman of Britain's financial watchdog, the FSA, as a way of providing buffers against another economic slowdown...

According to our correspondent, the notion of a Tobin Tax is likely to be referred by the G20 to the Financial Stability Forum - the club of the world's top central bankers and financial regulators - to assess and translate into a workable set of rules to which all countries might be able to agree...'

Consuming Kids

Sourced from Sociological Images

'The “Consuming Kids” video series...looks at how marketers target kids, both for their own spending power and for their influence over parents’ spending.'

[Seven part series - see link for all clips]

A World of Mass Disaster

Excerpt from Adelaide Now, 21 September 2009

'Humans face great risks to their future health and survival because of climate change, a world expert will warn in Adelaide on Monday.

Professor Tony McMichael studied in Adelaide and is now head of climate change epidemiology at the Australian National University.

Professor McMichael also advised the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the health impacts of climate change. He says deaths and hospitalisations from extreme heat will increase, as will sickness from infectious diseases, and deaths from bushfires, cyclones and floods.

Climate change will disrupt ecosystems, infrastructure, and economic systems.

He also warns that in Australia, including SA, our food security is at risk because of reduced freshwater inflows, and that all these things will affect our health.

"All of those ultimately come together in their effects on human wellbeing, health and indeed survival. We're talking about the fundamentals," he said.

"We haven't had to worry about our absolute dependence on food and water because those things magically come out of supermarkets and taps in our houses.

"But the supplies of those things are ultimately at great risk from serious climate change."...

Professor McMichael pointed out that great civilisations have crumbled when their food production has failed or they have run out of fresh water, and warned that we are heading down the same path.

It is "politically uncomfortable" for politicians to discuss the potential death toll from climate change, he said, saying it was easier for them to focus on economic and environmental effects.'

20 September 2009

Food Security

Excerpt from the Adelaide Review, 26 August 2009

'Recently returned from a one-month stay in Singapore, Elise Harris reports on her research into increasing food security through local food production there and highlights the dangers of complacency as South Australia plans to develop housing on land currently used for farming:

Singapore is a highly urbanised island state and farmland is scarce. Only 10 percent of Singapore’s food is produced in the country, the rest being imported from around the world. Yet while Singapore is very built-up, there is vacant land around buildings that could be put to use as community gardens. Community gardens are an efficient way to produce food because they are small-scale and can use any unusual shaped pieces of land (as opposed to commercial farms), they provide spaces for recreational and social activity and produce free food for the gardeners. They are cheap to build and are thus a more attractive option than retrofitting buildings to create rooftop gardens, although food could be produced on balcony planter boxes, which should be incorporated into the design of all new apartment blocks.

Food could be produced on green roofs, which become economically feasible if the buildings are initially designed for that purpose. At present there are no buildings in the world that have been specifically designed to produce food, so it is not known what these buildings would look like or how much food a “vertical farm” could produce.

Food can be produced in public spaces simply by planting fruit trees in parks and along roadsides. Local governments in Singapore do not want to pay for harvesting the fruit so they do not plant them. The high number of maintenance workers in Singapore who maintain the high standards of orderliness expected in parks and landscaped areas could potentially enter an agreement with local government to harvest fruit from public areas for free in exchange for keeping the fruit. The fruit could then be eaten by the workers or sold. Alternatively, edible plants in public places could be maintained by community garden groups.

It is interesting that the Government of Singapore has a keen interest in increasing its food security, whether by increasing local food production, maintaining friendly relations with exporting nations or through the purchase of farmland in other countries, while the Government of South Australia appears to be happy to undermine South Australian food security by building new housing developments over our most productive land. Singapore is aware of the vulnerability of its food supply, while in South Australia we believe we will always be able to import more food and it is not necessary to protect our farmland.

The 30-year plan for Adelaide significantly reduces Adelaide’s food security by planning for 30 percent of all new dwellings to be built on the urban fringe. A lot of land in these areas is currently used for food production, so the implementation of the plan will reduce the amount of food grown close to Adelaide, reducing our food security and making us more dependent on long-distance transport and imports. An immediate stop to urban development on the fringes of Adelaide, and all new dwellings limited to apartment blocks within the current urban boundaries will help preserve our farmland and secure our food supply. More discussion and interest in urban agriculture in Adelaide in the form of community gardens, backyard production and edible plants in public areas would also be helpful. Planter boxes and green roofs should be a feature of high-density developments...'

Waste Not, Want Not

Excerpt from the Adelaide Review, 28 August 2009

'How much of the food you buy each week ends up in the rubbish bin? According to Tristram Stuart, the author of a soon-to-be-released book on food waste, Australians throw out about $8billion worth of edible food, or 13 percent of what we buy...

The food we eat is central to our existence and not just for pure survival. It can define our cultural and religious roots, create an atmosphere of romance or celebration and trigger memories of deeply significant moments in our lives...

It is understandable that in nations where food resources are scarce and people struggle to meet their daily nutritional needs, food is a significant preoccupation...

The figures in Tristram Stuart’s book in relation to food waste are depressing. The sheer scale of the waste he reports is hard to comprehend – up to half of the fresh produce in North America and Europe hitting the bin and crops in developing nations left to rot in the fields for lack of means to harvest, process and transport them. Some food never makes it to market in western countries, not because it is not good, but simply because the shape or size or colour does not fit precisely into the guidelines stipulated by the supermarkets that will on-sell it to the public. Solving these problems appears complex but Stuart sums up what’s needed to start the change simply: “Buy what you need and eat what you buy”.

Over the past ten years, he has taken his personal crusade to another level, sourcing most of the food he eats from the bins of supermarkets and other shops in the UK as a protest at their astounding levels of waste. He has also travelled the world, observing and documenting the profligate waste of edible food but also drawing inspiration from the innovation shown by some communities in tackling the problem...

He began working to stem the torrent of food waste as a school boy in the UK, feeding chickens with scraps from the school canteen and local bakery. Asked if he thinks children today are in touch with the sources of their food, he blames relentless urbanisation for the lack of understanding about food sources.

“In the year 2008, Homo sapiens became a majority urban species: most of us live further than ever before from where our food is produced, and this has disconnected us from the land and the value of the food grown on it. Also, as food has become steadily cheaper for the past four decades, until very recently, it has become more of a disposable commodity. We think of wasting food as something we can afford financially, rather than what the planet and the other people that live on it can afford. But I think there is a great counter-trend now: people are beginning to think more about where their food comes from, and being more thrifty with what they buy. Cutting down on food waste can save people a great deal of money as well as benefiting the planet.”...

“Clearly food waste is only one of several major environmental and social problems facing the planet today: but what I show in my book is that it is one of the easiest to overcome. Solving it requires no great sacrifice: it’s not like being asked to give up flying, or driving, or eating meat (though the affluent world does also need to address the problems caused by those activities as well); it’s comparatively easy to stop wasting food.

“Most food companies do not wish their customers to know how much food they waste because people would be appalled to see millions of tonnes of food being dumped unnecessarily. What I have tried to do in my book is lift the lid on the extent of the food waste problem and propose ways in which retailers and others all the way up the supply chain can reduce or eliminate their food waste, which would benefit their businesses, the environment and society. For example, shops can reduce the price of stock nearing expiry so that consumers buy it; some supermarkets have even tried giving surplus away for free as this attracts customers to their stores and eliminates disposal costs; at the very least, they can donate surplus to food redistribution charities who ensure that it is taken to the needy before it passes its expiry date. Some supermarkets already do this to a small extent, but there is a great deal more they can do, and it is up to us - their customers - to demand that this happens...

“There really are cultures that are much less wasteful, which shows that the solutions lie in our hands. The Uighurs of Western China, for example, have a taboo against wasting food, and ensure that every scrap is eaten. One restaurant-owner in Kashgar told me off for leaving a few grains of rice at the bottom of my bowl: wasting food is considered an insult to the cook, the host and the farmer; they know that food is too valuable to waste. It would not be beyond any of us to learn to appreciate food in the same way.”

Stuart also ties his observations of global food waste to much broader environmental concerns such as deforestation and the production of greenhouse gases.

“There are many causes of deforestation in the Amazon which need to be addressed, but the production of meat and dairy products is the single biggest cause. Each year, the European Union (EU) imports 36 million tonnes of soy, primarily from South America, and uses this as animal feed. The demand for land for soy production and animal grazing land is the main cause of deforestation in South America. After the EU banned using food waste as livestock feed, farmers in Europe were forced to buy millions more tonnes of soy from South America, exacerbating the problem of deforestation. Europe also imports millions of tonnes of meat directly from South America, much of it produced on recently deforested land...

“Australia actually performs better than most other affluent countries. The USA has around 200 percent (two times) the amount of food required by the nutritional needs of its population, and a great deal of that excess simply goes to waste; most European countries have between 160 and 190 percent of their nutritional needs; whereas Australia has between 150 and 160 percent. However, that still leaves an enormous amount of slack, and one survey in Australia showed that in households alone people wasted more than 13 percent of the food they buy, worth nearly AU$8 billion. It is possible to enjoy an abundance of food without wasting so much of it.”'