2 January 2010
After Copenhagen the citizens of the world have found themselves with all the cards. Their nations' leaders, unable to make a deal about carbon emissions, are sticking, while a powerful corporate lobby, in its relentless ransack of the planet, pushes the stakes higher and higher.
The question now is: knowing these things how do we proceed? Though we might be justified in calling the global elite and the "polluter" corporations to account, we've got work to do at home. Governments are locked into an economic growth model which demands three planets' worth of resources to fulfil. Their hands are tied whilst ours are free. We might not feel very free but we are able to act. And nowhere can we act more imaginatively and decisively than in the kitchen.
Everything we eat is intimately connected to other lifeforms, to plants, places and people. It's linked with the suffering of cows, the fate of migrant workers, the bulldozed rainforest, the desecration of the oceans, the pollution of the atmosphere. When you look at your plate you gaze upon the abundance of the earth and our great wasting of it. So if you share a resolution to keep within the limits of one planet living in 2010, here is a good place to start.
Right now, it's hard to look at the decade ahead, or even outside the door, where there are plans to turn beet fields into biofuel production, build distributor roads and tanker ports, flood supermarket shelves with mammoth amounts of imported sugar, palm oil and soya. However the moment you take practical steps in the kitchen, you're preparing for another future - planting corn for the harvest, planting fruit trees which one day your child will pick.
In 2010 if we are smart, we need act on what we know about the industrialised food system. We need to eat plants grown without pesticides, eat radically less meat and dairy, stop throwing a third of what we buy away. Although we are used to operating within a highly aggressive, competitive society, revved to the max on factory food, we're not made to live individualistic, isolated lives. We're configured to work in co-operative teams, swapping knowledge and stories and seeds, enjoying life in common.
This is the logic behind many local food initiatives that have sprung up in villages, towns and cities in the last decade. Aware of a coming decline in oil supplies (on which modern agriculture depends) as well as the knock-on effects of climate change, people are renovating allotments, organising city farms and community kitchens, creating woodlands and orchards, food co-ops, garden share schemes, baking bread. In Sheffield communities are gleaning fruit from the city's trees, in Hackney raising 70 different salad leaves, in Norwich pioneering a CSA scheme, school market garden and flour mill to produce bread made from Norfolk wheat.
To engage in food production is to remember the bargain all human beings make with life, which is we give the best of ourselves for our time here. While the industrial barons are in charge of our reality we can give nothing because all our energy and attention serves to uphold the Chosen Few and the make-believe world they control.
We have to take that energy and attention back. Not just for ourselves, but for the land we live in, for the disappeared honey bees, for the herring shoals, for our apple orchards. And no matter how powerful and greedy and apocalyptic those barons become, they will not be backed by the planet as we are backed in our small actions. A weak agreement was reached in Copenhagen because the deal governments make with life, with the life-affirming citizens of the world, is weak. Because the real future of the earth does not belong to them. We hold it right now in our hands.
To find out more about local food projects in the UK read Local Food – How to Make It Happen in Your Community by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins (Green Books); for Norwich food projects contact Tully Wakeman on firstname.lastname@example.org. Charlotte Du Cann is a member of Transition Norwich and Sustainable Bungay.