The Future of Food (ep.2) and More Productive Societies.

Last night, SBS aired The Future of Food episode 2 (watch here for a limited time). It was in some ways a little repetitive of the first part, previously discussed, but it did branch into some of my favourite topics (that I first became aware of back in the late 80’s as a kid watching Beyond 2000). In this episode they covered true innovative thinking about food security – the synergy of technology and methodology developed by nature over more than three billion years, such as aquaculture (see Peter Sinclair’s post on this also) and finding productive uses for waste – thereby turning a linear process system into a loop (see the video attached even more ideas along this line of thinking – another h/t to Peter).

The other aspect of the second episode was urban gardens. When all of these are applied (and people with sizable yards also grow some of their own food) a community goes along way in improving their own food security. Another major plug at the upcoming Gen[A] project!

Of course, there is a glaring economic problem as Andrew Mason, from the University of Southern Queensland has previously stated (in this podcast), “The normal measure of an economy, which looks at Gross Domestic Product [GPD] and those sorts of things, Gross National Product, doesn’t really measure our lives, it just measure economic things. So if you go and buy some vegies from the supermarket, that contributes to GPD, so it looks good on the economy. But if you grow vegies in your own backyard, it doesn’t contribute to GPD. So things like car crashes contribute to GPD because, you know, people are employed fixing cars and looking after things and you know the people that go to hospital to be treated; all that contributes to GPD. Whereas going for a walk in the park doesn’t. So they’re trying to work out how to model economics that will more accurately reflect a happy society.”

In Life Boat Cities, Brendan Gleeson makes much the same point, suggesting that community health would make a better indicator than GPD – where the care industry (of which we’re all reliant upon for various reasons at different stages of our life) would be paramount and also not driven by profit.

It’s easy to see how cyclic resource processes would be unable to generate the profits we’re currently familiar with, but at the same  time would increase resource security. Arguably, this could be seen as the driving force behind the obvious resistance to adopting increasingly sustainable practices away from business as usual; current economic models see such changes as sacrifices too great to contemplate, while more humanistic principles would argue that the risks of business as usual are too great to ignore.

The biggest reform would need to be a economic one. Episode 2 of The Future of Food, as well as Michael Pawlyn’s, Using nature’s genius in architecture, presentation above both provide tantalising glimpses of a highly productive future; one that could be highly profitable, but not in ways we’re familiar with. It would be a new society, arguably a happier and more innovative one and certainly a society capable of meeting the challenges ahead.

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5 thoughts on “The Future of Food (ep.2) and More Productive Societies.

  1. In Bhutan they didnt mesure GDP but Gross National Happiness , it help that the king didnt allow TV in the country , but they relented a few years ago and I fear that as the number of TVs in homes increases GNH will fall . Its easier to be happy when your obilvious that all these wonderful must have ?? products exist .
    Good post too , by the way .

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    1. Mental and physical health of the community as a whole and on per capita basis (ie. reducing preventable deaths and population stability) would be a far better indicator, I agree. You would achieve high employment rates, better life-work balance and security of the basics of a prosperous community.

      I was actually having a little bit of a bitch about this with my Dad today on the site visit (he had the day off so come along to see what I do for a living). The whole Rudd (and more recently Obama) urging the public to spend to boost the economy as well as the blue collar groups fighting against universal health care (in the US) and even this angry AGW denial and smug reply to an even playing field for renewable energy compared to fossil fuel energy (ie. subsidies and taxes etc) are all indicators of one simply fact: such individuals don’t see themselves or others as people – but only consumers. In all cases, changing how we do things threatens profits and economy (as we see it). Profits aren’t true economic wealth, because firstly it restricts money movement and secondly because to maximise profits tends to work against the community (ie. outsourcing, redundancy etc). This is why such people cannot be reasoned with.

      They’re given up basic human rights in favour a construct – an ideology that dictates that Gross nation product means a prosperous thriving community. Surely the past 40yrs illustrates otherwise and recently problems should further this. Just like Evangelists cannot except science that threatens their understanding of the world, Consumers cannot except science that threatens theirs either. Evolution with such people cannot ever hope to win – just as the growing insecurities and AGW cannot hope to reason with Consumers.

      Gen[A] is a different approach. Even consumers can’t turn down saving money (to spend elsewhere no doubt, rather than debt clearing). What I hope Gen[A] illustrates is that there are other options, within the modern world, to be prosperous; to reduce living expenses and improve life-work balance (especially spend more time with the children). It’s much harder to fight the ‘Jones effect’ (who are ‘doing it better’) that it is to fight science that is generally poor understood by such people.

      I’m not sure TV’s are the problem. It would be a little hypocritical of me after this post being about something I saw on TV! lol. I think it matters more so what’s on the old ‘idiot box’ (or what the individual decides to watch and how much). FOX News rots the brain as much as it kills normal virtuous humanistic traits – especially empathy for our fellows (individuals – not companies / profits) 😉

      The podcast is a great one (for Triple J’s ‘Hack’). There is (I’d argue because we tend to think of ourselves as consumers) a blurred perception between ‘must have’ and ‘genuinely need’ (not that we need to be ‘hair shirt’ about bare necessity, rather a better awareness of excess). I guess it’ll be a valuable lesson for the coming century.

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  2. I could not get the TV program but the TED talk is brilliant thanks for that.
    We are busy in a small scale with this close lope system next to showing examples of how people can do it in their own back garden.
    One of the things this talk also showed is food and nature can go together, nature does not need to vanish for us to “farm” they can go hand in hand. A radical approach i often practise is “weeds” helping a gardener and i say often as even me need to remind myself of this not to act the gardener who fights the growth of “weeds” . This days i say we gardeners make a chose of which plants we grow but there is not such thing as a bad plant (weed) they all have there use and good sites. We are now looking at ways to grow plants to feed plants even directly by companion planting or indirectly via the compost heap.
    We need more information and looking for it to see which plants are rich in which elements needed for plant growth like potassium or silica.
    Next to this we are looking at local coffee shops to provide us with their used teabags and coffee ground to make compost and to improve the soil.
    I can talk about this for hours, this closed lope we do not need chemical fertilisers etc the land can provide it if we use the resources in a good way and not throw it away to make more products to throw away again for economical growth.

    You most likely already heard of the club of rome but i just thought to give you a link as it makes a connection to the climate denial as well.

    http://www.clubofrome.org/eng/home/

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    1. That’s exactly what I hope Gen[A] can promote – as well as develop a global community of like-minded people.
      I guess the SBS link doesn’t work globally (which is a real shame – it’s an excellent series).
      There are numerous studies appearing recently which question the detrimental impacts of invasive species (a bit of a ‘180 turn’ for me as I went to uni with the weed management in mind!).
      Cheers for the link 🙂

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  3. Weeds? I remember the simple instructions on how to run a productive garden from Jackie French. “Pick something every day. Plant something every week.”

    ‘Picking’ includes grabbing a handful of ‘weeds’ and feeding them to the chooks.

    But if you’re really keen on the economics of this stuff, you can’t go past Hugh Stretton’s “Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment” from 1976. Fantastic stuff on the GDP impacts (or otherwise) of gardens. Compare the GDP effect of establishing a recreation garden on a New York rooftop – buy soil and advanced plants, transport and lift them to where they’re needed, get a landscaping service to design and instal the whole thing – with a suburban family that uses the soil that came with the block, purchases a few trees, shrubs, seeds, seedlings and soil amendments from time to time, eats the produce and composts the waste. One has a huge ‘value’ to the economy in the initial outlay and in the continuing purchase of food items , the other spends far less on garden maintenance than they would have on fruit, veg and possible eggs. And they have a nice garden to relax in as well.

    There’s also a fantastic analysis of the GDP and lifestyle benefits in postwar Germany and Britain. The ‘raw’ economic facts conceal more than they disclose.

    That was 1976. It would be worthwhile doing something similar for modern Havana.

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