These solutions all sound pretty sexy. But reducing the environmental impact of food production is not as simple as choosing one crop or livestock type over another.
Food production is a social-ecological system. That means it’s a system based on a mutual relationship between nature and humans. The ecosystem (i.e. the farm) influences human lives and actions, via ecosystem services. And humans influence the ecosystem’s structure and function, through direct management and indirect drivers like regulations, subsidies, financial markets and consumer demand. Continue reading →
I recently visited the town of Bendigo for the first time, a beautiful heritage town in central Victoria, Australia. It was one of the first places gold was discovered in the state, sometime in the 1850s, and much of the town’s original business and residential districts still stand, in all their gold rush glory.
‘Tis the season for countdowns and annual nominations! Nature and Ecology rarely rate a mention in such frivolities, although some sites have listed insightful round-ups of the top environmental stories of 2013. Most scientific countdowns for 2013, or predictions for 2014, are dominated by gadgetry and technological fancy. So, I hereby doubly-nominate ecosystem services as the “most influential” ecological concept of 2013, and the “most likely to inspire positive change” in 2014! Continue reading →
Urban agriculture itself is not news, but the reviving interest in edible urban ecosystems is exciting, as it has the potential to change the way we relate to food, Nature and society. Community gardens, urban permaculture, edible landscapes, forest gardens, market gardens – label it however you like, it all boils down to people growing and harvesting their own food, instead of buying it from a ‘middle man’…which should come naturally to all of us!
Although many urban agriculture systems were developed to profit from the produce (e.g. through farmer’s markets or barter systems), there is increasing interest in more ‘passive’ urban food production – incorporating permanent food plants into urban planning schemes, and allowing the local community to reap the benefits at their leisure. Continue reading →
Genetic modification (GM) has been on the radar for quite a few years – another really important issue that has been misrepresented and misinterpreted for too long to maintain any sort of clarity in the general public’s consciousness. The problems with GM (of crops or animals) are numerous and fall into three main categories, ethical, ecological and social…although it’s pretty hard to separate the three when discussing any given GM scenario.
The other day I heard writer/journalist Steven Poole being interviewed on ABC radio about his new book You Aren’t What You Eat: Fed Up With Gastroculture. I haven’t read the book, but going by this synopsis, I have a feeling I might thoroughly enjoy it!
However, there was one thing I heard Steven talk about that didn’t quite convince me. In a discussion on the rise of slow/local food scenes, he raised the issue that while some people choose this foodie path because of the perceived ethical benefits of eating local, others may argue that in doing so, they are doing an African farmer out of his sale of beans or tomatoes or something…which raises a completely different set of ethical complexities. Continue reading →
Æsop’s fable of the reckless, over-confident hare and the far-sighted tortoise is one of my favourites. For those of you who can’t remember it, the moral is that although the hare got going fast and almost reached the destination first, his cockiness got the better of him. As the hare took a pre-finish line nap, thinking he had the result in the bag, the tenacious tortoise, moving more slowly and methodically, plodded straight past him and over the finish line…proving that slow and steady wins the race.
These days we seem to have evolved into Hares. Always rushing around, jumping off the springboards of our rash desires without checking what we’re diving into, or what the consequences will be. What with work, meetings, worry, offspring-advancement activities and snatched coffee dates with our friends, we’re constantly on the move and racing against time…which incidentally seems to have sped up. But that’s another story. Continue reading →