Igniting a revolution in the way humanity feeds itself
(First of a long series…)
I’m writing here to invite you to the adventure of a lifetime, the challenge of a generation. You are greatly needed now.
Some background is probably in order, but at the moment I’ll just say that I’m a recruiter and trainer for those who are mobilizing to lead the local food revolution in their communities and bioregions. This may be the most important and most urgent cause of our time.
More broadly, I support evolutionary catalysts, those who are consciously working to birth a new civilization out of the ashes of the old one. The local food revolution is an essential part of that larger effort.
You’re probably already somewhat familiar with the local food movement. Well, sadly, I can report that it’s essentially stalled. Like many other movements these days, it appears to be failing in its mission — partly because its vision has never been clearly articulated.
The signs are all too clear.
As popular as local food has become over the last decade or so — even with the great increase in farmers markets, CSAs, farm stands, and food hubs — the reality is that of all the $5.3 trillion U.S. annual food supply (roughly one-third of GDP), only about 0.3 percent is actually grown and produced locally.
In most states, less than one percent of the food supply is local. Vermont is the hands-down leader in food localization, now at about eight percent local food — but only after fifteen years of concentrated effort.
The rest of us lag far behind. For instance, a few years ago I learned that Colorado, my home state, was at #19 on the Locavore Index of States. That was sobering, but I was later horrified to witness our ranking slip to #35 over the next few years — at the very time many of us were doing everything possible to help localize the food supply here. We’re at #33 for 2017.
The industrial food system
A little digging reveals that our food supply — in the U.S. and around the world — is predominantly controlled by an industrialized food system which produces more than 99 percent of our food, and farms more than 99 percent of our agricultural lands. This situation has mostly come about since World War II, in a matter of only 70 years or so.
There are profound problems with this arrangement which largely remain invisible and out of public awareness, and now must be widely shared and addressed:
- End-to-end, the industrial food system is the largest industry in the world and the most destructive, responsible for more than half of all global greenhouse emissions; it is the primary driver of global warming and global ecosystem destruction.
- The damage produced by the industrial food system is the primary cause of a mass extinction of species now underway, with 100 to 200 species disappearing every day.
- Industrial food is so fundamentally unhealthy that it is killing us humans as well. Of all the deaths each year in the U.S. and Europe, half are from food-related illnesses.
These are devastating realities, and they are rarely acknowledged in our society. That must change.
But there are deeper problems with the industrial food system which are essentially forbidden in public discourse. These are more subtle, but even more important.
For instance, as a people, we have lost control of our food supply. This means that in the process our food sovereignty and food security have been obliterated, stolen.
A real conspiracy
The industrial food system is in fact a kind of conspiracy, tightly controlled by an unholy alliance of big ag, big food, big oil, and big pharma.
But that’s not the end of it. The whole system is supported by big banking and big government.
This is not some wild and reckless claim, and it’s better to confirm it for yourself than to just take my word. When this sinks in, it reveals a horrifically ugly picture — especially when we consider that less than a hundred years ago almost one hundred percent of our food supply was organic and local. Now, less than one percent of it is. How did this happen?
For some of us who have been around for a while, it’s very uncomfortable to realize that this reversal has happened on our watch. Our food supply has been stolen from us, right before our eyes. And because of the damage that the industrial food system has wrought upon the world, our very future is being stolen from us. If we look, we can see this and feel this. It’s important to take the time to do so.
These would be reasons enough to take very strong measures everywhere to localize our food supply, to take back our food sovereignty, and to re-establish our food security. But there is more to the story.
For every system that goes “rogue” — attempting to operate outside the boundaries of a co-creative relationship with nature itself — there are unintended consequences. Eventually the consequences become unavoidable.
The impact of the industrial food system has become so great that it is now the primary cause of the arrival of the Anthropocene epoch — a long evolutionary process of course-correction and healing that will begin with a flurry of disruptions or radical discontinuities. (I’ll write about some of the deeper meaning of the Anthropocene in future posts.)
One of these discontinuities will be that global warming itself will radically reduce the planet’s ability to support the production of food. We are likely to see food production capacity be slashed in half by mid-century. How ironic that this is largely a direct consequence of the extractive excesses of the industrial food system.
At the same time, we’re learning that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rapidly reducing the ability of plants to produce nutrients. This is very bad news. Increasingly, we’re growing junk food. (See The Great Nutrient Collapse.)
It doesn’t take much research to grasp that humanity is heading into a food crisis of epic proportions, and far more quickly than almost anyone has imagined.
And it doesn’t take much reasoning or intuition to conclude that attempting to apply technological solutions to this predicament (e.g., chemistry, robotics, genetic engineering, geo-engineering, and big data) will almost certainly make matters worse, representing the very kinds of hubristic mechanisms that got us into this predicament.
Einstein famously said that problems cannot be solved at the level of the mind which created them. What he didn’t say — and needs to be said now — is that some problems perhaps cannot be solved at all, and simply require our adaptation.
Global warming has now become one of these wicked or intractable problems. Ecosystem destruction is another. Rapid mass extinction of species is another. So is the collapse of industrial civilization, and the coming crash of human population. So is the sudden decline in food production capacity.
These are global events of geological significance which are out of the range of human capacity to control — even though we have unintentionally caused them — and all are deeply connected to the way we currently feed ourselves.
These events are now probably inevitable, and we must learn to adapt to them. The sooner we come to terms with this reality, the sooner we can get to work on what is most critical now — including to some small degree mitigating or delaying the impact of these events.
Some people jump to the false but understandable conclusion that we are necessarily facing the end of life of this planet, or the extinction of the human species. If you imagine that your choices are only to either accept this annihilation, or to simply do your best to ignore the whole situation and carry on with life as we’ve known it for as long as possible, then you are bereft, completely without hope. This helps explain exponentially increasing rates of suicide, violence, addiction, abuse, and insanity.
And many of us secretly harbor deep fears of these things, often masked by stoic or frivolous denial.
But there are deeper realities and possibilities lurking in this chaos and destruction which are cause for great celebration and our unhesitating engagement.
One of these is a most unexpected development, a shift among the hidden leaders of the local food movement that is transforming this tiny and often-trivialized campaign to a full-blown revolution, a visionary grassroots uprising to take back our food supply, to establish our food security and food sovereignty, and to reclaim our future.
There is a level of unforeseen radicalization just beginning to occur in the emergence of highly localized regional food systems which is not only heartening but may point to a a clear pathway forward for the evolution of humanity. This is a local food revolution. It’s already underway, and it’s contagious.
This is for you
If you have read this far, you may be among those who are called into service in this situation, to become a leader of the local food revolution in the region where you live. Or at least to become a radical supporter of this revolution.
I confess that I’m concerned that the adventure that I’m inviting you to here may seem too daunting, perhaps even frightening. But before you go into reaction and tune me out, there is something that I’d like you to consider.
This moment in time — and by that I mean something like the the next three to five years — is the greatest occasion in human history, a time when who we become and what we achieve will determine what the future of humanity and all of life on the planet becomes. Seriously.
In the haunting words of Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at Post Carbon Institute:
“A hundred years from now, everyone will be eating what we today would define as local organic food, whether or not we act. But what we do now will determine how many will be eating, what state of health will be enjoyed by those future generations, and whether they will live in a ruined cinder of a world, or one that is in the process of being renewed and replenished.”
What we do now is crucial.
What I hope to demonstrate to you is that taking back our food security and sovereignty by localizing our food supply is the pathway to healing, restoration, and regeneration. Participating in this great adventure is precisely the invitation I’m extending to you. This invitation will unfold through a series of communiques with the potential of activating a deeply transformational and liberating process in your being. No kidding.
A ruined cinder of a world is not inevitable. A world in the process of being renewed and replenished is the very adventure I’m inviting you to consider.
What I’m offering in this series is a perspective profoundly missing in our world today, and greatly needed. But fair warning, this is not just information, not data. It’s a way of seeing that can deeply impact who you become in the world. This is transformational communication. But it is only meaningful if it generates engagement. This is personal.
So I also invite you to engage in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll respond when I can, but I’ll certainly read everything.
I plan on writing here every seven days. What I write will be influenced significantly by your engagement in the comments.
Meanwhile, you can download Reclaiming the Future: How to Lead the Local Food Revolution in Your Community. My gift to you, just sign up here.
A final word in this first message, a caveat: At this moment, you may feel little resonance with the cause of localizing the food supply. It may or may not be your particular calling. But the principles and pathways I’ll be outlining here are applicable to your true calling, whatever it may be. Read on…