Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rules for a Sustainable Community

Since Wendell Berry has opted out of the computer age in favor of a simple life it is up to us bloggers to do what we can with his deep wisdom here in the blogosphere.

Here are his 17 rules for a sustainable community. May it inspire us to get up and walk away from our computers, into the forests and fields.

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbours.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labour saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programmes, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighbourly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighbourhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Agroecology and the Right to Food

This year the United Nations Human Rights Council received the report, Agroecology and the Right to Food from Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur.
His conclusions are based on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years.
In it he says:
"We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers' knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development… If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live…Most efforts in the past have focused on improving seeds and ensuring that farmers are provided with a set of inputs that can increase yields, replicating the model of industrial processes in which external inputs serve to produce outputs in a linear model of production. Instead, agroecology seeks to improve the sustainability of ecosystems by mimicking nature instead of industry. This report suggests that scaling up agroecological practices can simultaneously increase farm productivity and food security, improve incomes and rural livelihoods, and reverse the trend towards species loss and genetic erosion… However, in moving towards more sustainable farming systems, time is the greatest limiting factor. Whether or not we will succeed will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations and to disseminate works more widely…"

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Slow Down Korea

Living in Korea I am getting to know first hand how rapid industrialization and the obsession with growth changes a people. The shift happened so fast here (under the ruthless Park Administration 1961-79) that some traditional farm houses still stand between tall buildings and the farmers can still be found ploughing the earth beside the highway and wild collecting in the cryptoforests. Guerrilla gardening is the norm in Seoul.

In the countryside, among the farmers and foodies, it is still possible to get a feel for the slowness and quality of the traditional Korean life. A lifestyle which is in danger of becoming extinct in the frenzy of achievement, success and growth that keeps people in the office and in the classroom from morning till midnight.

The shift from traditional agrarian society to an 'Asian Tiger' of economic growth has been a harsh and violent one, filled with ideological struggles and the division of the people. The history of internal conflict since WW2, resulting in multiple mass massacres, has been repressed by the Korean and other foreign governments.

Many questions remain and a lot of work for the visionaries, movers and shakers of Korea.

As inspiration for a move toward a more just and equitable society I am posting the manifesto of the group who gets closest to hitting the mark. This manifesto marked the beginning of Slow Food in 1989.

The Slow Food Manifesto 

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.

A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

History of Organic Agriculture

Looking for the History of organic Agriculture I was surprised to find that it was so heavy on Western names and philosophies.

The origin of the philosophical ideas which are the foundations of Organic are clearly Buddhist and Hindu. Sir Albert Howard '"The father of modern organic agriculture" and his wife Gabrielle spent a lot of time in Indore India. His work there is the origin of composting in western agriculture. It is also, very likely, the origin of the modern western organic farmers care for the soil and soil amendments. His work on An Agricultural Testament was influential for Lady Eve Balfour (the Haughley Experiment, The Living Soil) and J.I. Rodale (Rodale Institute).

Eastern philosophy had a lot to do with Steiner's development of the Biodymnamic practices as well. Not to mention the philosophical influences on the early transcendental and conservationist nature writers.

The Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF) is a non-profit organization which uses agricultural history to promote research on sustainable agriculture in the South and Southeast Asia. Historically South Asia has always had strong food security and the most sustainable agricultural management technologies for all its many agroecoregions. Today it is often seen as a food-deficient region in danger of mass-scale starvation, with malnutrition, food insecurity and unsustainable 'green revolution' agricultural practices being massively adopted.

The sustainability of modern agricultural technologies is being reconsidered by organizations like AAHF who look to traditional wisdom and the indigenous, time-tested technologies that have sustained the farmers of South and Southeast Asia in the past. The historical perspective of gradual development of traditional technologies for adaptation and developing appropriate technologies for a truly sustainable agriculture.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Community Based Conservation

Former White House advisor and retired dean of Yale Law School James Gustave Speth has written a new book called 'The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability'. It is bound to be an incredible read and I look forward to finding a copy here in Korea.
Surfing around on the Yale website with Speth's book and research in mind I came across this study in Environment 360 which shows that community conservation may be a more successful strategy for forest conservation than establishment of 'protected areas' - The report, by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), is titled: "Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics".
More from the Redd Monitor on Community Conservation vs. 'Protected' forests