“The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way.”
Thich Nhat Hanh in his book ‘The World We Have – A Buddhist approach to peace and ecology.’
Our food systems have grown so complex over the years, in response to the rapid urbanization and population growth. Dominant today within its complex systems are further entangled issues, encompassing a range of interrelated fields of health, climate, geology, economy and energy. The root cause of concern is that the consumption of food and resources required to produce this is far greater than the rate of production. Agriculture causes soil erosion, and the excessive use of chemicals to increase supply over a shorter time period only translates into greater problems involving health and pollution. We see that a major flaw here is the unilateral flow of energy, or resources, where we take from the earth and abundance and seem to replenish with nothing valuable.
The problems in the food industry also affect the economics of rural and urban areas, raise quality concerns, and a social divide between the producers and consumers. With the significant rural to urban migration, there are lesser people involved in the farm process today, and the land as such is rarely profitable, due to lack of availability in urban areas and maybe over burden in the rural. Hence, more dependant is the distribution system on fossil fuel and less aware is the consumer.
A good starting ideology for a solution would be to create a self-sufficient model, where the energy flow would be cyclic- creating a positive feedback loop, where all the energy fed consumed will be restored to the greatest possible levels and reutilised. The food system would have to be redesigned, which primarily will have to be a value change in humans as well as a significant life style change, may resulting out of effective policy reform. The aim is to provide nutritious and accessible food to all, minimising production energy – to think global, act local. A more contextual, sensitive and community based approach is required, where local produce should be encouraged and mixed/multi use developments encouraged.
Further solutions could extend to extensive recycling, community gardening and integrating the local production into everyday life. There are vast areas of rooftops available for some form of cultivation, herbs could replace aesthetic shrubbery in parks and fruit trees can be planted (The only opposing facet of this would be the quality and value of such production in already polluted cities). Consumer attitudes, the key driver of change, can further be influenced with economic benefits such as tax incentives and health benefits.
It is only when people today are aware if these perils, will a shift in values begin to surface. It is only when they feel responsible and involved toward the food they consume, will the actual change begin to take effect.