Let’s all stand together – Blog action day 2012
Blog Action Day 2012 – The power of We.
When I’m having a ‘glass half-full’ day I see a very bleak future for our world. It’s not the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse or a killer disease, it’s down to who is influencing the food chain. After all there are three fundamentals to life: air, water and food – control of one of these is pretty mind blowing. On a dark day, I reflect how carelessly we have entrusted the latter to a handful of big conglomerates, chemical companies, retailers and speculators (in the form of commodity trading). We’ve already reached a dystopia where farmers are prosecuted when GM seed lands in their crop and contaminates it, where cows, pigs and hens live and die their short existences without every seeing a field or day-light, where a innocuous crop like soy can be mechanically processed to such a degree that it is included in just about every food stuff, from animal feed to confectionery, so when there is a shortage prices rocket sky high. Pizza is classified as a vegetable because of political lobbying, health infrastructure is under huge strain due to diet-related illness, our landscapes are being reshaped, precious land is being built on and farmers put out of business due to ‘market-forces’. On these dark days I see mankind living from hand to mouth, our children malnourished and these halcyon days of freedom and choice (that we seem to have squandered) being looked on with incredulity and nostalgia.
At times like these I need to believe that it’s not all one way and there are people with integrity and common-sense who can temper the effects of those having a malign influence on our world. People who take the spark of an idea, however small, and make a real difference to one part of the food chain.
The Food Programme
The BBC Radio 4 Food Programme is one beacon of light. From light-hearted topics like gadgets, to honouring food heroes such as Major Patrick Rance and George Perry Smith to highlighting global food issues such as the price of coffee and cocoa. One recent episode about trans-fats, presented by Sheila Dillon, won an award at The Guild of Food Writers Awards 2012. The over-riding message that runs through the programming is that people care about food and are doing something about changing the food landscape.
The BBC Food and Farming awards highlight excellence in many areas, from best street food or takeaway to best dinner lady or public caterer and from now until 28th November the Food Programme will be relating stories of this year’s finalists. This shortlist has been compiled from hundreds of nomimations from the general public. I nominated Kilchoman Distillery and am delighted that they’ve made the final.
The most encouraging thing about the Food Programme is that it highlights not just passing fads (free-from diets, cupcakes etc) but issues, good and bad that affect our attitude to food locally and globally.
One Man, One Cow, One Planet
One of the most encouraging statistics I’ve heard recently is that there are 200,000 bio-dynamic compost heaps in India. Modern industrial agriculture promised a better way with a population of 1.2 billion mouths to feed. In fact it’s had a detrimental long-term effect, sapping the land of nutrients, depleting the water table and in recent years the biotech industry has forced many farmers into unmanageable debt leading to high rates of suicide. The film One Man, One Cow, One Planet shows the positive impact of biodynamic agriculture pioneer Peter Proctor, who is working with thousands of farmers in India, which offers an alternative sustainable blueprint to grow our food and to feed the world.
The theme to this year’s World Food Day (October 16th_ is “Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world”. It has been chosen to highlight the role of cooperatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger.
Hugh’s Fish Fight
Although there is still a lot more to achieve, since I wrote for Blog Action Day last year, Hughs’ Fish Fight has had a meaningful and lasting impact. I joined the campaign by sending dozens of emails to lobby MP’s – another example of the ‘power of we’.
Some of the areas of impact:
- UK Supermarket sales of sustainably-sourced fish have soared and people are now consistently buying new types of fish.
- McDonald’s announced that over 13 million customers every day across Europe will be able to buy Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fish in McDonald’s restaurants from October this year.
- European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has pledged to end ‘the nightmare of discards’.
- More than 200 MPs signed an Early Day Motion to discuss discards as a result of us lobbying them.
- Over 60,000 emails were sent to MEPs from the UK.
- By 2014 all UK tuna suppliers will have changed their fishing methods to protect sharks and turtles.
- Now only sustainable fish will be served at Whitehall, prisons, civil servants, and parts of the armed forces (UK).
I hope that that some of these impacts will have a knock on effect on the success of the ‘Choose Wisely‘ campaign in the UAE.
Local, organic produce
And finally, while the arguments for local production of food in the UAE are by no means cut and dried (farming in a desert landscape) the growth in choice of fresh produce driven by the Baker & Spice Farmers’ Market on the Terrace, the Ripe market and shop, Greenheart veg boxes, Go Organic and Blue Planet Green People makes every day a brighter one for me. A real alternative to rows of sad-looking, tasteless, under-ripe supermarket fruit and veg flown in from as far as the US, Argentina and Australia.
Plus the majority of the vegetables for the up and coming International Fine Food Festival have been grown locally and organically by Organiliciouz demonstrating that old models can be broken where people have passion and vision.
‘The Power of We’ helps me remain optimistic for the future. To keep in touch with everything going on today on Blog Action Day use the #PowerOfWe, #BAD12 and #Blogactionday hashtags across social media.
I’ll leave you with this video from Irene Kharono from ActionAid Uganda who is participating in Blog Action Day. She talks about the land grabs that are affecting her country and many poor small-holder farmers around the world and why the Power of We is important in tackling this issue.
So what do you think we can do to change our food future for the better?