It’s TED Talk Thursday on 350orbust, and I’m reposting this talk from TEDx Austin 2011. I’m presenting about GMO/GE foods at a regional diabetes conference this week, and as part of my preparation I listened to Ms. O’Brien’s talk again. Her journey from Wall Street executive to food activist is worth listening to more than once:
Hope you are enjoying a relaxing long weekend Friday, as we are. One of the topics that has come up while we relax and sip our morning tea is the plans for our garden this summer. Besides just talking about it, my husband, also spent time this morning tending to his basil seedlings and babying the green pepper plants that he brought indoors in fall, which are amazing all of us by blossoming and setting fruit. Here they are:
In case you need some inspiration to start planning your garden – whether it’s in pots on your balcony or on half an acre, here’s a video narrated by one of my eco-heroes, Dr. Vandana Shiva, about how planting a garden can change the world:
“The most ecological choice for food is also the most ethical choice for food whether we’re talking about brussel sprouts or foie gras. And it’s almost always – I haven’t found evidence of this being otherwise – the most delicious choice.”
It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. Louise Fresco is a former UN director, a contributor to think tanks and an advisor to academies in Europe and the United States. The TED website describes her this way:
A powerful thinker and globe-trotting advisor on sustainability, Louise Fresco says it’s time to think of food as a topic of social and economic importance on par with oil — that responsible agriculture and food consumption are crucial to world stability.
In this TED Talk from 2009, Ms. Fresco:
argues that a smart approach to large-scale, industrial farming and food production will feed our planet’s incoming population of nine billion. Only foods like (the scorned) supermarket white bread, she says, will nourish on a global scale.
Okay, maybe we don’t need to worry about zombies but we should certainly consider future food shortages, not to mention the pesticide-laced food and genetically modified food (GMO) we are already exposed to on every trip to the grocery store. Today is World Food Day, and while I write this I’ve got a batch of Green Tomato Pasta Sauce bubbling away on my stove. It was a bumper tomato harvest this year, and we’ve already put away jars of salsa, both mild and medium, as well as more conventional red tomato spaghetti sauce. Also preserved in our pantry are: canned carrots (processed using our new pressure canner), pickles, dozens of jam and jelly jars, yellow and green beans, and chicken broth. Our freezer contains some swiss chard (see below), which was a bit fussy to process but I’m sure will be delicious in January, as well as rhubarb, and strawberries waiting to be made into delicious fruit crisps in the dead of winter. Here’s some photos that show the chard’s transformation from garden to freezer (I followed the great instructions found on The Art of Doing Stuff blog).
If you haven’t started to preserve your own food, or food that you’ve picked up at a local farmer’s market, I would encourage you to start – and if you can join forces with a friend, so much the better! Some community organizations and churches have started to offer help with preserving – check around to see if this is available in your community. As George Monbiot wrote yesterday about the impacts of climate-change-related extreme weather events and food:
...This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.
This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with 2, 4 or 6 degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.
Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.
Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?
And – while you are preparing for the new normal, which includes rising food prices and less reliable global food production (and frankly, what system which takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food could be sustained indefinitely?) – how about calling or writing to your local and federal political representative and telling them you want them to take decisive action on climate change now. While zombies may be difficult to prepare for, we know that if we take action on climate change we can avoid the worst effects that will be visited on our children and grandchildren. If you want to learn more about how to do this effectively, go to Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots group focused on creating the political will for a sustainable climate.
I’ll let this short video prepared as part of the Proposition 37 campaign in California, requiring that GMO foods be labelled, have the last word today:
Winona is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota. As Program Director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, where she works to protect Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, LaDuke has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She is the author of five books, including Recovering the Sacred, All our Relations and a novel, Last Standing Woman.
I still haven’t had a chance to catch my breath since returning home from our trip to Newfoundland last week, having jumped with both feet into the Turtle Island Writing Festival the afternoon of our arrival, including hosting one of the distinguished authors. Today I once again hit the road, this time to deliver our eldest daughter to Winnipeg where she is catching a flight to Europe, to spend much of the next two months walking the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.
Here’s a glimpse of the Turtle Island Writing Festival, where Anishinaabe author and activist Winona LaDuke presented, as well as Calgary journalist, editor, and author of “All Our Sisters: Stories of Homeless Women in Canada” Susan Scott. Local author Kathy Tetlock and arts educator Lila Cano also shared insights and spurred our creativity. This is my favourite picture, of me handing Winona LaDuke the “really cool old squash” she brought up to share with us. The squash is grown from 800 year old seeds found at an archeological dig in Minnesota several years ago, inside a clay ball.
It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. Here’s Pam Warhurst from Todmorden, U.K, sharing about the revolution in local food growing that she and the rest of her volunteer community association started three years ago. Very inspiring!
What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.