The Upcycle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart was an inspiring read, taking up where their Cradle to Cradle left off. It's not explicitly about the food system, but frankly I found its messages about resilience and abundance applicable to many systems. The two big take home ideas for me were
- Values are much more important than metrics. We must begin any initiative by articulating what we value, not setting numerical goals. For example, accessibility to fresh, healthful food for all, rather than 50% fewer outlets for sugary snacks and beverages in the neighborhood. Then we can track progress toward that which we value. Seems like there are ways this would be applicable in congregations, too.
- Regulation indicates the need for redesign. One of the things I think about a lot is that new regulations often cause new problems. With concern for health, NYC led the way in banning trans fats. But now the hunger for fats that are solid at room temperature has multiplied the number of palm oil plantations with the resultant destruction of tropical habitat and biodiversity. In churches, the emphasis on "clergy boundaries" has caused a further distancing of ministry professionals from their communities, increasing the potential for abuses of power that the rules were meant to counter. When we are tempted to create a new rule or regulation, we need to first step back and consider redesigning or reforming the system that calls for it.
An older book which I finally read is Patricia Klindienst's The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. The title pretty much says it. Here are a collection of stories about farms, urban farms, backyards and community gardens where traditions are carried forward, as cultures are remembered and evolve by peoples indigenous and immigrant. It's a charming book that reminds us of some of the reasons why we garden. I found myself thinking about the horticultural beans I am going to plant when I harvest my garlic in a week or two - the beans were one of my grandfather's favorites, something he grew every year. Then there are my frustration with a rhubarb failure, and all the little lessons in frugality I learned from my dad, particularly about selecting plant starts to set out. I'm guessing that anyone reading this book will find themselves reconnected to their own food and gardening traditions.