BY MARJORIE STEWART
The transition from entrepreneurial (owner-operated) to managerial (career executives) business is over, according to George Monbiot. In a recent column he points out that the “largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets.” In other words, we are trapped in systems designed to transfer power and wealth upwards with little consideration for the general good of either people or planet. This is not the way capitalism was meant to be. How do we turn this around?
Most people are finally aware of the looming crises of poverty, global warming and planetary destruction. Our problem now is a sort of paralysis or inability to know what to do to create change. Several people have described ‘disaster capitalism,’ which seems to be a kind of perverse delight in diverting precious resources from the true crises in order to make even more outrageous profits.
Our problem is not economic, it is political intolerance. If leftists and rightists would stop slinging mud at each other and focus on changing systems which are destroying our world, the paralysis would disappear. The gulf between world views can be bridged if we acknowledge each other’s right to a different point of view instead of exhibiting contempt for political rivals. Some people believe in competition and others believe in co-operation and both are, to some extent, correct, depending on contexts. Rightists tend to competition and hierarchy and leftists tend to co-operation and equity. Governments have become infested with people who will do anything to maintain a status quo which most of us probably agree is toxic.
If vegans, vegetarians and omnivores agreed to outlaw industrial dairy and meat and also what Vandana Shiva calls the ‘fake food’ of certain plant-based meat substitutes, we could make a real dent in the planetary impacts of our dietary choices.
Credible food and agriculture experts agree that the best way to achieve diets that are healthy for people and planet is to localize production of most of our food and figure out ways to trade equitably for products we cannot produce locally.
The benefits of localization include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, packaging, processing and refrigeration. Farms producing for local or regional markets have an incentive to diversify their production, making organic production more feasible and removing the toxic load on surrounding ecosystems. Diversified organic farms provide more niches for wildlife to occupy and favour production methods suited to particular climates, soils and resources. The smaller-scale farms that produce for local and regional markets provide more employment opportunities and support local businesses.
Food security is also strengthened because varieties are chosen based on regional suitability, not the demands of supermarket chains or the requirements of long-distance transport. This strengthens agricultural biodiversity. Since it doesn’t need to travel far, local food is far fresher than global food, and can be produced without toxic chemicals.
“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”
– Wendell Berry
Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.