Wednesday, 1 October 2008

We're doing some research into food at the moment - winding up for contributions to Assembly inquiries into food production later this year and the emerging Green Jobs Strategy for Wales. If this turns into a full-blown policy research piece we'll let you know but we'll blog some of what we're seeing in any case....share the wealth...

We decided to look at food for a number of reasons:

1. Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, Spoke at our recent conference in Machynlleth.

Patrick talked about how he'd struggled to respond to the climate change challenge - found himself changing lightbulbs, recycling and worrying but not really knowing how to make an impact.

Then he talked Precariousness. When Patrick heard about Peak oil/oil scarcity/price volatility he thought about how long his farm could survive without oil or with oil prices prohibitively high. The answer, if I remember rightly, was not very long at all. As a result Patrick is now working to reduce his farm reliance on fossil fuels, looking to build a turbine, working via the soil association and JCB to make an electric tractor etc etc.

Great stuff but this makes you wonder how precarious our wider food production, processing, transport, retail sector is - the whole chain appears to me to be highly dependent upon fossil fuels, hence the strong links between oil prices and food prices paid by consumers.

What was interesting was Patrick's assertion that his selfish interests were stoked by the notion of oil scarcity, more than climate change. I can understand this - Climate demands us to adopt an altruistic position: Yes, it is happening now, affecting mainly those exposed by geography and poverty - but it doesn't seem to resonate sufficiently as a 'clear and present danger'. There's obviously been alot said on the selfish nature of humans so I wont go into that here - but Patrick's relative reponse to the two sides of a similar coin seems to reflect the fact that so many people now understand that cliamte change is happening but find it difficult to engage fully in doing anything about it.

This reminded us of The Post Carbon Institute , who recently gave a live conference call and powerpoint presentation at the Welsh Local Government Association Climate change event. I'll try and find the presentation for you. The speaker talked to the local authority and WAG representatives about the need to plan for climate change impacts and resource scarcity/variability at a local level - everything from floods to travel planning and basic infrastructure. Oh, and food.

2. At that event we launched 'Transformation Nation'.

The report, designed to inform the Welsh Assembly Government's remake of the Sustainable Development Scheme, had a few things to say about food:

"The Wales Spatial Plan should set a strategic context for Wales’ response to global resource scarcity (notably oil and food)."

I'll blog a link to it when we publish teh online version - comments gratefully received btw

3. Rising food prices are in the news.

See the scrapbook on the right of the page

4. Jamie Oliver and his Ministry of Food.

Watch His video (Click the picture

Read about his 'Pass it on' recipe campaign

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