8 am Thursday 2/12

February 16, 2009

Minutes from thursday Feb 12

8 am Thursday 2/12

Observations 

Pink slips threatened by Schwarzenegger – if budget isn’t passed

Prison population over crowded by 55000

Robin – supervisors office in SF – huge concert at Stern Grove – Park and Recreation raised over $1m and set it aside into a specific fund for GG Park

Auto worker restructuring come to terms – 10% layoff and more to come – supplier networks throughout US and in this area will be affected

Good news –

Rockefeller law passed in NY,

Chinese want to cooperate, Clinton going to China to discuss climate change

20 million out of work, retraining programs in local towns

Bill – I am humbled to have this time so appreciate it – I don’t claim to have the individual wisdom to have the collective wisdom of this group – I am going to take the opportunity, we have touched on sustainable food systems – let me set the context for discussion

Broad observations – then 3 specific projects

I will make some broad summary statements to get things out for common context – Bill Leland work at UCSC at center for agri-ecology for social food systems – been involved in social change

Doug – our food systems are fragile – dependent on transport systems – coming from a long way

Bill: unprecedented historic and economic times, create great suffering and great opportunity – it is important for our discussion to face immediate pressing needs – there is far more hunger and suffering than should be accepted by compassionate people – especially now, there is need for fundamental structural change – ideally we can address immediate pressing needs and contribute to a fundamental change –not just put band aids on wounds

Food system – we are looking at a sustainable food system that is environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible and serves as a foundation for future generations

         almost always people think of food production –but a sustainable system includes distribution and consumption in the system – as a whole system, look at parts that are sustainable and what is done with the waste

Food production is the easy part – but it is far from solved – water use, pest control, mulch, climate change, hazardous algae mono vs. diversified cultivation, local production victory gardens, conversion of lawns to vegetables

Distribution and consumption add complexity in inter relation – use of fossil fuels, land ownership, community supported agriculture, race, class, gender, food access, food deserts , neighbor hoods without healthy food outlets that are affordable, empty calories, food supplements – obesity, lack of information

Huge issue

Interface and inter relation is becoming clear in this economic situation – social values and economics have to come into the appropriate juxtaposition – regulation… must all be woven together –

Specific projects – what are some possibilities

  1. agriculture and tourism are the leading industries in Santa Cruz (SC) county – concentration in south SC for agriculture – 75% Watsonville population is Latino, with major portion of population below poverty line – irony of being underfed and undernourished – 2nd harvest food bank unable to meet need – tragic situation – collaboration between them and UCSC and community development corporation =- bring food processing back into area, under community owned economic model to create jobs and meet hunger need – development of different kind of economic model – this group could participate in expertise, access to resources etc
  1. small farmers, individual cooperatives are at a competitive disadvantage because of scale or size – so they just can’t compete with the large distributors – tremendous opportunities to bring to bear the technology – computer based distribution systems that can leap frog over antiquated huge systems of SYSCO like large distributors that do not serve the underserved
  1. no lack of information informing all of us – certified, free trade, fair trade, sustainable =- how to sort out these things, general public is totally overwhelmed – need trusted source of information for people to individually make best decisions thru support thru eating and purchasing habits to make a different – electronic and print information – apply this kind of problem solving to helping the public to sort out these kinds of issues would be huge

Project 1 – some feasibility been done –

Very small percentage coming thru alternate food systems – 2-4 % now, could scale up – scale is absolutely the issue this is where these issues come up

Whets in the way? Largely it is (in positive sense) the creation and demo of models that can work, and taking the ones that work to scale –

Regulatory laws or policies slowing it down? Farm bill in CA re authorized every 4-5 years – there are still huge subsidies toward the status quo – farm bill could go so much further in taking healthy foods into our schools – huge inertia from large farm companies

Aggregation and scale – what is it about the model that is different from old paradigm – what has to be maintained is how we do it – the aggregation and huge companies is thru exploitation and not staying connected with the little folks – want to have them remain participatory in the system – help values in local system be maintained – when disconnect occurs this is where the problems arise

California connection – availability of fresh water here – article by Steven Chu – saying agriculture in CA could be gone in 50 years – how we are going to deal with the drought is going to have a lot to say about how we deal with the future questions – we are not going to stop global climate change tomorrow – here there is good information about water conserving farming practice – there hasn’t been the overall motivation to do it – here is where the state can say “there are certain kinds of values we place on agricultural production” do we step up or not, remains to be seen

Which state organizations think about this the most? Food justice groups, organic  research foundation, loose network including UC’s – more could be done – this is another unfortunate thing, while there is a lot of collaboration – UC Davis is the leading agriculture research institution in the world, definitely in the state – we could be competitive with them (UCSC) – their focus is production, UCSC looks at whole system

 We are working now to strengthen the relationships – Roots of Change is 6 years old – Michael Dimmick – they have a fellows program – with one of their fellows at UCSC – they try to take big picture approach – they have been trying to bring networks together – the tricky dynamics is that they were funded by major foundation money – taken away from other orgs, which created resentment – spent a lot of time doing the framing – good org, put out some good pubs – 25-30 fellows have been charged with specific projects – fishing to how all of the food is produced and how to do it in a way that is constructive – primarily a framing and systems oriented organizations.

Calls out for systems modeling- Doug

If you start being more successful, who is going to resist? What is going to happen in 5 years?

Other orgs =- Common Ground ecology focused on agri. Acterra is focused at broader environmental level – here in this community to have edible landscapes, grow own food, integrating with other organizations – friends of the water – rivers initially, can’t separate from hydro – Transition Culture – Rob Hawkins in Boulder CO – adopted food as part of the system – have a handbook on how to make a community sustainable – take something that incorporates the local people, and how to replicate it – we have a mayor interested in that in this community

Other orgs? Ann says it sounds to her that there are really savvy orgs working on these issues =- if we are interested in this particular issue, the first thing we want to do is to ask these people what we can do? If we want to learn more, does this make sense? Should we invite 4 people to give some thought about what a loose community group could do to support this issue?

Bill – having the big picture helps us address these systemic questions in terms of what needs to happen to have the change – blockages are inertia and institutional structures in place – there are a lot of things that contribute to the problem – there are other ways to transition into a socially responsible and sustainable system.

Do we want to frame larger systemic issues? Doug lives in Sonoma County where apple orchards turning into vineyards with absentee owners in NY – there is very little land open for experimentation – have to make problem bigger to get the leverage?

Ann – do we have any role in this at all? Is this one of the issues we want to focus on?

This is a time of crisis and a time of opportunity – don’t want to waste people’s time = let’s not do it until we have some clarity to move forward –

Bill – there are many answers – it would be possible to come back with a position paper to see what addresses most issues and how this group could contribute

Maslow’s hierarchy – this economic crisis is driving us back down to the basics – food water, shelter =- when we think about what we want to focus on as a group, we need to make sure that those fundamentals are met – there are experts in different areas, e.g. education about choices of food – what to focus on? If fundamentals are in danger, we have to focus on

Doug = clearing house model – this leaves us smarter about food in our own orgs

With Maslow – what kind of culture change is implicit in what we are going thru – we will come back up in a different way – raises interesting philosophical questions – what are the cultural questions involved here?

Empirically Maslow is wrong – poor Mexican peasants will give a far more articulate view than executives in corporation – it is at the survival level that love is more critical

Peter – this group is a clearing house – this is not a group about projects – we vote with our energy and our feet – those interested in this project spin off and meet separately =- our job is to think strategically, bring together various non profits – we don’t have to decide what projects this group takes on, this is not in the charter – create the connections and synergy – things get done in small groups

Doug – people advocate for their project, not for the whole group but those interested can follow up

Bill – as I am thinking bout this, it is to put out these ideas and see what the group says. Identifying the key issues – are we just another group, with the best intentions or are we still piddling around the edges?

Peter – global hunger issue – there is enough capacity to produce food for the world, but distribution

Bill – there are 2 cuts – Food 1st has been saying it’s a distribution problem for decades – however exacerbated by more people and fewer resources. Good news is that it is largely a distribution problem, if we could address it in an equitable way we could solve it. We have too many people multiplied by the consumption of those people – average US person….. Have to be very careful.

Lifestyles, satisfying needs etc – a more equitable distribution seems to me to be the salmon swimming up the river – we have a world wide biz culture that knows how to create wealth but not how to distribute it.

Mei Lin – in Pakistan we are working to see how farmers can be more connected to the provider of Agri chemicals (pesticides) by using the cell phone.

Bill – we have to try not to be judgemental, because there are folks who really don

‘t want the farmers using pesticides and having chemicals in the food chain

Mei Lin – the farmers do not get communications other than from those trying to sell them something – these are the large chemical companies or their distributors– if we want to provide Pakistani farmers with connections to say California farmers who can give information guidance about sustainable farming, this is something that is just not happening right now. So the farmers get info from the only source they have Agri chemical providers. I am interested in using technology to bring the information to the farmer where and when he needs it, even if illiterate, and without a personal cell phone. There are technologies and the Internet that can help.

Bill: Potential for the creative use of the technology is huge – getting from here to there is the problem – we have to focus on where people are – with access to information only from multinationals with profit motive interest… where are the forces marketing on behalf of sustainable food chain? – pesticides are marketed by chemical companies.

Next week – state budget, furloughs implications for local communities

Sierra club is doing analysis of stimulus package from environmental perspective – log in phone number

There is a blog called continuing the conversation – we will create a poster on today and anyone can add comments to that, and Doug will move comments up to the post level – blog is going to be the most effective thing we can do.

Doug will put local impact news that has systemic implications.

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