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From Banks and Tanks: A Strategic Framework for a Just Transition

By MG Collective - Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, January 2017

Just Transition is a framework for a fair shift to an economy that is eco-logically sustainable, equitable and just for all its members. After centuries of global plunder, the profit-driven, growth-dependent, industrial economy is severely under-mining the life support systems of the planet. An economy based on extracting from a finite system faster than the capacity of the system to regenerate will eventually come to an end—either through collapse or through our intentional re-organization. Transition is inevitable. Justice is not.

Just Transition strategies were first forged by labor unions and environmental justice groups who saw the need to phase out the industries that were harming workers, community health and the planet, while also providing just pathways for workers into new livelihoods. This original concept of Just Transition was rooted in building alliances between workers in polluting industries and fence-line and frontline communities. Building on that history, Just Transition to us represents a set of aligned strategies to transition whole communities toward thriving economies that provide dignified, productive and ecologically sustainable livelihoods that are governed directly by workers and communities.

A Just Transition requires us to build a visionary economy for life in a way that is very different than the economy we are in now. Constructing a visionary economy for life calls for strategies that

democratize, decentralize and diversify economic activity while we damper down consumption, and (re)distribute resources and power. Just Transition initiatives shift the economy from dirty energy to energy democracy, from funding highways to expanding public transit, from incinerators and landfills to zero waste, from industrial food systems to food sovereignty, from gentrification to community land rights, and from rampant destructive development to ecosystem restoration. Core to a Just Transition is deep democracy in which workers and communities have control over the decisions that affect their daily lives.

Read the report (English PDF) | (Spanish PDF).

Together We Can Cool the Planet

By Eugenia Izquierdo and IvanZigarán - La Via Campesina and GRAIN - December 2016

Based on the video Together we can cool the planet! co-produced by La Vía Campesina and GRAIN in 2015, we have created a comic book to support training activities of social movements and civil society organisations around climate change. This comic book looks at how the industrial food system impacts our climate and also explains what we can do to change course and start cooling the planet.

La Via Campesina and GRAIN have pointed out that the industrial food system is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions. In the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa, we have been denouncing the false solutions to climate change such as GMOs, the “green economy” and "climate-smart agriculture".

We say loud and clear: it is peasants and small farmers, along with consumers who choose agroecological products from local markets, who hold the solution to the climate crisis.

We must all rise to the challenge!

Read the report (PDF).

Watch the video, too:

People’s Manual on the Guidelines on Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests

By various - La Via Campesina, et. al., June 2016

This publication is intended to support the use of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. It is not intended to contradict the language of the Guidelines as endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012 nor the role of states in their implementation.

This People’s Manual has been developed with the technical assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and with the financial assistance from the European Union (EU), Oxfam and Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development, and the contributions of the organizations participating in and supporting the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC).

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union, Oxfam, Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development and the IPC, concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO, the European Union, Oxfam, Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development and the IPC, in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) is an autonomous and self-organized global platform of more than 800 organizations of small-scale food producers and rural workers, men and women, and grass root/community based social movements, dedicated to advancing the Food Sovereignty agenda at the global and regional levels.

Read the report (PDF).

From Uniformity to Diversty: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems

By Emile A. Frison - International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems - June 2016

Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: widespread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the world.

Many of these problems are linked specifically to ‘industrial agriculture’: the input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots that now dominate farming landscapes. The uniformity at the heart of these systems, and their reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and preventive use of antibiotics, leads systematically to negative outcomes and vulnerabilities.

Industrial agriculture and the ‘industrial food systems’ that have developed around it are locked in place by a series of vicious cycles. For example, the way food systems are currently structured allows value to accrue to a limited number of actors, reinforcing their economic and political power, and thus their ability to influence the governance of food systems.

Tweaking practices can improve some of the specific outcomes of industrial agriculture, but will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates.

What is required is a fundamentally different model of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods, i.e. ‘diversified agroecological systems’.

There is growing evidence that these systems keep carbon in the ground, support biodiversity, rebuild soil fertility and sustain yields over time, providing a basis for secure farm livelihoods.

Data shows that these systems can compete with industrial agriculture in terms of total outputs, performing particularly strongly under environmental stress, and delivering production increases in the places where additional food is desperately needed. Diversified agroecological systems can also pave the way for diverse diets and improved health.

Change is already happening. Industrial food systems are being challenged on multiple fronts, from new forms of cooperation and knowledge-creation to the development of new market relationships that bypass conventional retail circuits.

Political incentives must be shifted in order for these alternatives to emerge beyond the margins. A series of modest steps can collectively shift the centre of gravity in food systems.

Read the report (PDF).

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

Agroecology as a Tool for Liberation: Transforming Industrial Agribusiness in El Salvador

By Beverly Bell - Upside Down World, August 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Excerpts from an interview with Miguel Ramirez, National Coordinator of the Organic Agriculture Movement of El Salvador.

"We say that every square meter of land that is worked with agro-ecology is a liberated square meter. We see it as a tool to transform farmers' social and economic conditions. We see it as a tool of liberation from the unsustainable capitalist agricultural model that oppresses farmers.

We in the Organic Agriculture Movement see the soil as Mother Earth, a living organism, which gives birth to all kinds of life. Mother Earth is agonizing, and needs to be rescued. Even a new small plot of land under organic management is part of the effort to revive her.

We now have around 3,700 small local producers who are educated and working on organic agriculture in El Salvador. We're just about one percent of all small producers, but 15 or 20 years ago we had no organic agriculture.

Our territory is made up of just 20,000 square kilometers, with 70 percent of the territory dedicated to agriculture. The challenge is to keep winning over new farmer families that will re-convert to organic farming and liberate the land.

For 60 years, Salvadoran peasants have been marginalized and impoverished by the agro-industrial model [chemically dependent, large-scale, corporate-controlled agribusiness], which is based on resource and human exploitation. Today, peasants in El Salvador, as throughout Latin America, are living in a system of semi-slavery and are subjected to expensive and toxic technology that doesn't belong to them.

People are facing some very serious health problems. Prolonged exposure to pesticides and other toxins in our food is causing low renal function, cancer, and diabetes.

Another problem we face as a result of this system of production is the extreme degradation of our natural resources. El Salvador has the most soil degradation in all of Central America. Eighty percent of our land is degraded and 99 percent of our rivers are contaminated.

What is a Just Agriculture System and Why Does it matter?

By Elizabeth Henderson - The Prying Mantis, November 13, 2012

Panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of the Domestic Fair Trade Association with Nelson Carrasquillo, Michael Sligh, and Elizabeth Henderson, November 13, 2012

My presentation:The current cheap food system coupled with Free Trade makes it difficult to keep family-scale farms afloat. Over the years since WWII, family scale farms have been going out of business at a steady and alarming pace until very recently. In 1943, the year I was born, there were over 6 million farms. There are only 2.2 million today. The local foods movement has reversed the trend and the number of small farms is actually growing. Nevertheless, something like 84% of the existing farms are in debt. Prices do not cover farmers’ costs of production. Many of the farms that do not have labor do have a family member who works off the farm so that the farmer can have health insurance or the farmer works a regular job and spends evenings and weekends doing farm work. While there are some outstanding examples of farms that do not have labor and are doing well financially, most of the family scale farms I know about are struggling to make ends meet, or are run by people who have chosen to live “simply.” Often, farmers are so discouraged about the money aspects of their farms that they do not even try to calculate costs accurately. They farm for the love of it, and either eek out a living that would qualify as below the poverty line or make money doing something else to support their farming habit. Family-scale farmers are a marginal population in the US and all of North America. These are fragile small businesses.

Taking a market-based approach, domestic fair trade seeks to pay farmers enough to allow them to use sustainable farming practices, to earn a living wage for themselves and their families and to pay living wages for the people who work on their farms. The Agricultural Justice Project hasassembled farmers, farm workers and other stakeholders to compose high bar standards for fair pricing, and decent working conditions for people who work throughout the food system. The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. The reality is that family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty. Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired helpers minimum wage, soon to rise to $7.65 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours aweek year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize. The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor RelationsAct, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too.

Since 911, the Department of Homeland Security has increased its operatives along the NY northern border from 341 to 2000, and farms complain bitterly about raids and arrests. There is a critical need for immigration reform and passage of the AgJobs bill.

A major squeeze or speed up has been underway that has been especially hard on dairy farms and farms that produce commodity crops. Rising costs, global warming (droughts, floods) and low prices due to concentration in markets that reduces the number of possible buyers. Contracts, including those given by organic processors, are poor. Most farms are not profitable, and many are in debt.

A fair food system would pay high enough prices for farm products that farmers could pay themselves and everyone working on the farm true living wages – that cover shelter, high quality, culturally appropriate food, health care, education, transportation, savings, retirement,self-improvement and recreation.

Radical Agriculture

By Murray Bookchin - Anarchist Library, 1972

Agriculture is a form of culture. The cultivation of food is a social and cultural phenomenon unique to humanity. Among animals, anything that could remotely be described as food cultivation appear ephemerally, if at all; and even among humans, agriculture developed little more than ten thousand years ago. Yet, in an epoch when food cultivation is reduced to a mere industrial technique, it becomes especially important to dwell on the cultural implications of "modern" agriculture—to indicate their impact not only on public health, but also on humanity's relationship to nature and the relationship of human to human.

The contrast between early and modern agricultural practices is dramatic. Indeed, it would be very difficult to understand the one through the vision of the other, to recognize that they are united by any kind of cultural continuity. Nor can we ascribe this contrast merely to differences in technology. Our agricultural epoch—a distinctly capitalistic one—envisions food cultivation as a business enterprise to be operated strictly for the purpose of generating profit in a market economy. From this standpoint, land is an alienable commodity called "real estate," soil a "natural resource," and food an exchange value that is bought and sold impersonally through a medium called "money." Agriculture, in effect, differs no more from any branch of industry than does steelmaking or automobile production. In fact, to the degree that food cultivation is affected by nonindustrial factors such as climatic and seasonal changes, it lacks the exactness that marks a truly "rational" and scientifically managed operation. And, lest these natural factors elude bourgeois manipulation, they too are the objects of speculation in future markets and between middlemen in the circuit from farm to retail outlet.

In this impersonal domain of food production, it is not surprising to find that a "farmer" often turns out to be an airplane pilot who dusts crops with pesticides, a chemist who treats soil as a lifeless repository for inorganic compounds, an operator of immense agricultural machines who is more familiar with engines than botany, and perhaps most decisively, a financier whose knowledge of land may be less than that of an urban cab driver. Food, in turn, reaches the consumer in containers and in forms so highly modified and denatured as to bear scant resemblance to the original. In the modern, glistening supermarket, the buyer walks dreamily through a spectacle of packaged materials in which the pictures of plants, meat, and dairy foods replace the life forms from which they are derived. The fetish assumes the form of the real phenomenon. Here, the individual's relationship to one of the most intimate of natural experiences—the nutriments indispensable to life—is divorced from its roots in the totality of nature. Vegetables, fruit, cereals, dairy foods and meat lose their identity as organic realities and often acquire the name of the corporate enterprise that produces them. The "Big Mac" and the "Swift Sausage" no longer convey even the faintest notion that a living creature was painfully butchered to provide the consumer with that food.

This denatured outlook stands sharply at odds with an earlier animistic sensibility that viewed land as an inalienable, almost sacred domain, food cultivation as a spiritual activity, and food consumption as a hallowed social ritual.

Read the report (PDF).

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