What to Eat – Part Ten

What to Eat – Part Ten

What to Eat when the Stores are Empty

Simple, Localized Approaches to Food Systems Resilience and Food Security in Southeast Asia

Please note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which we explore possible solutions to our current predicament. Click here to read the previous chapter Part Nine: Cultural shift – Anthropocentrism to Biocentrism.
To read the abstract on the index page, click here.

Part Ten: Cultural shift – Back to the Land!

One thing that must have occurred to readers of this series time and again is the following: all those ideas are neat, but only if you have land or live in the countryside! What if you live in the city?

Well, the answer is simple: What is needed in the turbulent times we find ourselves in is a demographic shift – away from large, dense settlements, and towards scattered, smaller communities that are more self-sufficient. Cities require the import of resources from the surrounding areas, and, to fuel their growth, they deplete an ever-larger circle around them of crucial resources, often including water and arable land. The growth of cities has so far resembled the growth of a cancer cell: a relatively unchecked expansion, fueled by the short-sighted appropriation of a disproportionate share of resources, and widespread destruction of the ecosystem it is located in, as well as the pollution of vast swathes of land (and air) in the immediate vicinity.

But first we need to understand how we got into this situation. In “developed,” industrialized countries, only a tiny percentage of the population is involved in food production – usually less than 5 percent. In Germany, for instance, the percentage of the population employed in farm work dropped from 38% in the year 1900 to just 1.2% in 2021. Similarly, in 1900 around 40% of the US population lived on farms, and this number dropped to a mere 1.4% of the population in 2020. Only two hundred years ago, around the year 1800, the number is believed to have hovered around 80-90% in both Germany and the US.
The trend is obvious: as a society “develops,” human labor is gradually replaced with machines (automation), and since those machines require a substantial initial investment, more small-scale subsistence farmers go bankrupt or otherwise can’t compete with large landowners, and move to the city (where they become the new social class of ‘urban poor’ to be employed in factories). The remaining farmers buy up land, average farm size increases manifold, and the farming technique shifts to massive, highly unsustainable monocultures fixated on maximizing crop yields (while completely disregarding other measures such as biodiversity, nutritional value, or quality of life for farmers).

For the dominant culture (which views farm work as some kind of unbearably dull “drudgery” from which humans have to be “liberated”) this is a great development!1 Urbanism preaches that city life is far superior to any other kind of lifestyle, and that we’ve long evolved beyond the “dark ages” in which we had to sweat and get our hands dirty in order to obtain food. This universally negative view of any system of food production that doesn’t involve machines leads to the obviously romanticized and utterly nonsensical idea that people happily flocked to the cities because they wanted to “escape drudgery” – not because they were forced by economic circumstances.

We offer a radical proposal: farm work – if done right! – can be at least as fulfilling and wholesome as any job in the city, and can easily provide people with a quality of life only the richest urbanites can afford, in terms of personal health, levels of satisfaction, purposefulness, amount of free time, and general well-being. The factor that needs to change is the technique being used to produce food (outlined in Part One), accompanied by the elimination of economic incentives that focus exclusively on quantity (to the detriment of quality).

In 2014, it was widely reported that over half of the world’s population now lives in cities. This figure is expected to increase to almost 70% by 2050 (according to estimates by the UN), which would surely exacerbate most problems already straining urban society and infrastructure. Yet the growth of cities is not, like the growth of a tree, an inevitable, natural process – there is no natural law that dictates the development of city size over time. The factors that lead to urban expansion are economic, social, and cultural, meaning they can be changed by sheer will, just like economies, societies and cultures can take radically different trajectories if we want them to. They are subject to our collective will to shape them into the form we desire.
What has lured us into the cities are the empty promises of a system on the brink of collapse, a system that has laid waste to the entire planet in a matter of decades. Urbanism is one of the core components of the ideology of the dominant culture. City life is displayed as vastly superior than rural life in the media, and there is a strong political bias towards urban areas, where the majority of the population (and hence the majority of voters) reside. Advertising, soap operas, Hollywood blockbusters: all display life in the city as the pinnacle of the human experience, our greatest achievement. The city is seen as futuristic, stimulating and visionary, whereas the countryside is often displayed as boring, backwards, and lacking opportunities and stimuli in popular media.
This bias has regrettably alienated countless young people from the environment they grew up in and are a part of, and has caused them to ignore and deny the real connections to the ecosystem they inhabit, and instead strive to replace them with a dependence on corporations and the global economy in general. For instance, whereas in the countryside you may get your water – for free – from a well, a rainwater tank, or (at least in the past) a river or stream, urbanism teaches that this water is inherently unclean and dangerous, even in the absence of chemical pollution. Water has to come from corporations, undergo chemical processing to “clean” it to be considered “safe,” and you have to pay money for it. It usually comes from places far away, and thus needs to be transported over long distances. Needless to say, this uses a lot of energy in the process. Furthermore, it is sold in plastic bottles that don’t degrade biologically, producing vast amounts of trash.
Similarly, if you feel like eating a snack, urbanism teaches you to go buy a colorful plastic bag of some sugary/salty snack produced by a multinational corporation in a store. This food is not only toxic (like most industrially produced food), but requires a lot of energy to produce and transport, and its production and consumption produces an immense amount of trash, while your hard-earned money goes to a corporation run by billionaires. In the countryside, on the other hand, if you feel a little hungry you can collect whatever fruit is in season from a tree besides your house. Mayom, Mangos, Bananas, Guavas, June Plum, or even Gra-Thin (lead tree pods and seeds) are often eaten as a snack. You don’t need to use a single plastic item, you don’t need any money, the snack is healthy, you can easily obtain a larger portion, and you forge a connection with the plant that gifted you with her fruit.
And this affects all aspects of life: if you feel unwell in the city, urbanism teaches to buy medicine at the pharmacy. This medicine often doesn’t even cure the underlying condition, but simply alleviates the symptoms enough for you to keep working. Pharmacists want to make money, so they often sell you stuff you don’t really need, and sometimes scare you in order to trick you into buying more medicine.
When rural people feel unwell, it is much easier for them to simply take a day off and rest – which is the most important thing with most minor ailments. They can boil herbal tea from herbs they gather in their kitchen gardens, and take it easy for a few days. Since they tend to live in communities (not isolated like most people in the city), their family or neighbors can help them during this time. The latter approach is not only free, it reinforces a sense of community and reciprocal care, while at the same time aiding our bodies in the natural healing process.
City food is often not very fresh, requires a long production- and transport chain, and is sometimes almost sterile, thus compromising our gut microbiome – a component of our immune system that’s absolutely crucial to good health. Food vendors in the city, interested more in making money than in providing good and healthy food, add heaps of sugar, salt and MSG to food in an order to trick us into thinking the food tastes good, thus creating a kind of addiction to high levels of actively harmful ingredients.
Food in the countryside can be planted (organically) and harvested in situ, meaning it is fresh, probiotic, and thus of better quality and more nutritious. What we eat used to be (part of) a living being just a few hours ago. When living in the countryside, we can easily prepare the food ourselves, which means we can consciously use lower levels of sugar, salt and MSG. While integrating cooking as a daily ritual and an act of love for our family members, we rediscover the simple joys that city life deprives us of.

The reason of this little exercise is not to say that life in the city is “bad” and life in the countryside is “good” – this is a matter of personal preference – but we simply wish to demonstrate that life in the countryside is not as “backwards” as the dominant culture wants us to think. Many things are actually better there, and reducing your environmental impact is much easier in the countryside!

So how exactly do we kickstart this Back-to-the-Land Movement, and bring about the demographic shift required to implement the basic forms of adaptation and mitigation we present throughout this document, steps that ensure food security and food systems resilience in the process, all the while sequestering carbon?

We’d like to remind you again that this is not a definite roadmap, but merely a conversation starter: it is up to our generation to figure out the details. Furthermore, we don’t want everyone to move to the countryside – there wouldn’t even be enough space for that! But everyone who can move will take pressure off the already hopelessly overpopulated cities, which will make life easier for those opting to stay in the cities as well. If only 10% of a city’s population relocates to the countryside, this will have far-reaching positive effects throughout all walks of life – and if this first wave does a fairly good job, others will surely be inspired later on.
The first generation lays the groundwork and creates the first nodes, learning centers, and communities. There are many people who prefer the city for social reasons, since options for socializing admittedly are more limited in the countryside. But if the first generation of rewilders manages to create vibrant rural communities composed of scores of young people (but including folks from all age groups), and perhaps localized cultural scenes, they also expand social opportunities, which might sway the opinion of a few more urbanites looking for a stress- and pollution-free life.

Vandana Shiva has said that the only free people left on Earth are small-scale subsistence farmers (and indigenous people who are still able to practice their traditional way of life, we’d like to add), so freedom, autonomy and agency over one’s own life are some of the main points we should focus on advertising, since they’re also the ones city people are most deprived of. Nobody enjoys being forced to do things they don’t like for any extended period – and that’s basically the definition of most jobs. Work in the global economy leads to frustration, feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, and a profound lack of meaning and purpose in one’s life. The decentralized eco-communities embedded in a healthy landscape and surrounded by Food Jungles we propose in this series will change that.

We suggest that there is no shortage of city dwellers, mostly folks who moved there in their lifetime, who would love to return to the countryside. The hectic and stressful city life is not for everyone, and many people realize this only after they’ve moved to the big city. We’ve personally talked to many urbanites, mostly manual laborers – but also academics – who have told us similar things: they would like to leave the city and return home, they actually prefer life in the countryside, but it just doesn’t work – they need the money from their city job. This economic trap is modern-day bondage, a thin veil covering what’s best described as wage slavery. It is also what’s happening at an alarming rate all over the world. Poor people are being forced to move into cities, where they will have no option but to become 100 percent immersed in (and dependent on) the market economy, which increases GDP but has little other benefits apart from that.2

Even better, many city dwellers in Thailand still have land somewhere in the countryside, or their relatives still own land. This is a uniquely advantageous precondition. Often, older relatives (who can’t do much manual labor anymore) lease the land to corporations that farm sugar cane, a plant that is then used to produce one of the most ubiquitous addictive poisons in our culture: sugar. Considering how many millions of hectares are squandered with the wasteful, destructive, chemically intensive cultivation of nonessential crops like sugar cane, palm oil or rubber,3 the social and environmental benefits of converting more and more monocultures into Food Jungles are tremendous. There is no shortage of land!
This unique situation would make projects like the one proposed herein much easier to realize than in developed countries, where the vast majority of people doesn’t own any farmland. Through the negative (and often unexpected) side effects of Development & Progress (see Part Eleven), rural people have been forced into the city. In many instances they didn’t move there because they liked city life so much, but out of economic desperation. Often predatory lending and other semi-criminal schemes to push people into debt (especially car sales) have been the catalyst that forced people to look for work in the city. Quality of life for the urban poor is oftentimes worse than the quality of rural poor’s life, but the economic outlook and the job market is (still) slightly better in the city. If this trend were to reverse, it would greatly alleviate many social ills that are a direct consequence of urbanization.

The people who are – at least in theory – willing to return to countryside always have one main concern (the same one that forced them into the cities in the first place) – how do I earn money?

While mature Food Jungles can definitely be profitable (especially if that’s a goal!4), it usually takes a few years’ time until the trees are large enough and the soil fertile for there to be a profit – until then, additional food has to be purchased and other expenses have to be covered, so an additional source of income is needed. Food Jungles generally don’t need a lot of starting capital (beyond the land itself): a few tools and implements, seeds and seedlings, some additional manure or similar biomass for the first years, and a few other necessities. A low-tech approach, Masanobu Fukuoka’s “wu wei farming”, and permacultural problem-solving (“the problem is the solution”) should be the norm, and those three aspects alone can reduce expenses dramatically, but this doesn’t change the fact that at least some income is needed in the beginning.
So, how do they earn money?

The answer is relatively simple: We propose a scheme that pays private landowners (and, optimally, aspiring rewilders without land – see Part Fourteen) for any reforestation efforts on private lands and the creation of diverse Food Jungles that come with all the ecological benefits described in Part One. This will not only dramatically increase local food systems resilience, but has the potential to sequester vast amounts of carbon, lay the foundation for better public health, and it will ultimately lead to a much better quality of life for those practicing it – a sense of purpose and belonging, a meaningful life, and the feeling of contributing both to society and the health of the ecosystem.

Where would the money to pay all those aspiring rewilders come from? Well, the good news is: there is no shortage of money – it’s just in the wrong hands. There are already schemes like “Carbon Credits” (that are, admittedly, inherently flawed and at best a sad attempt to greenwash the public images of corporations and other super-polluters), but the general trend should be exactly this: to funnel money from corporations and wealthy elites (with disproportionately large ecological footprints) to those that actively work to heal ecological damage and alleviate the devastation wrought by climate change.
Other sources of money to aid rewilders could be an adequately high Carbon Tax, or designated Climate Funds in which money from polluters is pooled.
A “progressive” suggestion for an adequate carbon tax is 75-100$/ton – definitely not too much – but the global average right now is a meager 3$/ton! What we have in mind is a global average closer to 200$/ton (which is already the rate in Sweden) by 2030, and progressively more for super-polluters. Considering that the average car emits a mere 4.6 tons/year, and that certain people (for instance the socially disadvantaged) or institutions (like hospitals or fire departments) could qualify for exemptions, this should be well within the limit of what’s possible for the average person (derogatorily called the “consumer” in many official documents), and accompanied by the much needed and long overdue extension of public transport, the creation of walkable neighborhoods, the revitalization of local economies, and a widespread reversal of car culture this really shouldn’t be too big of a deal. It has been said that what the world needs is a mobilization similar to that in the United States during World War II, and it should be clear by now that this is by no means an overstatement. If we want a chance for us and our descendants to be able to live decent lives, things have to change drastically and radically – or we will collectively pay a far heavier price later.

Figure 1.1: A progressive carbon tax could be modeled after the obvious trend displayed in the charts above

Rewilders could be paid a monthly allowance of about 5,000 – 10,000 THB per household, which already happens in parts of Mexico where rural peasants are paid around 8,000 THB per month to reforest their ranch lands. Admittedly, the system used in Mexico is by no means flawless, and many lessons can be learned from its obvious shortcomings, but the core concept is simple and solid.
The amount of money paid out to rewilders gradually decreases over the years as the Food Jungle matures and simultaneously decreases expenses (for food and other necessities) and provides alternative sources of income.

Alternatively, rewilders could apply for grants, like a pilot project in Uganda that paid villagers to reforest their land. Although the Ugandan project also still exhibits many failures (and even adverse effects in some cases), this should not automatically mean that the basic idea is wrong. There is plenty of room for improvements!
The “Ecotrusts” paid out to participants in the Ugandan project “are performance based. Each grower is paid according to the number and the species of the trees planted, the agroforestry system adopted, and the tree growth rates over a 10-year period. The tree growers are paid 30% of the total amount due when 50% of the trees are planted […]. Another 20% is paid when the remaining 50% is planted. If 85% of the trees have survived by the third year, the farmer is paid another 20%, and if 85% continue to survive by the fifth year and are growing well, the planter is paid an additional 10%. If the trees continue to grow well after 10 years, the final 20% is paid.”
We recommend an average grant size of about 400,000 – 900,000 THB/household, depending on the size of the land and other factors, to be paid out continuously as outlined in the example above (or in similar proportions, perhaps with a larger part of the money being paid out in later stages of the project to ensure success), over a five- or ten-year period.

Both payment systems have benefits and downsides, and more discussion and experimenting is needed to determine which way works best, and how much money is needed in relation to 1) the number of people in a household and 2) the size of the land being rewilded. We would recommend a baseline allowance of somewhere around the minimum wage level, a sort of Universal Basic Income (UBI) exchanged for ecosystem services, which can be bolstered with the sale of surplus or handicraft items from the Food Jungle or services relating to it (for an example, see Eco-Year/Semester below).

Additionally, incentives and perks like, for instance, bonuses for documenting 10, 20, 30, or 50 different species of insects, and 5, 10, 15, or 20 different species of birds in the emerging Food Jungle ecosystem could further motivate rewilders to spend more time in their forest gardens actively observing nonhuman animals, which has the positive side effect that people develop Ecological Literacy and Nature Relatedness5, and forge a deep relationship with the land they inhabit and the many non-humans they share it with. Those two concepts are absolutely crucial for the development of the mindset it takes to motivate the profound cultural and cognitive shift required to navigate the decline of the techno-industrial system, and replace it with something more deserving of the term “sustainable”. Only if people see themselves as a part of Nature, as interconnected with other living, sentient beings they share their habitat with and depend on for their lives, will the widespread development of an Ecological Consciousness necessary to avert the worst environmental harm become possible. People must start valuing other species on their own terms, and without relation to their immediate utility for humans.

The most important factor in both methods of payment presented here is that

  1. various checks and balances are in place so that abuse is virtually impossible, and
  2. the application process is not too bureaucratic and the requirements not too technical (or generally too high), as is currently still the case with One Planet Developments in Wales.

A “middle way” must be aimed for, in which it is impossible for imposters to cheat, but people are not deterred by stacks of permits and other documents.

Actually, this verification process could open new job opportunities for people who want to move out of the city but don’t (yet) want to start their own rewilding project – if they are trained adequately, they could supervise and survey rewilding projects, to see if they meet the criteria and standards agreed upon, and to check on the progress they are making. This new Department of Rewilding – a special sector of the local government, and subdivision of, say, a newly formed Ministry of Climate Adaptation and Mitigation – could help revitalize the rural job market, and serve as an additional source of income for former urbanites.
The scheme we present here would require extensive testing and monitoring, which could be carried out by field workers who test soil carbon content (see Part Eight), count trees and measure their diameters, and otherwise document the progress made by any Rewilding/Food Jungle project.
Rewilders should not be burdened with too much documenting work themselves, although informal documentation of a project’s progress will likely be done by the people who run a given project on their own accord, to be shared with family and friends, and as a measure of success and meaning.

Two more things that are important to address in this context are the concepts and perceptions of status and success. Whereas the dominant culture teaches us that status depends mainly on having a lot of (mostly digital, and thus basically imaginary) money, and owning large quantities of merchandise and expensive consumer items, in the world we envision status accompanies (and arises from) traits like ecological wisdom, knowledge, inhabiting a vibrant, healthy and diverse ecosystem, and simply being a decent person and a functioning part of both the human community and the ecosystem. Success is measured not by how many digits are in your (digital, and thus imaginary) bank account, but by how many trees you tend to, how many people you feed, how many bird, mammal and insect species call your Food Jungle their home, and your contributions to both the human community and the ecosystem you inhabit.

If the above scheme would be implemented as a widespread policy, it will surely aid the sustainability of cities as well – mainly by taking pressure off the landbase, freeing up space in cities that can be used for community gardens and parks, and by reducing the need for imports. It’s a win-win-win situation, for both urbanites, rural people, and the environment!
It surely wouldn’t harm anybody to start pilot projects and trials as soon as possible.

If we think about the long-term implications of implementing the changes proposed here, this opens a whole panoply of new opportunities. Another interesting idea suggested by Jason Bradford (author of the book “The Future Is Rural: Food System Adaptations to the Great Simplification”) is a kind of mandatory ecological ‘gap year/semester,’ in which high school graduates would have to pick an ecological project of their choice – mainly different mature Food Jungles with different priorities and focuses, such as:

  • “Integration of Large Herbivores,”
  • “Traditional Ecological Knowledge,”
  • “Nut Crop Breeding,”
  • “Woodworkshop,”
  • “Preserving Banana Diversity,”
  • “Compost Tea Laboratory,”
  • “Hunting/Gathering,”
  • “Bee Communities,”
  • “Bamboo Architecture,”
  • “Old-Growth Ecology,”
  • “Fermentation Hub,”
  • “National Park Maintenance,”
  • “Shifting Cultivation 101,”
  • “Birdwatcher’s Nest,”
  • “Small-Scale Solar,”  
  • “Dryland Adaptation Strategies,” and
  • “Herbalism & Traditional Thai Medicine”

Adolescents would work there for one year (or maybe six months), instructed and mentored by the experienced rewilders who run the project, and together with other young people completing their Ecological Year/Semester. This would be obviously beneficial on many different levels. Not only do teenagers have time to relax, reflect and experiment (which they lack in today’s hyper-competitive society), they would do so in a low-tech, ecocentric environment. They would learn useful, hands-on knowledge, solve concrete problems, engage in healthy physical activity, become more self-reliant, forge connections to plants, animals and people, experience a “lower” (but not necessarily less pleasant) material standard of living, and experience an alternative lifestyle – one very different from consumer capitalism – with different values and a radically different underlying worldview. It would give them opportunities to meet people from other places and social backgrounds, and develop camaraderie and group dynamic with their peers to an extend that – so far – only the military provides and accomplishes. It goes without saying that this would greatly promote creativity, ecological literacy, Nature relatedness, and expand both their intellectual horizon and their sense of what’s possible.
Everyone would have the chance to reconnect to Nature!
The result would be a down-to-earth generation of climate activists, rewilders, organic farmers and environmentalists. Who knows with what creative solutions they will come up during this experience?

Obviously, this is still highly speculative long-term thinking that absolutely depends on the success of the larger rewilding process outlined above. The Eco-Year/Semester concept would require the existence of a great number of projects that are both sufficiently mature and open to hosting scores of young people, but we are sure that, as the years go by, some of those projects would really enjoy sharing their knowledge and skills with the next generation. Some already existing projects and institutions that could be included as potential hosts for the Eco-Year/Semester are Sufficiency Economy showcase farms, Forest Immersion/Therapy/Bathing projects, and National Parks.
In this scenario, it is once again the government that is tasked with logistics and administration, and it provides funding to pay the hosts involved in the Eco-Year/Semester project a monthly stipend (probably drawing on the same mixture of Carbon Taxes, Climate Funds, and Carbon Credits) as compensation for their efforts, as well as a few thousand Baht pocket money for socially disadvantaged adolescent participants, and optimally there will be projects focused on respectfully integrating traditional societies and indigenous people.

And, while the idea might seem far-fetched to some, Germany actually had a similar system – the “Zivildienst” (civil service) – for 38 years (from 1973 to 2011), which was an alternative to the otherwise mandatory conscription into the German Army. Everyone who didn’t want to enter the military could opt for an alternative year of civil service in an approved institution they liked. At the time, ecological problems were not as pressing as they are today, and thus the focus was more on social (and less on environmental) issues, although there were a few ecological projects to choose from.6

Again, this is not a definite roadmap, but an inspiration: a new idea to be considered, evaluated, and improved upon.

If we don’t even dare to imagine a better world, how can we ever build one?

Footnotes and References:

1 The factors that made farm life “drudgery” in the past were almost always economic ones: slavery, serfdom and peonage. You only have to work hard if you’re forced to feed hundreds of city people – if you only work to feed yourself and the immediate social community you’re embedded in, comparatively little work is required. Wherever and whenever people were free of this economic pressure looming overhead, most farmers were actually quite content in past ages. It goes without saying that we vehemently oppose any form of economic bondage.
This of course does not mean that we don’t want to provide any food for city people – but if the city people don’t want to get their hands dirty, they are free to continue eating nutritionally inferior food laced with dozens of chemicals from the remaining industrial farming operations.

2 Local economies in the countryside don’t directly contribute to GDP, since capital circulates in rural communities – remember, subsistence farming and small-scale rural economies are not included in calculating the GDP. Anyways, GDP says absolutely nothing about human well-being (let alone environmental health), and is often even inversely proportional to it: as GDP increases, health of both the land and the people that inhabit it decline in the long term.

3 If the price of sugar, palm oil and rubber (three nonessential major crops we use as our main examples) goes up as a result of decreased supply, all the better. Those things need to be more expensive, which automatically serves as an incentive to use less of them. Most applications of sugar, palm oil and rubber are absolutely nonessential to human well-being, meaning nobody would suffer if they had less access to sugar, palm oil and rubber (or to products containing them in larger quantities). Especially sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils have been repeatedly shown to have massive adverse effects on our health, in that they can be considered toxic in all but the smallest quantities. Rubber is mainly used for tires – for cars, but also for airplanes – which is an extraordinarily wasteful use of this resource. Tires wear out quickly (especially those of airplanes, which are also a lot bigger) and can’t be recycled. Moreover, there are too many cars and airplanes in the world already. If we are serious about averting our own extinction, we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which means reducing both car and airplane traffic dramatically – and the resulting reduced demand for tires will likely balance out the reduction in supply.
Again, we feel obliged to clarify that we don’t want people to stop planting those crops – we just point out that we can survive with a lot less of them than is currently grown. Ultimately the small-scale farmer can even influence the price like this, and if the price goes up, this means that fewer acres of sugar cane, fewer oil palms or rubber trees will fetch better prices. The reason prices of those basic agricultural products dropped so much in the last few decades is that they’ve been planted on such massive scales. This negates any possible offset, since you have to continuously expand the area under cultivation just to maintain the same level of profit. Sugar Cane, and especially Oil Palms and Rubber Trees can still be integrated into Food Jungles as an additional cash crop, or for uses and applications in the local economy! We merely suggest that, from an ecological perspective – and especially considering food security and food systems resilience – it’s not the best idea to plant massive monocultures containing nothing but those crops.

Of course, there are still massive monocultures of those crops planted by corporations, who are less inclined to change their ways, on land owned by corporations. Since we’ve established that those sectors of the economy are not essential for human health and well-being, it would make sense for the government to limit the land available for those destructive and pollutive purposes, partly disown said corporations, and make the land available to aspiring rewilders to use under the scheme we’ve developed here (see Part Fourteen: Policy proposals – Land reform).

4 Food Jungles don’t have to be profitable, and many such projects around the world don’t list “monetary profit” as their main motive. Income should be a positive side effect of running such a project, not its main motivation. An obsessive focus on money brings with it the panoply of social problems we experience right now.

5 Nature Relatedness is defined by the authors of one study as follows: “Nature relatedness can be understood as a perceived cognitive, affective, and experiential connection to the natural world […]. The cognitive component of nature relatedness can be considered as the extent to which people include nature within their cognitive representation of self, which in turn is regarded as the fundamental aspect of human–nature relations by some authors […]. Other authors place the affective connection, the sense of feeling connected, at the center of the human–nature relationship […]. The experiential connection is often neglected but is an important aspect in some concepts of nature relatedness […]. It represents an individual’s physical familiarity with the natural world and the level of perceived comfort with being in nature.”
See also: Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., and Murphy, S. A. (2009). The nature relatedness scale: linking individuals’ connection with nature to environmental concern and behavior. Environ. Behav. 41, 715–740.

6 Officially, the system was abandoned when conscription was suspended “for peacetime” in 2011. Economic factors probably played a crucial role as well, though, since it is “good for the economy” if people enter the job market earlier, without a ‘gap year.’ But, as should be clear by now, if we want to survive as a species, we have to value ecology higher than economy.
In Germany, the authority responsible for coordinating the ‘civil service’ was the “Bundesamt für Zivildienst” (Federal Office for Alternative Civilian Service), a branch of the government specifically tasked with the implementation and administration of the ‘civil service’ – more job opportunities!

Please note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which we explore possible solutions to our current predicament. We will steadily upload new chapters. Click here to continue reading Part Eleven: Cultural shift – Degrowth instead of Progress & Development
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