What to Eat when the Stores are Empty (I.)
Simple, Localized Approaches to Food Systems Resilience and Food Security in Southeast Asia --- Foreword --- [Estimated reading time: 5 min.]
Note: If anyone wonders why I’ve been so quiet during the last few months, the following article is (part of) the reason. (We’ve also just been really busy here.)
There are very few radical thinkers and writers who think “outside of the box” in Southeast Asian society, and those who do criticize existing structures, arrangements and trends to some extend often don’t go deeper than superficial political reforms and bright green environmentalism (reduce, reuse, recycle – oh, and buy some solar panels!) when it comes to the most pressing issue of our time: climate breakdown and the concomitant collapse of the biosphere. We have started exploring possible ways to change that.
One major hurdle is the near-absolute vacuum concerning educational material and essays on such topics, and the language barrier prohibiting access to English material among the broader populace.
The other major hurdle is that any so-called “developing” country has large numbers of people (mostly the new middle class) who fervidly believe that a bright-green techno-utopia is just around the corner, as long as we just continue doing what we do – namely toiling and consuming ever more to keep the machine running and the economy growing. There is less fertile ground for the ideas we spread to germinate in, because a “developing” society experiences such a sudden surge in consumer goods and novel luxuries that people too easily dismiss any voices of concern over the long-term sustainability of the aforementioned enterprise.
Our side job during the last few months (we call it our “office work” – stuff we do when it rains) has been to explore several ways to reach a broader Thai audience with the ideology we promote (namely deep ecology, animism, anarcho-primitivism, permaculture, traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous wisdom, and degrowth) and the things we criticize (namely anthropocentrism, agriculture, civilization, technology, and globalization).
We’ve selected a variety of materials that will become the basis of our efforts to reach a broader audience and aid us in introducing certain thoughts that have so far largely been outside of the sphere of public opinion. The first educational resource we’ve made available is John M. Gowdy’s phenomenal essay Our hunter-gatherer future: Climate change, agriculture and uncivilization, which we’ve recently finished translating into Thai (with the permission of the author).
The following article part of a series that will become a sort of introduction to the major issues we focus on here at Feun Foo Permaculture & Rewilding.
The avid reader of this blog (and people who know me personally) probably won’t encounter too many new concepts, since the article (and the series it is part of) is intended to give a Thai-speaking audience a broad overview of our predicament and possible solutions.
We’ve decided to publish each part of this series separately, one at a time, and whenever we finish another part I’ll post it here as well (the series originally appeared on our website).
Here at Feun Foo, preparing for the coming decades of increasing climatic instability is a top priority. With the global climate destabilizing relentlessly, the likelihood of the near-term collapse of various crucial systems that sustain global civilization increases, and thus the collapse of civilization itself may be much closer than we think. Collapse of this sort is in fact increasingly viewed as a scenario with relatively high likelihood by researchers and other authorities, and the topic even slowly starts to enter mainstream discussion. The most pressing issue when talking about systems collapse is food, since people can live without, say, electricity, but not without food.
In this series, we will explore certain strategies and methods that we experiment with here on our farm: ideas, schemes, techniques and practices that have a high potential to increase food security throughout the region if applied on a large enough scale (and accompanied by other radical reforms, such as economic degrowth, land reform, urban exodus, ceasing of all further “land development”, widespread rewilding efforts, and a drastic decrease in consumption of all kinds).
Our objective here is to provide a comprehensive summary of the challenges we face in the coming decades, and talk about a few possible solutions and adaptations that can help us cope with the turbulent times ahead. One of the main problems with “official” reports about climate change and other future challenges (like from the IPCC and various NGOs) is that they contain very little in terms of practical solutions (especially relating to food security) and are often formulated in an overly careful fashion as to not upset the false sense of security of the donors and governments who sponsor them. On the other hand, anything practical that relates to food security, like planting guides, horticultural classes and gardening handbooks often fail to link gardening techniques (and food production in general) to climate change, and – if they mention it – don’t tend to present the situation as serious as it is, as in relating to widespread societal collapse. We attempt a synthesis of those two obviously related points: a way of food production informed by the looming threat of systems collapse and a climate spinning out of control.
We make clear from the beginning on that this document is merely meant to be an inspiration, a conversation starter – not a definite roadmap – and we acknowledge that much of what we present here, both as the problems and in terms of actual solutions, will probably fall on deaf ears. This is partly because of the severity and depth of the social, political, and cultural changes required to adapt to this changing world – many people will consider this report as “too radical”, dismissing the fact that radical problems require radical solutions. Decades of climate research and increasingly shrill warnings by scientists have utterly failed to result in any noteworthy reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or other widespread efforts to mitigate the effects of the many crises that are currently unfolding; politicians freely commit to any climate plan that starts somewhen next decade but want no such thing during their own time in office; the all-powerful agricultural industry is too busy counting profits to pay attention to anything beyond the next quarter – the last thing Big Agriculture wants is a breakup of their monopoly on the food supply, and terms like “decentralization”, “local” and “organic” are like curse words to them. We can’t rely on governments, scientists or the agricultural sector to help us, so we better figure out something by ourselves.
The Introduction will provide you with the basic conceptual framework, an overview of the situation that we find ourselves in, as well as scientific explanations of past trends and future predictions. Once you’ve worked your way through this (rather dry and technical) Introduction, more practical approaches await you. In fact, some parts of this series read almost like a cookbook! At first, we will talk about staple foods that form the very basis of our diet and make up the bulk of each meal (hint: we need to look beyond rice here), and how to ensure adequate nutrition in general. We will explain some basic practical techniques to adapt food systems to a changing climate and strengthen their natural resilience, and we are going to explore core concepts, like diversity, energy and resource usage, de-growth and conservation. We will even talk about possible policies that could lead to an increase in food security (and have a number of other benefits).
Again and again, we will come back to the main focus of our work – food security - and see that it’s all connected. As the saying goes, we are what we eat; and the goal is to become, both ideologically as well as regarding our subsistence mode, less like uniform stalks of rice standing straight at attention in endless rows, and more like the multifarious assembly of the myriad species that call the forest their home.
Part Zero: Introduction – What’s the Problem?
Part One: Creating a Food Jungle – What Nature can teach us
Part Two: Staple food diversification – Jackfruit and Artocarpus spp.
Part Three: Staple food diversification – Cassava, Yams and various Wild Tubers
Part Four: Staple food diversification – Bananas and Plantains
Part Five: Food diversification – Protein sources
Part Six: Food diversification – The importance of wild plants
Part Seven: Soil improvement – Water retention capacity
Part Eight: Soil improvement – Biomass and soil carbon
Part Nine: Cultural shift – Anthropocentrism to Biocentrism
Part Ten: Cultural Shift – Back to the Land!
Part Eleven: Cultural shift – Degrowth instead of Progress & Development
Part Twelve: Policy proposals – Radically reduce emissions
Part Thirteen: Policy proposals – Freeze or erase student loan debts
Part Fourteen: Policy proposals – Land reform
Feun Foo Permaculture & Rewilding needs you! If you want to aid our efforts to help create a regenerative culture, please consider sending us a small tip - any amount is much appreciated!
Click here to continue reading “Part Zero: Introduction – What’s the Problem?”
An Animist's Ramblings is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.