My farmers’ market journeys are too far for the present, but not for the future. Those roads-too-far today, travel towards a market square of tomorrow and of market tables heaped with the produce of their regions – varied need inspiring varied cropping, a fascinating agricultural landscape and the shortest of journeys. As people flood into such a town, so will the trades, the shops and workshops and so may an integrated, durable economy, in which a work-place can be just a step or a small cycle ride from one’s door. At the end of my road, I’ll not need to send my farm’s produce further than the local village & market town.
That’s the idea. At the moment it’s a deeply failing idea.
Yet, climate change will continue its economic destruction if we continue (as most continue) to “green” or otherwise improve current infrastructures of distant work-places and corporate supply chains of ring roads and retail parks. Such greening provides an impossible (and now anachronistic) system with a longer life by a false green or fair trade credence. For instance, organic labels in super markets destroy organically-evolved systems of villages, corner shops and market towns. It evacuates them for the seductive illusions of “authentic” green brands.
Greening of impossible systems, such as air travel would be thought by many as the ugliest of green-washing, but a high proportion of those same people would lobby a super market to improve its behaviours. But improving impossible behaviour prolongs that impossible behaviour. The behaviour remains impossible.
Climate change will also continue its ecologic and economic destruction if we support the more innocent and egalitarian supply chains of direct selling of a farm’s produce by the internet. Similarly to super markets, they help to evacuate what can truly endure.
I propose that the way to halt resource depletion, climate change and ecologic/ economic destruction is to return to normal. The fossil-powered ways we’ve been living are extra-ordinary. They’ve never been before and can never be again. We can re-occupy an ordinary agriculture of towns and villages, where both work and shopping are just a step from one’s door. Of course such a system is a living memory and its fabric, though deserted, still remains – & we know that it works. We can re-build it one by one, gaining pleasure, skill, ingenuity and self-respect in the process – with a future ahead and ancestry at our backs.
However, at the moment, if I decided to sell exclusively in my local market town, then I’d return with most of my produce unsold, because that town is deserted. I’d be forced to dump my produce on the commodity market – that is in the super market.
So I join the caravan of my fellow food producers – market gardeners, cheese-makers, brewers, butchers, orchardists… – each weekend the same faces meet in different market towns. From North Wales, we travel to the Wirral and Cheshire. There are so few of us that producers from Manchester, Liverpool, the Wirral, Bury, Nantwich, Wrexham, Denbigh, Conwy, Anglesey, the Lleyn Peninsular… – all know each other personally. We burn far too much diesel – but I hope we are burning en route to burning very little at all.
To stall climate change is not a simple matter of changing our energy production and of using that energy more efficiently to reduce demand. We must utterly change how we live. The extraordinary thing about that change is that all we have to do is return to normal – to become ordinary again. I believe that return will prove both a relief and a profound source of happiness.
The ways that we’ve been living are utterly extraordinary. Burning (in just a few decades) the fossilised energy of many millions of photosynthetic years will finally end the five thousand years (or so) of settled human cultures. We can pass on that ancestry only if we stop the burning, not in 2030, but today. The tragedy is that climate change has not been caused by giant corporations and irresponsible national governments, but by we little people, one by one. We’ve been coerced, manipulated and sometimes compelled by governments and corporations to behave badly, but nevertheless, we have behaved badly. That tragedy provides the hope that one by one we can stall it. We are not powerless. Climate is changing now, because of human activity – so I say stall – not stop.
There’s much that we can do instantly – for instance, we can cancel the holiday flight, stop buying from super markets and from buying processed foods, feed-lot, and factory farmed meat and eggs. We can personally farm or garden organically on an instant. We can buy electricity produced by wind, solar and hydro power.
There’s much that we cannot – breaking ties to work and infrastructure can only be done co-operatively. We are often tied to wages, feeding our children and to bills. Much can only be done in co-operation with others.
But those instant first steps begin the journey towards co-operatively changing work and infrastructure. As I’ve said, my step as a farmer is not to sell to super markets, but local buyers for my produce are scarce, which means that I must travel too far in search of what I consider to be convivial, human-scale and durable markets. It is a compromised step – a negotiation with our current social system (with people not governments and corporations) – in hope of a reciprocation of swelling footfall in my local market town and a similar swelling of common ideas.
Had the skills the trades been independent, we could have steered a more proper course. But let’s consider, let’s say the farmer – image of self-controlled independence of thought? But no, the farmer is probably the single most extreme example of an utterly dependent consumerism – & he consumes pre-packed fertilisers, pesticides and machinery without knowledge, or question. In our democracy, he’ll vote for that status quo – of a corporate supplied consumerism and for the privatisation of governance into the unaccountable hands of that unresponsive & corporate provision. Leaving aside the harm that many of those purchased inputs cause, the irony is that by subtracting output (crop yield) from input (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators and fertilisers) simple organic farming far out-yields modern, high-input green revolutionary farming.
So most of us, like farmers, accept without question what corporations provide, and we’ve come to view that provision as an ordinary part of our ways of life. That our ways of life are actually extraordinary is thought to be either a kind of sanctified Accent of Man, or is pushed to the back of our minds.
Here’s a thought – Corporate power has not only taken the roll of governance, but has also swallowed the class system whole. The middle class (enterprise; probity) is now a fantasy, while the working class (ingenuity; dexterity; solidarity) is dead.
I think it was a recent Rolling Stone article (the excellent author escapes me) which spoke of the Bermuda Triangle of Hillary Clinton swallowing the Left. For Clinton we can substitute Blair. Both Blair and Clinton have been shop fronts for corporate chemical, agricultural, military, energy, media and banking interests.
A similar Bermuda Triangle has swallowed the conservative in the Conservative Party and the liberal in the Liberal Party.
Similarly, it has also swallowed a variety of cultural histories and through its media, (such as the BBC) has re-packaged some others.
Rediscovery and reinvention of cultural history is a way to begin the journey away from the corporate provision towards self-reliance. It is an old truth that we cannot step forward without stepping out of the past, where our identity has been nurtured and formed. Within the Bermuda Triangle we don’t know who we are, but may be seduced by the extraordinary provisions which surround us – cheap holiday flights to exotic places, smart phones, family cars… Without historical, cultural identity we also lose personal moral identity and so don’t know how to think of inequality, climate change, resource depletion and so on. Those things pass by as entertainment on the telly screen – the “real life” of a documentary and the fiction of a movie become muddled in general background chatter.
Both middle and working class people could have reacted to climate change – just as both could pull resourcefully together during bad harvests… I say could, not would, because historically, we’ve often behaved badly, particularly with regard to unequal distribution. The thing about today is that every-one is behaving badly. In the past, some would have behaved well.
No-one is reacting appropriately to climate change because just about everyone of “political and economic consequence” has been swallowed by Hilary Clinton’s Bermuda Triangle.
It is futile to attempt to change the minds of those of political and economic consequence from within the triangle. They can only see the triangle. We must somehow struggle out and onto to our spherical and finite Earth and then resume the courses of history.