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Food commons. A disruptive narrative and moral compass for human survival

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The current industrial system of production, transformation and consumption of food is the major driver of planetary destruction. This system, sustained by the normative valuation of food as a commodity, is pursuing resource enclosures and unsustainable exploitation beyond planetary boundaries to satisfy the profit maximization ethos. Because food is only a commodity, for-profit initiatives are fully justified.
In this lecture, I propose a different value-based narrative, one based on the multiple dimensions of food relevant to human beings, dimensions that cannot be valued in market monetary terms. Food as a commodity just use the treadeable dimension of food. But what about the others (i.e. a human right, and essential resource, a cultural determinant). Therefore, food shall be valued differently, as a multi-dimensional commons with public good dimensions that require a different kind of governance and allocation mechanisms othern than the market.
If we need to change drastically the global food system in crisis, we need to start by having a different narrative and different food values. Here is a first approach to that.

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Food commons. A disruptive narrative and moral compass for human survival

  1. 1. 1 JOSE LUIS VIVERO POL PhD Research Fellow in Food Governance FOOD COMMONS A disruptive narrative and moral compass for human survival Dialogue on Food as a Commons International University College Torino, 25 March 2017
  2. 2. 2 Consideration of food as commodity is social construct that can / shall be reconceived WHY? Creative Commons Paradigm Shift
  3. 3. Food system is the greatest driver of Earth transformation • Food systems accounts for 48% of land use • 70% of water use • 33% of total GHG emissions • 40% relies on agriculture for their livelihood • Phosphorus & Nitrogen exceeded Planetary Boundaries (Ivanova et al., 2015, Clapp, 2012) 3
  4. 4. 4 157 million chronically malnourished 19 million severely wasted children HUNGER is largest contributor (35%) to child mortality 1.4 BILLION OVERWEIGHT (300 MILLION OBESE) 2.3 BILLION MALNOURISHED PEOPLE – WE EAT BADLY
  5. 5. 5 Food System Paradoxes FOOD PRODUCERS STAY HUNGRY 800 million hungry people, or more (SPI 2013) 70% are food producers FOOD KILLS PEOPLE Food-related diseases are a primary cause of death (6.5 M deaths per year). FOOD IS (INCREASINGLY) NOT FOR HUMANS 47% of food for human consumption, FOOD IS WASTED 1.3 billion tons end up in the garbage every year (1/3 of global food production) enough to feed 600 million hungry people. Foto: Fringe Hoj Flickr Creative Commons
  6. 6. 6 The actual way of producing & eating (western diets & industrial food system) is unsustainable It cannot be maintained for the next 50 years IAASTD (2008) UNEP (2009) UNCTAD (2013)UK Foresight (2011)
  7. 7. 7 Commons are material / non-material resources, jointly developed and maintained by a community/society and shared according to community-defined rules, irrespective of their mode of production (private, public or commons-based means), because they benefit everyone and are fundamental to society’s wellbeing
  8. 8. 9 Economic Epistemology on Commons: reductionist + theoretical + ontological
  10. 10. 11 The six food dimensions relevant to humans: multi-dimensional food as commons VS mono-dimensional food as commodity Source: Vivero-Pol (in press).
  11. 11. Food as a commodity mono-dimensional approach whereby economic dimension of food prevails and overshadows non-economic dimensions. Price (value-in-exchange) 12Photo: Dean Hochman, Flickr
  12. 12. Food as a commons means revalorising different dimensions relevant to human beings (value-in use) & reducing the commodity dimension (value-in exchange) 13 Food commons are what a society does collectively, through private, state and self- regulated provision, to guarantee everybody eats adequately in quantity and quality everyday
  13. 13. 14 Food is essential for human life… … so access to food cannot be exclusively determined by the purchasing power
  14. 14. 15 Planetary Boundaries Climate Change Oil Peak Radical change UK Gov IAASTD Business as usual Increase productivity Improve access
  15. 15. 16 The TRANSITION towards a fairer & more sustainable food system needs a different narrative Recognizing & valuing the multiple dimensions of food = FOOD AS A COMMONS
  16. 16. 17 Food as a new old commons (innovative + historic) Sustainable agricultural practices (agro-ecology) Open-source knowledge (creative commons licenses) Polycentric governance (states, enterprises, civic actions)
  17. 17. Social Market Enterprises Supply-demand Food as private good Public Private Collective actions Communities Reciprocity Food as common good Partner State Redistribution Citizens welfare Food as public good Tri-centric Governance of Food Commons Systems Incentives, subsidies, Enabling legal frameworks Limiting privatization of commons Farmers as civil servants Banning food speculation Minimum free food for all citizens Local purchase Rights-based Food banks
  18. 18. To guarantee school meals for all students in public schools 19
  19. 19. Compulsory rooftop greening for every new building (with edibles, non-edibles) 20
  20. 20. Establishing bakeries where every citizen can get access to a bread loaf every day (if needed or willing to) 21
  21. 21. Set target for food provisioning in 2030 (Food Council) • 60% private sector • 25% self-production (collective actions) • 15% state-provisioning (public buildings, destitute people, unemployed families) through Universal Food Coverage 22
  22. 22. TERRITORIES OF COMMONS Food, heritage, nature, climate mitigation, democracy
  23. 23. Water Tribunal of Valencia Huertas One of the oldest juridical institutions in Europe (Valencia, Spain)
  24. 24. 25 Universita Agraria Medieval institution to govern collective lands (Sacrofano, Italy)
  25. 25. Allemansrätten (Everyman’s right) (you can walk, run, hike, camp, swim, pick berries or mushrooms anywhere) Scandinavian countries Source:
  26. 26. Croft lands Customary land management, agro-ecology, food production, nature stewardship (Scotland, UK)
  27. 27. Baldios Communal forest, pasturelands, water reservoirs, cultural heritage (Portugal)
  28. 28. Montes Veciñais en man común Intergenerational sustainability, collective values, renewable energy (Galicia, Spain) comarca-acumulan-anos-espera/0003_201604C13C1991.htm
  29. 29. 30 Territories of Commons 5% of Europe (12 M Ha of utilised agricultural area) More in coastal and forested areas 9% France 25% of Galicia is onwed in communal property Not just private-state duopoly
  30. 30. 31 2014: CAP (40% of EU Budget) 52 Billion EUR 2013 CAP Reform:No single mention to commons (water, territories, land, seeds, food, knowledge)
  31. 31. 32 Considering FOOD as a COMMONS may be utopical… But is the right thing to do and the best goal to aspire Eduardo Galeano Uruguayan writer and activist “Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”
  32. 32. 33 I am eager to exchange on food as a commons Many uncertainties & gaps remain to be developed in a common way combining praxis with normative social constructs @joselviveropol Jose Luis Vivero Pol