A Meditation on The Food Sustainability Continuum

Oct 4, 2010 by Carolyn Blake | Story Popularity: 1


The Eat Local Challenge has got me thinking even more about the concept I discussed in my earlier journal entry, Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood -- High % Locavore", the Food Sustainability Continuum. Challenging myself to eat as locally and sustainably as possible has been a guide post in my eating life for nearly three years. Everything I pick up to eat I think about where it's come from and the micro and macro impact it's had on different ecologys, economies, societies, communities and individual lives. The more I meditate on the concept of a food sustainability metric, the more I begin to push my concept of sustainability further towards something that's purer along the lines of sustainability -- something that's pure and natural, something that's wild. It feels like a logical progression as we see more ecosystems being wiped out due to the expanding presence of "civilization" or what is chalked up to be human presence. But what we fail to recognize is, not all human presence (past or present) dominates the landscape, ecology or environment. Sadly, those lightly treading footsteps are being swallowed up in the sands of time, by the ever encroaching concrete jungle and glistening city lights until they are reduced to near mythological status of the native people - barely even believable.

It is almost incomprehensible that even in a land that is barely green-broke and still breathes hotly of it's wild past talk about food sovereignty tends to come round to domesticated agricultural production. A rich cultural knowledge about what works for human life that has been passed down and refined from generation to generation since before the first Polynesians set foot on Hawai'i Nei has been boiled down into ubiquitous knickknacks, souvenirs and tourist attractions. The once lightly treading footsteps of it's people have become that of cities, highways dominated by congestion, over-sized off-road vehicles, shopping malls, power plants, landfills and military infrastructure. Yet, even in these times the spirit of the land, the culture and the people remains. The mana and the aloha of the islands are strong even though so much of it's land and people have been sickened by the plague of modern life.

As we blaze a new path towards a more sustainable future, let us not forget our past. Not just that of the Polynesian, but of the Wild Peoples of the world -- our ancestors. The ironic blessing of our techno-modern lives is the ability to seek, find and share information around the world - at the speed of light. We can piece together from the past a new tomorrow. Along our path, like the ancient Polynesians, we will need to check our bearings so that we are not left floundering around out in the ocean. Part of that guidance, I believe, is the Food Sustainability Continuum (FSC).

For the FSC to be viable it must thrive on ongoing debate, recalibration and refinement. In my own personal life, I find that I am pushing the scope of the Continuum wider and wider as my awareness and knowledge continues increases. I also have begun to see the FSC as not only a system of measurement, but as a tool that can guide our sustainability path more efficiently than just bushwhacking around in the dark. Imagine: A struggling farmer always on the late end of the market. Rather than waste her time farming intensively (very un-sustainably) she might opt to begin cultivating a more diverse environment which is, not only more resistant to pests, requires less work and is a home for multiple productive and useful life forms. Having a compass enables the lost travelers to take a direct route to the destination. I also see a workable metric as a boon for the economy. Entrepreneurs would be enabled to capitalize on the wealth of untapped markets and resources (both wild and human) with a greater degree of certainty that their venture is economically viable in the long-term and beneficial to the local ecology and community. The clearer we can be on what our best (simplest = most sustainable) practices are, the sooner we are able to devote our resources (energetic, personal and institutional) to creating a brighter tomorrow for all.

For those of you who are passionate and interested in creating a sustainable future, I encourage you to read my earlier journal entry mentioned above and meditate on the concept for a while. I would love any comments or messages to discuss this further. This idea has talked me into bringing it to life no matter how long it takes. As I mentioned earlier, ongoing discussion and input will be critical to the FSC a success! Additionally The Continuum "framework" can also be applied to other disciplines such as, energy, shelter, durable goods, health care, education, entertainment, self-governence, finance, etc.

For the record, the strengths I bring to this project (aside from it's inception): ideation, organization, healthy skepticism, long-view scenario strategic implications and conceptualization, articulation, stringent qualitative guidance, and information gathering to name a few. Things I don't love and appreciate collaboration (I also appreciate collaboration in any of the above areas as well) would be: strong analytical, quantitative data, number crunching, intensive person to person interfacing, penetrating bureaucracies, persuading staunch nay-sayers, (left brain and extrovert type activities) so on and so forth.

Malama Pono!


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  1. In the photo are local gmo-free outdoor chicken eggs, homemade sauerkraut made from local organic hand planted cabbage seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and *imported caraway seeds*, *wild smoked fish*, *organic olives*, organic olive oil. This meal could fall somewhere in the 90th percentile on the FSC. The fish doesn't count off too much because it is possible to locally produce wild smoke fish. The olives and olive oil are most likely impossible to be local (there are some issues that may be able to be mitigated) but would be a good trade item from California - easily boat shippable. Not so sure about the caraway seed.. it's probably a treat!

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