Hello, and welcome to Righting Relations with Food, a podcast series where we meet with guests from across the country to discuss food security, food sovereignty, and how we can make changes to our food system with a focus on Canada. Righting Relations is a national network of adult educators and community organizers and working for radical social change, and this series is part of a larger project on food sovereignty and the sustainability development goals. So, if you're interested in learning more, please check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today, my guest is Denise McDonald. Denise is a public engagement officer at Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation, where she organizes events to promote collaboration and movement building, and supports efforts for global ecological, economical, and social justice. Denise holds a master's degree from the University of Regina, and a BA honors in international development and political science from the University of Toronto. She's an avid volunteer who believes in living her values. She loves being in nature, and she is constantly looking for ways to protect the Earth. Denise, thank you for being here with me today. And I want to start by asking you to tell us what you think food sovereignty looks like in practice.
So I love the definition by love Via Campesina peasant, a global peasant movement. And they define food sovereignty as the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food, the right to produce food through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right for people to define their own food and agriculture systems. And so some of the things that they advocate is thinking of the next generation, resisting and dismantling the corporate agriculture, food system and trade system, prioritizing local economies and markets, and empowering local producers. So that includes fishers as well, focusing on peasant and family driven agriculture, and focusing on environmental, social and economic sustainability, in production, distribution and consumption of food, and then promoting transparent trade. So all people can have an income and control their food and nutrition. And then also just being able to manage the lands and waters and seeds and livestock and biodiversity, and putting those in the hands of people who actually produce food. Also developing relationships that are free from oppression and inequality between men and women, between different peoples between racial groups, social classes and generations. So to me focusing on those things would would produce food sovereignty. The solutions are embarrassingly simple. That's a permaculture saying. So, one of the ideas is to focus on permaculture. So, which translates as permanent agriculture or permanent culture, of course, which having sustainable food production is a big part of, but permaculture is about designing beneficial relationships. But really what it is, is it requires a paradigm shift so that we have to understand that we're all interconnected. We are nature and the health of humanity is reliant on the health of the earth. So some things we could some ideas that are pretty popular these days, regenerative organic agriculture, so moving beyond sustainable and organic, it's more holistic. It's always encouraging innovation, and not only maintains resources but improves them. And one of the big things is building soil health, because topsoil is endangered, and it's the like the health of the soil is linked to the health of our food system. And it affects, soil health, affects everything from plant health to human well being and the future of our planet. And also building soil can capture carbon so and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.
So soil - like, composting, you can't underestimate how important it is. And another concept is agro ecology. So it builds on ancestral knowledge, it improves food yields, and works in harmony with local ecosystems. So agro-ecology is quite popular in the Global South, and hopefully becoming more popular in the West as well. And then another concept is like just transition. So, phasing out industries that harm workers and the planet, and helping workers find pathways to other jobs, building economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy, you know, creates new relationships of power. So instead of "power over" its "power with", so some some concepts in just transition are like shifting from dirty energy to energy democracy, expand public transit, moving to zero waste, as opposed to landfills and incinerators looking at ecosystem restoration. So, you know, there are ways of transitioning to a different kind of food system. Another thing would be developing alternative food networks. So things like Community Supported Agriculture, Food co-ops, farmers markets, going to the farm gate, fostering collaboration between people in the food system, building social capital and local communities, providing additional marketing opportunities for food producers. As you know, outside of the supermarket system. There's something called Cradle to Cradle design, so it considers the entire lifecycle of food and moves towards zero waste. Other ideas are like land redistribution, there's a real concentration of land in the hands of the few decentralizing production and consumption, protecting workers health and paying a fair wage, supporting the fair trade movement. So look, look for the label, the Fair Trade label. And, you know, a really big part of it is reducing the concentration of power and control. So for example, control over seeds is in the hands of a few. Another big part of
the food system is how much oil is in our food. So oil is in like the fuel, the fertilizer, the pesticides, the herbicides, transportation, refrigeration, food processing, manufacturing, and, and packaging. So for every calorie of food, there's about 10 to 15 calories, of fossil fuel energy. So really reducing the amount of oil in the food system would also help. And then there's also a lot of water in our food that we don't really think of about whether it is involved at all in that whole chain. And so, you know, trying to think of how we can reduce our use of water in our food system as well. And I think one of the big things is just like rethinking economics in general. So there's lots of different ways of considering economics. Like there's the gross national happiness index, the genuine progress indicators, Ecological Economics, full cost accounting, and then, of course, the social solidarity economy, where it's just looking at the economy in a totally different way. Like another another way of looking at it is it's called donut economics. So, things like how much carbon is in the atmosphere, ozone depletion, acidification of the ocean, the nitrogen cycles, deforestation, water use, and then introduction of like, novel entities, so pollutants and radioactive materials and micro plastics and nano materials and, and GMOs and that sort of thing. So, like, actually looking at, like not passing those planetary boundaries, like we are right now. So, you know, there's lots of different ways of measuring, there's lots of measuring going on lots of alternative ways of looking at it that are that are more sustainable. You know, there's, just like I said, there's just so many solutions to achieving food sovereignty, like permaculture is a really good example of how, like, it's spread across the world. It came, it came out of Australia. And you know, it's spread around the world. And it is there's a lot of training of permaculture practitioners. And there's lots of books being written and there's lots of demonstration sites that show how to live in different ways that are more sustainable. So how to preserve water and reduce your consumption and reduce your impact and that sort of thing. So I feel like like agroecology, and permaculture, and even things like, like farmers markets and the just different ways, like just actually like getting to know your producer and really thinking about where your food comes from and reading the labels and beginning to like, deconstruct how many resources are in your, in your food. So like, like I was saying about the transportation and the packaging, and, you know, and then also thinking about the labor like, you can't, like how are the workers treated, you know? How was, how's their health being affected by how food is being produced? And, and you know, there's just so like, it's really important to do like a critical analysis of the food that you're eating. And then the other thing, one of the big things is like food waste, you know, like not wasting food, like we waste, the majority of the food that's produced is wasted. And so like, there's enough food to go around. So we need to be really aware, like, it's a precious resource, the people that produce it are our friends and neighbors. And so, you know, really thinking about our relationship with food and trying to improve it.
So that brings us to the next question, how do you think we should approach righting our relations with food?
Well, I think in some ways, like, if you look at, you know, the Sustainable Development Goals of ending hunger and ending poverty, like by focusing on the problem as hunger, it draws our attention away from the root causes, which is poverty and inequality. And these problems are because of power. So people, people with decision-making power, as well as power over resources and how those resources are used. So again, we really have to look at the root causes of poverty and hunger, to get to the solutions. And that's food justice. And part of that is struggling against racism, exploitation and oppression that that is taking place within the food system. And so, you know, we need to look beyond the food chain, and, like, look at the root causes of inequality, which is, which has power and who has it. And then, you know, also making sure that we ensure that people have the right to control their own food systems, to promote biodiversity, to support livelihoods for rural dwellers, to think of a local sustainability, to think about gender equality, and to resist corporate controlled agriculture. So what are some things we can do, we can encourage beneficial relationships, so we have to move from an economic system that sacrifices the good of the people on the earth to the goal of achieving short term profits. So moving to a solidarity economy, that considers workers and the earth and animals and insects and like all biodiversity. And then like there's a few more things, like, for example, the concept of degrowth, so as opposed to exponential growth forever, so you know, degrowth advocates for consuming less and sharing more and wasting less, like, that's the thing, if we just didn't waste as much it would be, we'd be halfway there. So really thinking about like, what we're wasting. And then part of it is just like to improve our relationships. It's like a shift to like social permaculture. So improving our communication, managing conflict, dispute resolutions, generating resilience and group intelligence and like focusing on our relationships, you know, overcoming selfishness, and apathy and greed, and, like really thinking about our relationships with each other with Earth. And, you know, developing, nurturing, empowering relationships. And that goes, that's globally that's not like it's in its local and global. It's in our neighborhoods, but also like in our homes, in our communities, and around the world. So there's a concept of "buen vivir" which is used in Latin America, and it describes alternatives to development folks, focused on the good life in the front. sense so, like it embraces the notion of well being and cohabitation with others of nature. So like if you look at sort of traditional ecological knowledge you know, when other concepts like Ubuntu and Africa and buen vivir in Latin America like there's like it's just like a paradigm shift to thinking about how we can work in harmony with each other and nature, as opposed to being, like, in competition with each other. So thinking about working cooperatively, and thinking about others and considering nature and every every decision we make.
Thank you for listening to this month's episode of Righting Our Relations with Food. We would like to thank our wonderful guest for sharing their knowledge and their insights with us. And from everyone here at Righting Relations Canada, we would like to thank our partner, the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights, and of course, our funders, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, and the Employment and Social Development Canada, for making this project possible. And we hope you'll join us again next month!