Phyllis's Monthy Book Review - The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times September 02 2017
The Local Food Revolution: How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times by local author Michael Brownlee speaks to those who have connected the globalized, industrialized, corporatized food system to much of the destruction of the environment, damage to our health, and displacement of farmers globally. Brownlee and his longtime partner and collaborator, Lynette Marie Hanthorn, have long been contemplating localization. Since they organized a daylong conference in 2006, Going Local! Preparing for the Accelerating Energy Crisis, they haven’t let up and now see themselves as “local food and evolutionary catalysts.”
Brownlee, together with Hanthorn, believes this revolution is being driven by moral, ethical, and even spiritual values. It’s not ideological or metaphorical, and it’s certainly not just a lifestyle movement. In denouncing our fossil-fuel-based, genetically modified, monocropping approach to agriculture, they remind us of Rachel Carson’s early warning 55 years ago in Silent Spring, “If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals-----eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones-----we had better know something about their nature and their power.”
In addition to the urgency of ridding our food of harmful chemicals, Brownlee believes we need to “move away from a food system that disconnects us from the land, cuts us off from the natural cycles of life, alienates us from nature, hollows out our communities, and destroys our relationships with each other.” John Ikerd, professor emeritus of agricultural economics, University of Missouri, says, “Sustainable farming and sustainable living are attempts to work and live ‘in harmony with an unseen order of things’----to work and live spiritually….We must reclaim the sacred in food and farming.”
Brownlee sees the awakening as deep revolution. “It provides more than hope; it is a revelation of the deeper meaning and purpose and presence that lie ahead, emerging mysteriously out of a convergence of seed, soil, soul, and stars.”
This revolution shines a light on the current global industrial food system for what it is and isn’t. It is not about feeding the world but rather about producing corporate profits and consolidating power through ruthlessly exploiting the human need for food. Control of 97 percent of the U.S. food supply isn’t enough for the transnational corporations. Brownlee says they want it all: the natural, organic, and local food “segments” also.
The Local Food Revolution presents Brownlee’s journey with Hanthorn from their awakening with the Y2K crisis and their relocalization efforts in North Boulder through their work in establishing Boulder as a Transition town and ultimately focusing on food localization in Boulder County. After revisiting Peak Everything, Brownlee moves on to discuss the evolutionary context and the patterns of emergence that arise out of cataclysm. The idea here is that the universe is both self-organizing and self-healing. From this perspective, Brownlee concludes that the converging global crises we face are attributable to humanity’s fundamental disconnection from nature, from spirit, from the sacred.
Offering his “rather revolutionary understanding of the evolution of the universe,” he traces this revolutionary evolution theory back to Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in the mid-20th century through to Thomas Berry’s and Brian Swimme’s seminal breakthrough in this comprehension by demonstrating that the evolution of the universe can be related as a story, one that is scientific in its data and mythic in its form.
There are others he turns to for an even deeper understanding of how the evolutionary process itself unfolds. “Part of the promise and challenge of this book is to begin to understand, align with, and consciously yield to these evolutionary processes----to become conscious agents for emergence or evolutionary catalysts. This turns out to be quite different from being ‘change agents.’”
Brownlee states firmly, “Fundamentally, localizing our food supply is at the center of an effort to bring healing to the world, to begin to reverse the widespread destruction caused by the industrial growth society....It’s a revolution, the beginnings of a great turning over.”
Richard Heinberg, among numerous others, backs them up on the urgency of humanity’s predicament. Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, says, “The transition to a fossil-free food system does not constitute a distant utopian proposal. It is an unavoidable, immediate, and immense challenge that will call for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society.”
Joel Salatin, well known and much loved, has spent years reshaping the local food system and farming practices in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. In a 2015 interview, Salatin had this to say: “Let’s resolve to regenerate, to give restitution. This new path is not up to someone else; not up to those guys over there. Quit pointing fingers and look in the mirror. What can I do, what can you do, today, to rectify the evil we’ve wrought?... Our privilege to participate is a choice we exercise. And that’s the most important exercise of all.”
Brownlee submits that “deep revolution is emerging with great vigor and creativity in what we have called the local food revolution. If we nurture this center of aliveness, there is great potential for the underlying values and commitments and purpose of the local food revolution to become highly contagious, to go viral, and to ignite other emerging centers of aliveness, creating a truly revolutionary deep revolution.”
My review barely brushes the surface of this book’s terrain. It’s a book to take your time with, even one to put down while you read your way through references in the book that you need to understand before continuing on Brownlee’s journey.
Your comments and reactions to the books are most welcome!
Phyllis (dedicated local food eater and Back to Basics Kitchen customer)