None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use

 

From Grist:

….check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB [Editor’s note: TEEB is now known as the Natural Capital Coalitionasked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.) Now, here are the top five industrial sectors ranked by total ecological damages imposed:

UNEP: top five industrial sectors by impact

 

 

Natural Capital story

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Beating the Monopolies: Barry Lynn Explains How We Will Win 

 

The first thing we have to say is, “I’m not a consumer. I am a citizen. I produce things. I produce labor. I produce goods. I produce ideas. I will have open and free markets into which to sell my goods, my ideas, my labor. There will be competition for my goods, my ideas, for my labor, and there will be no intermediary standing between me and my neighbors telling us how to do business with one another, just the way Sam Adams and John Hancock said back in 1773.” That’s the first thing we have to do.

The second thing is, for anyone who’s in a position of authority, a position of power, a position of leadership, this could be within your community, within your town, within your church, is just go out there and talk about this. You don’t have to figure out what the fixes are. There’s going to be a thousand fixes. There’s going to be 10,000 fixes. That’s the beauty of antitrust law, of anti-monopoly law, is we have an immense number of tools that we can bring to bear. What we have to do is see the problem, and help our fellows see the problem. We have to make it safe for other people on the Hill, on Capitol Hill, to talk about this.

 

podcast

Grocery and farmers markets

I just finished a blog post for FMC co-written with Research and Education Director Alex Canepa about Amazon and Whole Foods. Our short answer in our rather long piece was we don’t know how this merger will affect food generally and local food specifically, but it doesn’t look promising.

Because of that post, I have spent even more time recently reading about grocery stores and food purchasing in reports from trade papers, some general books and articles, all of which are sure of only a few things:

  1. Current storefront retail sales are sluggish.
  2. Consolidation of stores or of chains doesn’t help the consumer.
  3. Online sales for food are one of the few growth patterns in food but if anyone has figured out how to use this method to actually make a profit it’s still unknown.

One of the reasons why the media is obsessed with stories about the big chains is because the story is simpler: success only means profit which means either increasing the number of stores or same-store sales and no matter where you are in the US, it’s the exact same story. There is no need to worry about seasonal interruptions, cultural uniqueness or local factors or find other measures of success.

All of this means that in this age, the farmers market story has to be powerful, exciting and positive. The days of flyers in the coffeehouses and yard signs on market days as the only way to let folks know about the market are basically done.

The stories we tell need to encapsulate what our marvelous markets of the modern era actually do:

Offer civic space to all citizens, with no purchase necessary;

Introduce people to good food produced by their neighbors;

Increase access to healthy foods for our at-risk neighbors;

Encourage wise stewardship of land;

Champion the innovators of our good food system;

Support the larger food and farming system as leaders;

Advocate for better policies at the city, state, and national level.

All of that goes back to one of my action phrases for 2017 which was laid out in this blog earlier this year:

Don’t Hide the Hard Work.

In order for the community you live in to understand how their markets do all of these things, the market organization needs to be constantly visible and engaged. The staff, board, advisors and anchor vendors need to continually let people know their role at the market, invite feedback and share what they learn with the market community.

Language that defines those things markets do has to be put into metric form and shared regularly with the larger community. That is because anecdotes and stories are not appealing to those who do not know us. They need simple and directed assertions as to why shopping directly for their food matters. They need it in 140 characters or less or in a single picture on Instagram or even told them by an influencer whose blog they follow.

Now, you may find those ideas ridiculous; I can understand that thinking as someone who gave up her smartphone a few years back (after being one of the first with a Blackberry, and then an iPhone and then an iPad), but the reality is mass communication has changed forever. And not just for young people: most studies of social media show that some channels – like Facebook – are increasingly used by older people. And not just how, but what they are looking for has changed. That is why the sector that is most sensitive to any change in people’s lives – grocery shopping – has become a free-for-all.

We need to face it head on and decide how the farmers market and larger good food system will flourish in spite of this chaos.

Each market needs to check in on all of these areas above and ask itself how is it doing on each and then act upon the findings.

This is the best chance we have to not be submerged by the mess that is retail right now. By aligning ourselves and our farmers as community leaders and our markets not simply as sales outlets, we can continue our revolution even as the storefronts around us change names and focus and even in some cases, disappear from view.

 

 

Update: check out this story about the new NEW players in food: (and yes the first is “related” through the Albrecht family to Trader Joe’s): Aldi and Lidl.

 

 

 

Genius awards highlight recipients’ work around food, place and justice

The foundation’s prestigious “genius grants” were awarded to 24 people around the country, including a painter, a playwright, a mathematician, a social justice organizer, an immunologist and an urban planner. Recipients of the $625,000 awards, which come with no strings attached, are selected based on “exceptional creativity” and the promise and potential for important advances in subsequent work. Since the grant program started in 1981, 965 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

• Greg Asbed co-founded the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in 1993 to combat injustices in the tomato-growing industry and in 2011 launched the coalition’s Fair Food Program, which uses the purchasing power of brands to compel growers to improve farm workers’ working conditions. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange and over a dozen purchasers, including Walmart and major fast-food chains (except Wendy’s), have signed on to the Fair Food Program, which is monitored by the independent Fair Foods Standards Council.

• Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Executive Director Rami Nashashibi a Palestinian American Muslim lauded for helping build partnerships across racial, religious and socioeconomic divides in Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods, said there is a “fierce urgency” to the current political climate. One of their projects is The Corner Store Campaign which addresses the long history of injurious business practices, ingrained racial tensions, and unhealthy food options that typifies many inner-city corner stores. Since its launch, the Campaign has focused on four critical goals:

  • Developing alternative business models for corner stores on Chicago’s South Side.
  • Using public policy to promote lasting change toward food justice.
  • Launching an education campaign that stresses the benefits of healthier lifestyles.
  • Healing racial tensions between Muslim and/or Arab store owners and their mostly Black patrons.

•Kate Orff is a landscape architect envisioning new forms of public space that reveal and revive the hidden ecological systems underlying our built environments and encourage urban residents to become active stewards of their natural surroundings. Orff is the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture firm with a focus on redesigning landscapes to deal with climate change, especially sea-level rise and flooding. Last year, SCAPE won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for Living Breakwaters, a plan to improve coastal resiliency around Staten Island through oyster habitats. (The project was designed as part of the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design initiative from the federal government.)

• In 1997, Rich founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and, in collaboration with a group of other educators, advocates, artists, and architects, developed a roster of programs to engage community-based organizations and public school students in explorations of such topics as tenant rights, affordable housing, and infrastructure design. Rich’s focus on place, policy, and design has broadened to include development of more democratic urban planning mechanisms and design and construction of permanent physical spaces. He served as chief urban designer and director of planning (2008–2015) for Newark, New Jersey, a city marked by decades of disinvestment and sustained by traditions of political activism. There he worked with long-standing advocates like Ironbound Community Corporation to begin transforming Newark’s waterfront along the Passaic River with public parks, trails, and environmental installations. He also engaged a citywide coalition of neighborhood-based organizations in replacing Newark’s unwieldy and outdated zoning and land-use regulations with a user-friendly version (the first revision in over fifty years) based upon goals of environmental justice and accountable development.

All 2017 MacArthur Grant Recipients

Why strong and weak ties are both necessary

A good article that describes bridging and bonding types of social capital. It is important for markets to understand which of them are at play in their market and how that depends on the market type the community is building. Basically, a person gets comfort and advice from their strong ties (bonding) and new information from weak ties (bridging) and so both are helpful for any type of behavior change.

For example, Food Access and Neighborhood/Niche market types often prioritize bonding social capital, while Flagship and Main Street market types focus on bridging social capital.  There is no one answer to how to build (or to measure) social capital, but it is important for every intervention to understand the two and which is preferable based on the strategy involved.

At a time when the United States is becoming more starkly and rigidly unequal, when Americans are sorting themselves into demographically uniform clusters, we are evidence of the problem. We are, at least passively, the cause of the problem.

This is the downside of high neighborliness. It is a classic case of “bonding social capital,“ which tightens the weave of trust among people who are already alike—as opposed to “bridging social capital,” which helps generate trust among unlike groups.

Bonding capital makes for in-group loyalty and unity. But a civically healthy society depends on bridging capital, and what social scientist Mark Granovetter has called “the strength of weak ties.” America is sick today in part because the weak ties that used to be fostered by diverse neighborhoods and associations are dissipating….

The Worst Thing About Good Neighbors – CityLab

As we’re scrambling to fix health care, food stamps are quietly paying off.

I look forward to reading the report in total but I think any market community knows that focusing on healthy food is a very good indicator of the willingness for behavior change. Of course, I’d be interested to see how many participated in incentive campaigns and/or shopped at farmers markets with their SNAP dollars.

Berkowitz’s study looked at roughly 4,400 low-income adults, about 40% of whom were on SNAP. When Berkowitz’s team compared how much the average person in each group was spending on health care, they found the SNAP group spent about $1,400 less per year.

For comparison, the average single adult on SNAP receives about $1,500 a year in benefits.

A total of 4447 participants (2567 women and 1880 men) were enrolled in the study, mean (SE) age, 42.7 (0.5) years; 1889 were SNAP participants, and 2558 were not. Compared with other low-income adults, SNAP participants were younger (mean [SE] age, 40.3 [0.6] vs 44.1 [0.7] years), more likely to have public insurance or be uninsured (84.9% vs 67.7%), and more likely to be disabled (24.2% vs 10.6%) (P < .001 for all). In age- and gender-adjusted models, health care expenditures between those who did and did not participate in SNAP were similar (difference, $34; 95% CI, −$1097 to $1165). In fully adjusted models, SNAP was associated with lower estimated annual health care expenditures (−$1409; 95% CI, −$2694 to −$125). Sensitivity analyses were consistent with these results, also indicating that SNAP participation was associated with significantly lower estimated expenditures.

Source: story

In case anyone needs convincing:

Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/14/poor-diet-is-a-factor-in-one-in-five-deaths-global-disease-study-reveals

Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer

Excellent analysis about the long-term effects of disasters on poverty increase.

Poverty rates also increased by one percentage point in areas hit by super-severe disasters. That suggests that people who aren’t poor are migrating out or that people who are poor are migrating in. It might also mean that the existing population transitioned into poverty.

Source: Natural Disasters by Location: Rich Leave and Poor Get Poorer – Scientific American