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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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

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

Place-making experiment tracks kindness, trust

How might a market measure this same idea?
Should we consider universal design choices that all markets could share that define farmers markets as a significant community space?

Visitors reported feeling 40% happier at the rainbow intersection than they did at a standard intersection a block away, and they were 60% more likely to want to meet friends there. They also believed that if they lost their wallet there, they were much more likely to get it back if a stranger found it.

Unique, trust-building places may also boost kindness. In an experiment Happy City conducted in Seattle, we discovered that pedestrians were actually kinder to strangers on streets when the sidewalks and building facades exhibited more detail and local character. We sent out actors posing as helpless tourists to different kinds of environments and watched to see how pedestrians treated them. On street edges with more small local shops and services, passers-by were more likely to stop and offer help than in nearby spaces lined with anonymous blank walls.
For years, public-space designers have measured their success primarily by measuring the number of people who linger in the places they create. Now we are beginning to see that public design influences our feelings and the way we treat other people, too. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface on the link between place-making and social trust.

https://qz.com/1056716/rainbow-painted-crosswalks-can-boost-trust-among-strangers/Story

How about a plan for January 20 and beyond?

I thought this deserved a repost based on the amount of direct action happening across many sectors.

Helping Public Markets Grow

Every direct marketing farmer and outlet has to be prepared for the next years of work, no matter what political affiliation one has. The reality is that many of the food and farming programs that we have worked to expand over the last few years may disappear, or at least shrink in size or in reach. As leaders, you should be cognizant of 3 levels of activism: advocacy, mobilization and organizing. Knowing the difference between those  is often the key to avoiding burnout and for engaging people successfully: actively educating others about ideas and needs around your market and its producers (advocacy), encouraging others to be active about those ideas and needs (mobilization),  teaching others to lead, defining tactics and building campaign strategies to push those ideas forward or to address a looming legislative crisis(organizing). There are wonderful resources like this one from NYFC to get up…

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