. I haven't read it, a friend told me about it. It is a story about London, and its obsession with food, its consumption, the standardisation of food, the inflation of its price and the impact it has on the parties involved.
The book starts off with the example of organic farming, in particularly turkeys. The author interviews an organic turkey farmer and the farmer talks about the merits of free range, quality of life and the quality of death, as in to say, he slaughtered each and every turkey he sold with his own bare hands. This is ethical farming. The point made in the book is, there are these wonderfully ethical farms and products, but in reality would you spend the money on an ethical
turkey when you could pay a quarter of the price for a morally compromised
turkey for christmas? You can bet the majority would rather the coin in their own pocket, and I cant say I blame them.
It got me thinking about the artificial circle of life we have created. London demands, oranges, tons and tons of oranges, tescos wants oranges and is willing to pay good money for them. People buys the oranges from tescos because they like oranges and there are any other easier options. Tescos has such a high demand for oranges that they need more oranges, infact they remove melon from the shelves to make way for more oranges. Melon farmers dont have any buyers for their products because they are difficult to cut up and eat and there is no longer much money in it because tescos wants oranges. But how about we pre-cut the melons for our customers and sell them that way, oh we will need new packaging for this too. Well, now we require people/machines to chop up the melons, and then another machine to make packaging and seal it. This will have people eat more melon. People now buy both melons and oranges from tesco by the bucketload. People eat this melon and orange and harness its energy for working their 50-60 hour a week jobs to increase the efficiency and profitability of our wh*** system which eventually comes back to the farmer to have them work harder, produce more and better yield, and providing temptation to use exploitative farming practices to do so.
This is a random train of thought I just made up.
I have 168 total hours a week at my disposal
I spend 47 hours a week of that at work
I spend 2 hours a day cycling to work, total 14 hours a week
I spend 8 hours a night sleeping the average minimum recommended, 56 hours a week.
The total amount of time I spend a day preparing all my meals and eating them come to a guestimate of 3 hours a day (not including lunch which is included in my work) as a generous minimum. 21 hours of food preperation and eating a week.
168 - 47 - 14 - 56 - 14 = 30 hours per week left as spare time.
Now lets say I go out one night a week to hang out with friends, and socialise and relax. Lets say that comes to 6 hours. Brings the spare time I have down further to 24 hours a week.
24 hours a week of disposable time, most people choose to fill this up with more work or more social time, but it is possible that those 24 hours could be used to setup some kind of self sustainability right? 24 hours a week is more than enough to grow and care for a little herb farm.
The question is, why don't we? Partly because a lot of people aren't taught from a young age how to nurture plants and at the moment london is experiencing a revolution of backyard gardening, where people grow there own herbs anywhere through to tomatos, carrots and broccolli. My current residence has a chicken wire cage for all of our plants and my house mates grow every herb under the sun and a wide range of stable vegetables too. When I am on my ceiling (don't do this at home kids) of my terraced home I can see other small back yard farms in operation in my neighbourhood. Our local sainsburys stocks seeds and some basic gardening bits and pieces to facilitate this, which is totally awesome.
The other issue is yield. Unfortunately, these backyard farms alone are not be enough to feed even one person. Approximations on the internet suggest that 400 square meters of land is required to grow enough food to sustain a single person with a mixed diet of vegatables, this is not even accounting for meat. It makes you wonder than, how much land is required to feed the approximate 8 million people living in london. well lets find out.
8 000 000 * 400 = 3 200 000 000 square meters
That is 3 200 000 square kilometers to have enough land in london for each person to be able to feed themselves. Greater London is approximately 980 square kilometers. So, this is not possible. Even if we account for new technologies increasing farming efficiency, this is not practical. But, I think this does highlight something of interest. A city like London alone requires the land mass equivalent to 5 United Kingdoms, lets say the size of all India. And her majesty did already attempt to 'utilise' india and failed. Heres the bottom line, the land massive amounts of land feeding this 'hungry' city is coming from somewhere and its not coming from where it's citizens live.
Keep this into account, we haven't even begun to factor in the time it takes to nurture a farm for self sustainance... I am willing to bet that fitting the hours to 'feed onself' into a current londoners life, is as easy as shoving a baseball bat up a pigeons ass.
I share this information with you to no particular point, but to just make you aware. The entire life of London and it's citizens is by no means setup for self sufficiency within our current culture. We must reduce consumption and transform the culture of more is better is more is better. I will find a new currency that does not lie in the realm of stock markets and economics, a social currency ... more on that another time.
I still believe, in spite of everything I have just shared, growing your own food makes a massive difference both for the present at the future. How? Firstly, you will reduce the demand and reduce the carbon foot print of processing and transporation. Secondly, you will be armed with the skills and knowledge on how to create food, and this will empower you to not only feed yourself when you get more land, but also open up possibilities for innovation so that we may produce more food from less physical space to be self-sufficient.
Right now, there are people in the world who are working on making the tools for growing plants more accessible and the next step is to get good leaders and giving these leaders access to communities that have minimal exposure to horticulture. The next step is to generate the willpower and share the knowledge for people to begin balancing out there own demand with their own supply. 8000000 people growing their own herbs is nothing to sneeze at, hell i might even calculate the possible reduction of carbon emissions as a result.
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