Food and Power

For longer and from more people than I had once thought, a very basic expression of power has been stripped away, outsourced, and erased from memory. Sovereignty over food is a foundational element of social, economic, and environmental justice. Its commodification has flipped over ancient paradigms at the expense people who have been made unable to defend themselves. Monoculture, industrialization, and centralization have disrupted the vital relationships of farmers with land, community, and culture.

The ideological pushback has been called agroecology, and Laura Silici’s paper reminds us that its principles are considered “an alternative agriculture production paradigm.” But modern perspective aside, agroecology calls for little more than the informed and responsible implementation of what Silici calls “indigenous knowledge.” An intimate understanding of local conditions, needs, and desires coupled with a general principle of preservation lie at the heart of the agroecological thinking. I cannot help but laugh a little bitterly when I consider the fact that this basic and intuitive approach has become so undeniably “alternative.”

I have learned that the abuse of land cannot be separated from the abuse of people. As Hank graciously pointed out for us, the unmatched pain of native peoples in colonized land reminds us most poignantly of the dangers and implications of a land ethic that reduces earth to capital. The privatization and degradation of land is incompatible with an autonomous and equitous society. Power is the ability to participate in shaping the world around you, making it become and maintaining to remain whatever it is most needed to be.

Food is life in a sense that transcends nutrition. It is a function of culture, community, and solidarity. Intrinsic within it are labor, skill, and livelihoods. It flows out of and relies on a web of life in which the modern human is a relative newcomer. The farm and others like it are an expression of the most pressing task we face today: reclaiming the power of self-determinism, community, and a productive intolerance for injustice in a world that has made it so easy to accept and perpetuate large-scale absurdities.

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