Reader 2020

JOHN THACKARA’S READING LIST

FOOD SYSTEMS READER @20 June 2020
http://www.backtotheland.se/references/

How to “read” this Reader

The focus of this course is on food and relationships – the social and cultural (as well as technical and business) ways in which diverse communities produce, distribute, preserve, and consume food in daily life. The emphasis is on care, more than consumption. It’s about connection to place. It celebrates contact between generations.

By the end of the course, you will have experienced a variety of activities, exercises and experiences that teach you: new ways to think about food ands food systems; how to be as well as what to do, in a food context; who you need to connect with, and how; but also how to reflect, as well as how to take action.

The readings below have been selected as ‘tasters’.  Is This not a taught course, so none of these is an essential text and we we don’t expect you read them all. But dip in, enjoy,  and suggest other examples to the group.

CHANGE

How To Thrive In The Next Economy,  John Thackara
Drawing on an inspiring range of examples, from a temple-led water management system in Bali that dates back hundreds of years, to an innovative e-bike collective in Vienna, Thackara shows that below the radar of the mainstream media communities creating a replacement economy from the ground up.
http://thackara.com/thackarathrive/book/
http://thackara.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PDF-Thrive-Press_Copy.pdf

Donella Meadows on Thinking In Systems,
“Every change changes everything. We are embedded in a complex adaptive web of interconnection. A setback today may be the trigger that inspires a new coalition tomorrow. Persistence in the face of uncertainty is one of our superpowers” https://wtf.tw/ref/meadows.pdf

Jane Memmott on Ecosystem Interactions
“All organisms are linked to at least one other species in a variety of critical ways – for example, as predators or prey, or as pollinators or seed dispersers – with the result that each species is embedded in a complex network of interactions.The sciences of the mid-20th-century, rooted in units and relations, have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes”. Memmott, Jane et al, ‘The Conservation Of Ecological Interactions’  http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/people/jane-memmott/index.html

Margaret Wheatley on Emergence
“Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.” Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change. https://medium.com/virtual-teams-for-systemic-change/systemic-change-emergence-bf1fd46818ab#.k79n65eif.    http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/emergence.html

Lean Logic, by David Fleming
‘Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework”  A dictionary unlike any other, Lean Logic leads readers through fields as diverse as culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology. Four hundred and four essay-entries cover topics such as Boredom, Community, Debt, Growth, Harmless Lunatics, Land, Lean Thinking, Nanotechnology, Play, Religion, Spirit, Trust, and Utopia.
https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/lean-logic/


James W Drescher on Thinking Like A Forest
If maintaining the fertility of the soil is a core principle of ecological agriculture, so, too, is a commitment to think in longer time frames than markets – or even than individual human lifespans. We need to think like a forest. Enrichment Forestry at Windhorse Farm James W Drescher http://www.windhorsefarm.org/media/files/Enrichment_Forestry.pdf

DEVELOPMENT

Molly Scott Cato on Gaian Economics
The idea of framing everything in terms of the economy is a new thing in human history. “The heart of our problem lies not in the actions which destroy the environment, but in the economic system which causes them. The business of economics is about creating abstractions, imbuing them with power, and then using them to acquire resources. An understanding of the spiritual value of life and the ability to mediate between humans and the natural world are far more useful qualities for an economist than complex maths”
 http://www.gaianeconomics.org/molly.htm

Jason W. Moore and Raj Patel on “A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet”.
Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated the Earth. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore propose a radical new way of understanding—and reclaiming—the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century. https://www.versobooks.com/books/3139-a-history-of-the-world-in-seven-cheap-things


Ina Praetorius on the notion of a Care-Centered Economy
German writer Ina Praetorius revisits the feminist theme of ‘care work,’, re-casting it onto a much larger philosophical canvas. The Care-Centered Economy: Rediscovering what has been taken for granted suggests how the idea of “care” could be used to imagine new structural terms for the entire economy. 
http://us.boell.org/sites/default/files/the_care-centered_economy.pdf

Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary
From commodities, to communities. Frugality. Courage. Marginality. Magic. Generosity. Accessibility. Collaboration. Care for place. Care for people.  Indigenous traditions and world views have long understood that everything is inter-connnected and has its own lifeforce. The one hundred short entries here (it’s free to download) elucidate many paths to a social transformation that places empathy with humans and non-human beings first. The visions and practices here honour cooperation rather than competitiveness as the norm. https://www.ehu.eus/documents/6902252/12061123/Ashish+Kothari+et+al-Pluriverse+A+Post-Development+Dictionary-2019.pdf/c9f05ea0-d2e7-8874-d91c-09d11a4578a2

Arturo Escobar on Buen Vivir (interview)
This is the moment to change our development model, from a growth-oriented and extraction of natural resources oriented model to something that is more holistic…a collective well-being of both humans and non-humans…a view of design in tune with the radical interdependence of all life. Iin designing tools, objects, and institutions, we are designing ways of being.

http://rorotoko.com/interview/20180423_escobar_arturo_on_book_designs_pluriverse_radical_interdependence/?page=4


East European food systems
Instead of seeing them as undeveloped, traditional and hence uninspiring systems, this paper proposes a move away from a unidirectional development path and to acknowledge the diversity, resilience and unintended but real sustainability of the melange of East European formal and informal food systems. This approach reveals food practices that cannot easily be reduced to ‘food chains’, ‘food initiatives’ or diets.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340957174_Thinking_food_like_an_East_European_A_critical_reflection_on_the_framing_of_food_systems

Jose Luis Vivero Pol on Food As A Common Good
Treating food as a purely private good is denying millions of people access to this basic resource. Food should therefore be seen as a commons or public good. It could then be produced and distributed more effectively by a governance system combining market rules, public regulations and collective actions. 
http://www.thebrokeronline.eu/Articles/The-food-commons-transition

Africa Says: I Can’t Breathe
“We are told that our seeds are old and have little capacity to give us food and they have to be hybridized and genetically modified to be of use; we are told that what we need is more calories and we need to focus on seeds of few crops; we are told that we are not using our land effectively and it should be given to those who can do a better job of it; we are told that our knowledge about farming is backward and we need to modernize with knowledge from the West; we are told that unless we focus on a few staple crops and produce for the market, we’ll remain shackled to subsistence living; and we are told that we need to pump our soil with artificial fertilizers and pesticides if we want to produce enough food. For all this, we are told, we need business to invest billions of dollars, and without these saviors from the North, we cannot feed ourselves. Our world is defined simply by producing more, not in having healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, produced without harming the environment. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/10/africa-says-i-cant-breathe-african-civil-society-perspective-systemic-racism

Francis Moore Lappé on “World Hunger: 12 Myths”
World Hunger: 12 Myths is an excellent introduction to the world the majority of people live in as opposed to the world of stock market reports and Christmas shopping. It is also an excellent challenge to many of the “givens” of our other world and a call to us to rethink our priorities and where we are going.
http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/books/lappe.htm


]           FOOD SYSTEMS AND PLACE

Annie Proulx on Barkskins
Or, how we first got the idea that the earth’s resources are limitless. Proulx’s story begins with the arrival in “New France” – the vast tract of north America and Canada colonised by the French between the 16th and 18th centuries. Two young men set out to earn their freedom by clearing an area of forest; they are soon awestruck by the imposing, often impenetrable and seemingly limitless extent of the forest.https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/10/barkskins-annie-proulx-review-alex-clark
 
Simone Weil on The Need for Roots
“Rootedness in a place is the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.”   https://lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/simone-weil-to-be-rooted-is-perhaps-the-most-important-and-least-recognized-need-of-the-human-soul/

Pamela Mang on Storying of Place
“What makes a shift to true sustainability possible is the power of the connection between people and place. Place is a doorway into caring. Love of place unleashes the personal and political will needed to make profound change. It can also unite people across diverse ideological spectra because place is what we all share: it is the commons that allows people to call themselves a community. In every place, geology and nature interweave over time with human history and culture to create a place’s recognizable character and nature—its essence. Understanding these patterns helps reveal new possibilities for how to live in partnership with place, growing a future of greater abundance and creativity for all life. https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/blog/revealing-the-story-of-place

James Merryweather says, It Starts With The Soils
Ninety-nine percent of all food comes from our soils. As home to an enormous variety of organisms – from bacteria, to mammals – soil health determines the metabolic health of all terrestrial ecosystems. See: Living Soil Forum Sweden http://www.summerofsoil.se/forum/http://www.stourvalleywildlifeactiongroup.org/secrets-soil.JAMES%20MERRYWEATHER1.pdf

Robert Woodford on the Deep Time Walk
The Deep Time Walk app helps people walk a story of Earth’s evolutionary journey – a new story that can reorientate us to where we come from – our origins, our purpose. A story that combines the latest scientific insights with the deep reverence inherent in our perennial traditions that bind us to life and the cosmos. The Deep Time Walk is experienced as a 4.6km walk, inspiring wonder and reverence for Earth, and galvanising positive action needed in our times. https://www.deeptimewalk.org/blog/2018/03/27/walk-new-story/

Richard Powers on ‘The Overstory’:
Richard Powers writes about tree-consciousness, cultural epiphanies,  a world going up in flames, and what lies beyond despair. “The idea, quite plainly put, is that there is no separate thing called humanity, any more than there is a separate thing called nature.…Now, when we look at a forest, we see a highly cooperative and interdependent system that you can almost think of as a superorganism”.  https://dark-mountain.net/older-than-writing/

Paul Stamets on Natures Internet
In an old-growth forest, a handful of soil also contains millions of super-delicate mycorrhizal fungi. Linked together with the roots of plants, mycorrhiza form vast subsoil networks – ‘nature’s internet’ – in which mind- bogglingly complex interactions support the flora and food webs upon which we all rely for our existence. This vast, invisible web does more than ferry water and nutrients; it also enables long distance communication between plants. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/ microbiomes_at_the_roots_a_new_look_at_forest_ecology/2699/ …

Fred Provenza on “Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom
When people’s knowledge becomes detached from the acts of growing and harvesting foods. people little understand or appreciate the biological or cultural origins of their diets. Nor do they realise when those norms change, as they have in the past century, in ways that are harmful. By raising our level of awareness of the knowledge we’ve lost, we can redesign ‘grazing circuits’ that better enable the health of herbivores and humans and the landscapes we inhabit. (see Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/fleroy1974/status/1126381773611577345

Carolyn Steele on “Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives”
The gargantuan effort needed to feed cities across the world on a daily basis has a massive and vastly under appreciated social and physical impact on people and the planet. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3520169-hungry-cityhttp://www.ted.com/talks/carolyn_steel_how_food_shapes_our_cities

Carolyn Steele on “Sitopia: How Food Can Save The World,”
We live in a world shaped by food, a Sitopia (sitos – food; topos – place). Food, and how we search for and consume it, has defined our human journey. Sitopia is for those of us who believe that food production should be localised and should not “oppress workers, abuse animals, poison oceans, destroy ecosystems and churn out greenhouse gases like there’s no tomorrow.” https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/109/1097397/sitopia/9780701188719.html

Alvaro Morales on Planes de Vida (Life Plans)
“The territory is the vital space…The concept of territory is a shorthand for the system of relations whose continuous reenactment recreates the community in question … a space for the life projects of the communities”. The concept of a `plan of life’ was first perceived by the Guambiano, an Indigenous group living in the Cauca region of Colombia. The plan is designed to serve the future needs of the community as it pursues a path towards what is yet to come, but the standards by which the success of this project is measured are the values of the Guambiano elders. As Guambiano representative Alvaro Morales says, “The future is behind us.”

https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/plan-de-vida-indigenous-initiative-cultural-survival

Ann Whiston Spirn on Bacterial Urbanism
“Cities, and the people who live in them, are part of the natural world. Cities are habitats. Cities are ecosystems. And urban ecosystems are dynamic and interconnected. Ecological urbanism weds the theory and practice of city design and planning with the insights of ecology – the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment and the processes that shape both. It’s an approach that necessarily interacts with  other environmental disciplines, such as climatology, hydrology, geography, psychology, history, and art”
http://annewhistonspirn.com/pdf/spirn_ecological_urbanism-2011.pdf


John Thackara on Bioregioning: Pathways to Urban-Rural reconnection in She Ji
My 6,000 word paper in China’s new design and innovaton journbal, She Ji. Main points:
A metabolic rift runs through the economy and culture.
The reconnection of urban and rural is an enabling condition for system change.
Bioregions reconnect us with living systems, and each other, through the places where we live.
The design of social infrastructure enables the emergence of new enterprises.
Knowledge ecologies, not transmission channels, are the key to bioregional learning.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405872619300012

“Urban-Rural”  – Exhibition In China
Last November John Thackara curated an exhibition in China called Urban-Rural. Here are 82 slides about it.
https://www.slideshare.net/johnthackara/urbanrural-exhibition-shanghai-november-2019-john-thackara-personal-slides

Lexicon Of Sustainability
Combining visuals with insights, this visual lexicon of more than 200 agricultural terms and principles is explained by today’s most innovative thought leaders. This book showcases and explores how to create a food system that benefits the environment and the people living in it. http://www.lexiconofsustainability.com/local-the- book/#

Social Food Atlas
Social Food Projects include municipal gardens and urban farms; community meals; social harvest festivals; farmer-to-farmer meet-ups; food waste platforms; community kitchens; community baking and brewing sites; care farms; school gardens; street food festivals; cooperative grain growing; farm hacks; regional gatherings; farm tours; and many more. A two minute video is here.  Among the key takeways: social food projects create ‘public goods’ in the form of social cohesion, public health, territorial development, food sovereignty, farmer livelihoods, learning, innovation, and biodiversity 
http://thackara.com/notopic/social-food-forum-the-takeaways/
https://www.mammamiaaa.it/en/atlas-archive/

28 Ways In Which Food Systems Are a Design Opportunity
Global food systems are unsustainable in terms of environmental impact, energy demand, health, and social quality. But what to do? Waaaay back in 2013, when we were preparing Doors of Perception 9 (which took place in Delhi in 2007)  we made this “to do” list.
http://www.doorsofperception.com/handouts/28-reasons-why-food-systems-are-a-design-opportunity/#sthash.ad28kEQd.dpuf

Stories About People Doing Stuff
Words like climate, system, or sustainability are passive. What does work – in reducing the sense of powerlessness and isolation – are examples of real people, taking practical steps, right now. With that lesson in mind, here is a list of case study collections that I’ve found useful, and often inspiring, in my own work.
http://thackara.com/notopic/people-doing-stuff-case-study-collections/

Sophy Banks on Burn Out
Among many activists working flat-out out in the outside world there’s a tendency to over-do things, and burn out. For Sophie Banks,  “burnout is not a side issue”. On the contrary: our inner states are just as important to a healthy political movement as are its external activities.
http://transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2013-07/sophy-banks-power-not-doing-stuff



]           FOOD POLICY

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE POLICY

(World) Agroecology
One definition is that agroecology as the study of the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment within agricultural systems. Consequently, agroecology is inherently multidisciplinary; it includes knowledge from agronomy, ecology, sociology, economics and related disciplines. Agroecologists do not unanimously oppose technology or inputs in agriculture.  Instead, they  assess how, when, and if technology can be used in conjunction with natural, social and human assets.  As a component of any Green New Deal, Agroecological practices require public goods such as extension services; storage facilities; rural infrastructure (roads, electricity, and information and communication technologies) for access to regional and local markets; credit and insurance against weather-related risks; agricultural research and development; education; and support to farmers’ organizations and cooperatives. Agroecological practices are knowledge-intensive and require the development of both ecological literacy and decision-making skills in farm communities.
http://p2pfoundation.net/Six_Proposed_Policy_Principles_for_Scaling_Up_Agroecology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agroecology

(Europe) @ARC2020
The pandemic brings food supply into focus. This is an opportunity. The EU’s input dependent and export-oriented agri-food system now reveals its extraordinary vulnerability. Now that shipping is restricted, animal feed and meat export are stuck and food chains are disrupted on many levels the demands for more resilient food systems on local and regional level need further attention. Now that seasonal workers are blocked at internal EU borders, fast food outlets and restaurants are shut, who will harvest, slaughter, process food and prepare food? And how will all the micro ingredients – the inputs and processes – for hyper processed foods with dozens of ingredients be sourced with these new restrictions?
https://www.arc2020.eu/

(Sweden) Dan Hill on “Realizing mission-oriented innovations in a fast-moving world”.
Our range of possible action is articulated by the extent of our mental models. They are either springboards or cages. https://www.generationc.xyz/dan-hill Dan Hill, Director of Strategic Design at from the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, takes a systematic approach to systems, including food systems, that cuts across silos and boundaries – for example understanding that health isn’t just to do with the ministry of health, it’s to do with all ministries, individuals and communities as well – and working from top-down and bottom-up. We work with lots of stakeholders, people you might call frontline actors – people running businesses or frontline services within local or regional government, perhaps around health, mobility, food, buildings, planning or whatever. We see what the bottom-up process can develop – for example how quickly we could achieve healthy, sustainable food using all of the tools we have to hand, and then to take that to politicians and say this is what we think the system is capable of” https://council.science/current/blog/realizing-mission-oriented-innovations-in-a-fast-moving-world/

(Sweden) Small food initiatives in Sweden
Local initiatives play an important role for improving resilience of food systems. The paper (from the Stockholm Resilience Cenytre) presents a new approach for navigating regional food system change: It identifies conflicts to, and opportunities for, change across scales. Trade-offs between local diversity and resource efficiency need to be clarified. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211912419300501?via%3Dihub

Juliet Schor on Connected Communities
A new economy conversation has emerged that focuses on visions of resilience and sustainability, in which stronger, more connected communities become the social fabric for an ecologically balanced economy of extra-market and new-market enterprises. The new economy initiatives are oriented to high satisfaction, egalitarian outcomes, low eco-footprints, and enhanced levels of learning. Connected consumption is one part of these visions of resilience and sustainability.
http://www.bc.edu/schools/cas/sociology/faculty/profiles/juliet-schor.html

(USA before) Feeding – US Farm Bill
The USDA made an historic $78 million investment in local and regional food systems, including food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises. Rural Development supported more than 170 local food infrastructure projects – from food hubs, to scale-appropriate processing facilities, to cold storage and distribution networks. Entities eligible for B&I loan guarantees include cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, Indian tribes, public bodies or individuals”
http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2014/05/0084.xml&contentidonly=true

(USA before)  Creating Change In The Food System (Iowa)
Five conditions must exist within a network of organizations in order to effect meaningful change. Those conditions include
Common agenda across organizations;
Shared measurement systems;
Mutually reinforcing activities that create synergy rather than redundancy;
Continuous communication across and within organizations; and
Backbone support organizations that can plan, manage, and support the initiative so it runs smoothly.
http://foodsystems.msu.edu/uploads/file/Creating_Change_in_the_Food_System.pdf#.UUWuAdFYrao.twitter%C2%A0…


the end

http://thackara.com/place-bioregion/back-to-the-land-2-0-reader-2019

Annie Proulx on Barkskins

Or, how we first got the idea that the earth’s resources are limitless. Proulx’s story begins with the arrival in “New France” – the vast tract of north America and Canada colonised by the French between the 16th and 18th centuries. Two young men set out to earn their freedom by clearing an area of forest; they are soon awestruck by the imposing, often impenetrable and seemingly limitless extent of the forest.

Simone Weil on The Need for Roots

“Rootedness in a place is the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.” https://lifeondoverbeach.

Pamela Mang on Storying of Place

“What makes a shift to true sustainability possible is the power of the connection between people and place. Place is a doorway into caring. Love of place unleashes the personal and political will needed to make profound change. It can also unite people across diverse ideological spectra because place is what we all share: it is the commons that allows people to call themselves a community. In every place, geology and nature interweave over time with human history and culture to create a place’s recognizable character and nature—its essence. The Story of Place process begins with a journey of collective discovery aimed at revealing the ongoing and distinctive core patterns that shape the complex web that makes place, the patterns that determine the dynamics of a given place and influence the complex relationships that result in its activities, growth, and evolution. Understanding these patterns helps reveal new possibilities for how to live in partnership with place, growing a future of greater abundance and creativity for all life.

Jane Memmott on Ecosystem Interactions

“All organisms are linked to at least one other species in a variety of critical ways – for example, as predators or prey, or as pollinators or seed dispersers – with the result that each species is embedded in a complex network of interactions. The sciences of the mid-20th-century, rooted in units and relations, have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes”. Memmott, Jane et al, ‘The Conservation Of Ecological Interactions’

Margaret Wheatley on Emergence

Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.” Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Molly Scott Cato on Gaian Economics

The heart of our problem lies not in the actions which destroy the environment, but in the economic system which causes them. The business of economics is about creating abstractions, imbuing them with power, and then using them to acquire resources. An understanding of the spiritual value of life and the ability to mediate between humans and the natural world are far more useful qualities for an economist than complex maths”

Sophy Banks on Burn Out

Among many activists working flat-out out in the outside world there’s a tendency to over-do things, and burn out. For Sophie Banks, “burnout is not a side issue”. On the contrary: our inner states are just as important to a healthy political movement as are its external activities.

Juliet Schor on Connected Communities

A new economy conversation has emerged that focuses on visions of resilience and sustainability, in which stronger, more connected communities become the social fabric for an ecologically balanced economy of extra-market and new-market enterprises. The new economy initiatives are oriented to high satisfaction, egalitarian outcomes, low eco-footprints, and enhanced levels of learning. Connected consumption is one part of these visions of resilience and sustainability.

Ina Praetorius on the notion of a Care-Centered Economy

German writer Ina Praetorius revisits the feminist theme of ‘care work,’, re-casting it onto a much larger philosophical canvas. The Care-Centered Economy: Rediscovering what has been taken for granted suggests how the idea of “care” could be used to imagine new structural terms for the entire economy.

Eugenio Barba on The Dance of the Big and the Small

What do I see when I think of history? I see the dance of the Big and the Small. Its grotesque and gentle rhythm, ultimately always cruel, hinders the uniform flow of time and instead scratches it, facets it, filling our lives with essence and substance, perfumes and passions. There are moments during this dance when we have swept along, and others when we ourselves influence the course of time. Then it seems that our own hands guide our destiny. Many people think that this possibility of shaping one’s own destiny is pure illusion. In reality, we illude ourselves that we are being alluded. There exists a Big History which drags us along, submerging us, and in which we often feel incapable of intervening. We can neither know nor understand in which direction it is moving, while it is moving and us with it. Only when we observe it in retrospect, when time has passed, do its twists and turns appear clear to us. The Big History concedes us no freedom at all. It moves on inexorably and goes we know not where nor why. We often tell each other stories of Hope or Despair. All equally meaningless, even though they may at times kindle a feeble flame in the surrounding darkness. Nevertheless in the Big History it is possible to outline small islands, tiny gardens where our hand may make its mark and where we can live out our Small History. This Small History, intertwined with refusals and “superstitions”, is that of our life, our home, our family, of the misunderstandings, the encounters and the coincidences that have guided us towards the craft and the environment to which we have decided to belong. Clearly, the Big History and the Small History are not independent. But the Small Histories are not merely portions of the Big one. Children who build a small dam on the margins of the current of a great river, who make a tiny pool in which to bathe and splash around, do not play in the rushing current, yet neither are they separated from the water flowing in the centre of the river. They create, along its banks, small inlets and unexpected habitats, thus passing on to the future the marks of their difference.

Ann Whiston Spirn on Bacterial Urbanism

“Cities, and the people who live in them, are part of the natural world. Cities are habitats. Cities are ecosystems. And urban ecosystems are dynamic and interconnected. Ecological urbanism weds the theory and practice of city design and planning with the insights of ecology – the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment and the processes that shape both. It’s an approach that necessarily interacts with other environmental disciplines, such as climatology, hydrology, geography, psychology, history, and art” http://annewhistonspirn.com/pdf/spirn_ecological_urbanism-2011.pdf

New York’s Urban Barcode Project

Mapping biotic communities has long been important in identifying sites needing environmental protection; the approach can now extend to all aspects of life in the city – from parks, to food. There is growing evidence, for example, that the gut microbiota is associated with metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, schizophrenia, autism, anxiety and other depressive disorders. In New York, high school students use DNA technology to sample biodiversity in a park, garden, office, or school, check for invasive plant or animal species, Identify exotic or endangered food products in markets; and detect food mislabeling. https:// www.dnabarcoding101.org/programs/ubp/

Gloria E. Anzaldúa on weaving

“Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks…- all of us humans need to be nepantleras – bridge builders and reweavers of relationality…Weaving can also serve as an organising metaphor for life-centered design”. (Borderlands/La Frontera 1987). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/550a1c94e4b0545b6579edde/t/ 5ad37252562fa71762289962/1523806813791/gloria-anzaldua-borderlands-la-frontera_-the-new- mestiza-aunt-lute-books-1987.pdf

Alvaro Morales on Planes de Vida (Life Plans)

The territory is the vital space…The concept of territory is a shorthand for the system of relations whose continuous reenactment recreates the community in question … a space for the life projects of the communities”. The concept of a `plan of life’ was first perceived by the Guambiano, an Indigenous group living in the Cauca region of Colombia. The plan is designed to serve the future needs of the community as it pursues a path towards what is yet to come, but the standards by which the success of this project is measured are the values of the Guambiano elders. As Guambiano representative Alvaro Morales says, “The future is behind us.” https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/plan-de-vida-indigenous- initiative-cultural-survival

Arturo Escobar on Buen Vivir (interview)

This is the moment to change our development model, from a growth-oriented and extraction of natural resources oriented model to something that is more holistic…a collective well-being of both humans and non-humans…a view of design in tune with the radical interdependence of all life. Iin designing tools, objects, and institutions, we are designing ways of being. h

Les Colibris on the Oasis Project and its ecosystem of tools and people

As part of the Oasis project, Colibris rethinks the notion of community as a source of wealth – new places of life as a model of more ecological society. An oasis can be found in rural or urban areas and take different forms: shared ecohabitat, eco-district, eco-hameau, commune in transition, third-place turned towards ecology. More than 500 such places already participate in the Oasis network. We have given ourselves five years to facilitate the creation of at least 100 new oases by creating an ecosystem of tools and people at the service of project leaders.

AirBNB on their Italian Villages project

In the Year of Villages, Airbnb has launched a national project, Italian Villages, to promote and support over 40 small villages and their communities.

Robert Woodford on the Deep Time Walk app

The Deep Time Walk app helps people walk a story of Earth’s evolutionary journey – a new story that can reorientate us to where we come from – our origins, our purpose. A story that combines the latest scientific insights with the deep reverence inherent in our perennial traditions that bind us to life and the cosmos. The Deep Time Walk is experienced as a 4.6km walk, inspiring wonder and reverence for Earth, and galvanising positive action needed in our times.

John Zerzan on civilization (and why he is against it)

Sixty seven thought-provoking looks into the dehumanizing core of modern civilization – and the ideas that have given rise to the anarcho-primitivist movement. The editor is John Zerzan, author of Running on Emptiness and Future Primitive.

James W Drescher on Enrichment Forestry at Windhorse Farm

Windhorse Farm is right in the heart of the Acadian Forest, one of six endangered forests of North America. Although the entire region has been severely abused over the past few hundred years there remain a few remnants of mature, fully functioning Acadian Forest. Windhorse Farm is one such place. Settled in 1840 by the Wentzell family, the woodlot has been harvested each year for the last 170 years yet has the same volume of standing timber today as it had when the first axe bit wood in 1840. It is, in fact, the longest standing example of forest sustainability in Canada. The experiment is less than 200 years old, just a blink of the eye in the life of a forest, even for the relatively young (less than 15,000 years) Acadian Forest.