Musings on pandemics, food sovereignty and everyday life

What are the real costs of our current food system? How do we find food sovereignty?

By Samantha Hawker

It started in Wuhan….

Or did it?

It started with the pangolin, or the bat…

Or did it?

Or is this virus a symptom of a much larger problem? A problem that we have created over many generations, where our Earth systems are being pushed to the edge. Squeezing the life out of natural systems, wanting more for less, disconnecting ourselves from the true costs of anything and creating the conditions for the virus to morph and spread as it has.

The global industrial food machine that fills supermarket shelves brings us food without life.

This food is made in factories, the vegetables are sprayed with toxins and the animals are crammed into sheds and given antibiotics to keep them alive in such conditions. Whether it be animal or vegetable — it has been fed and altered to require the least time and inputs for the biggest outputs. Our disconnection has allowed this hideousness to grow, while our feeling of connection and belonging evaporates.

Can we account for the true cost of such a system? Poisoning the waterways, tilling the soil, erosion, shrinking wild spaces, dependence on fossil fuels, ignoring traditional methods and indigenous wisdom and so much more…?

Is there another way?

Is there a way to live which values life… and death and the cycles that continue to bring new life. Is there a way where there is no waste; where we learn from what has happened before; where ecosystems thrive and so do we. Is there a way to live on this Earth as part of it? A way where you truly get out what you put in; where you are valued for you, not because of your birth status, your bank balance, skin colour, gender, species etc.

For those of us in a position to use some of this time for thinking and growing, we must. We must reimagine how we do things on a day to day basis. Reimagining how we meet our basic needs and our community needs and making sure that corporations and governments listen.

This pandemic has made the class divide abundantly clear — when stores are sold out of basic food items like pasta and rice what happens to those of us who live week to week. With many folks losing their jobs, how do you then afford rent, or repayments. What if you don’t have a fixed address? How do you isolate at home if there is no such place? Or if that place is not safe?

There are so many flaws in our current system that it can be hard to see where to put our energies. For me, I found that the only way I can continue to wake up most days feeling any hope is to put much of my energy into the things that make me tick. Finding the places that are shifting the system and invigorating me at the same time.

For me, that’s food! Growing, foraging, gleaning, cooking, preserving, sharing… taking responsibility for some of my basic needs, getting out of the extractive capitalist system and enjoying it. I love spending time in the garden and sitting on the Earth — it invigorates me, it gives me time to listen and observe. I love spending time in the kitchen, making something delicious from the garden and farm seconds and sharing this! The sharing is such an important part of it for me. It helps me feel connected to my community, and helps me feel my community is connected to their food.

Ultimately, I think disconnection is at the heart of it — which means connection can bring solutions. So I try to keep questioning my thoughts and actions, I try to keep learning. I try to keep reconnecting. Reconnecting with self, place, food and community. Reconnecting to what it takes to survive and thrive, and striving to return to the deep reciprocal relationship with the land that we once knew.

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