4.2 The need for structural change

Systemic changes in where we live, how we live on the land, and our patterns of settlement will need to change radically. We will need to work towards the principle of ensuring that where possible our staple foods are produced close to where they are consumed in order to reduce food transport and support food security.

Many land reformers promote the idea of re-ruralisation; in other words, re-populating the countryside with low impact, localised agricultural communities. At present our planning system does not support this kind of development, though the government has many strategies around what it calls ‘sustainable communities’.

There will need to be more small farms, more mixed farming and family farms alongside producer cooperatives, larger farms and some imports. Where food is imported it must be only if it cannot be produced internally, and it must be traded fairly to avoid the so-called ‘food swaps’ where governments seek to raise taxes by importing similar amounts of foods to those they are exporting.

There will need to be a massive recruitment drive and re-skilling for low carbon farming. Many more people will need to be involved in food production, replacing the fossil fuel driven machinery that has replaced human energy. This is not to advocate a return to solely human labour. On-farm production of renewable energy will be vitally important. Farms will need to produce energy as well as food – not instead of.

Much of this must come about alongside a change in diet and tastes towards more plant-based foods that are less processed. We will have to eat less meat, and the meat we eat will need to be reared outdoors on extensive pasture systems. We will also have to drastically reduce the fossil fuel intensive production of cereals in the UK.

Farming methods will need to adapt and organic farming will need to be the minimum. Permaculture and agroforestry will have to play a much greater role in achieving multiple functions from land. So, as well as producing food, land must produce fuel, wildlife habitats and sustainable livelihoods.

The following resources present a positive vision for feeding the world, well within ecological limits:

  • Podcast by Patrick Holden, Soil Association Director

  • Article by Colin Tudge: Can Organic Farming Feed the World?

  • Video: A Forest Garden Year, Agroforestry Research Trust UK

  • Video: Permaculture Forest Garden at Schumacher College

  • Video: Farm for the Future, BBC2, 2009

  • Report by Practical Action: Biodiverse Agriculture for a Changing Climate

  • Book: Soil not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Insecurity by Vandana Shiva

  • Book: So Shall We Reap: What's Gone Wrong with the World's Food and How to Fix It by Colin Tudge

Activity 2

Record a few sentences about your response to these visions of a new ecological agriculture.

4 How can we adapt our food systems to mitigate these effects?

5 How do we adapt in our cities?