I’ve always thought of Canada as a world leader. Our innovation sets us apart from many other nations, especially when you consider our low population. Historically, zippers and national health care and in more modern times the Canada Arm on the space shuttle. In terms of humanitarian effort we do pretty well; our legacy of peacekeeping for instance, and foreign aid to countries in need. I’m sure we are a leader in education in some respect and in helping to feed a hungry planet; but the challenge that lies ahead for our planet will require us to blend innovation on both of those fronts. For various reasons (lets not get into all of them here), crops have failed and are failing in many crop growing regions of the world, a few multinational corporations are producing and controlling larger and larger proportions of the worlds food supply and the human population of the earth is increasing. If recent food prices and forecasts for astronomical food prices aren’t putting some fear into you then you should give yourself a pinch. I don’t want to dwell on the images of a future where we have failed to act, my time and yours is better spent on taking action and getting others to take action. My answer is to grow food.
Growing food for yourself (and others) reduces some of the demand on the worlds food supply. Schools can take a lead role in this by reviving a spirit of self sufficiency in their school community and setting up a program to grow food. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just some; enough to “feel” significant for the students. Enough for students to feel like they can make the world a better, healthier place. Enough to spark students’ imaginations, to plant the seeds of innovation that they, and we, may need to realize a healthy and secure supply of food for our planet’s population.
Administrators and teachers are always looking for ways to make students recognize the consequences of their actions and to take responsibility for them…well…growing food is a great place to start! I don’t want to sound too much like a teacher, but think of the cross curricular learning potential! Science…too much to cover here; Social Studies…study a country or culture and try growing a representative food; Art…sketch it, paint it; Language Arts…journal it, record it, read about it, talk about it! The possibilities are almost endless. And then there is the impact of…Growing a living thing. Just saying it or reading those words carries weight…do it and you are forever changed. You become nurturer, parent, aware. Your plant responds to you and the world around you. You make an investment in, and become connected to life; your labour; your plant, your food. Suddenly you are connected to the plants and foods of the planet. If you are an educator, then you know I am right about this. There are published examples of the impact of gardens and plants grown by kids and adults in schools and communities and time after time it brings about poitive change to those people and their communities (Good link here is Evergreen Foundation).
The only question here is “why”. Why are we not doing something now? It would have been better to do it 30 years ago, but now is what we’ve got. And I would suggest that tomorow…no…today, we need to start growing with our children to enculture a future with citizens capable of not just surviving, but thriving. A future where Canadian innovation in *self sufficiency in food production is a model for the world, and a future where global food shortages is not going to threaten them or their children.
*self sufficiency…just a note: genuine self sufficiency is a sustainable activity. If my “self sufficiency” depletes or poisons the earths resources over time then its only a facade. I could grow enough to feed my village if I intensified my use of pesticises and fertillizers, but now I’m increasingly dependent on other resources not to mention the fact that I’m destroying the system that allows things to live in the first place. The same holds true for Genetically Altered Crops, except for them we are placing a high wager on the success of a vary narrow gene pool…a pool of one set of genes in fact!
Below are the titles of some literature that would make excellent reading for those interested in learning more about this topic. But don’t read them before you start growing…JUST DO IT! I’ll put some links in later so come back!
The Hundred Mile Diet
Monocultures of the Mind
Diet for a New America
Tragedy of the Commons Garret Hardin (an essay)