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Christopher McKinley

Food Chains

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Also, I watched the documentary “Food Chains” a few months ago, and just went back and watched it again. Pretty amazing, and pretty appropriate given our current module. If you have Netflix streaming, it’s on there, and I highly recommend it!

And although I haven’t seen “Food Inc.” in a few years, I think it is another mandatory watch…

Sustainable urban food system

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I think there are several things wrong with our current food system, from the FDA, labeling, lobbyists, Farm Bill, Monsanto, etc. However, I believe the greatest challenge to creating a sustainable urban food economy is the ability of humans to reestablish or recreate our relationship with land (and ocean, to a certain degree), particularly as society becomes more urbanized. I think in today’s society, too much emphasis is put on what is the quickest and cheapest solution (and not just necessarily when it comes to food). Ultimately, this is the process of everyone to be involved in his or her food system, and create his or her food story, if you will. The food we produce and consume should be healthy, accessible, and affordable. It should be a benefit to the environment and ecosystem, produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.

 

This eventually becomes agroecology and food sovereignty. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council is developing a food action plan that creates healthy, affordable, sustainable, and fair food, ensuring the community’s food production, access to and affordability of food, land and natural resource stewardship, job development, and public health and equity in the local and regional food system. This establishes a democratic food system that includes everybody from the farmer to the grocer to the server to the consumer.

 

One important piece in our readings that resonated with me was the bit about “the dumping of food at prices below the cost of production in the global economy, and the domination of our food and food producing systems by corporations that place profits before people, health and the environment.” America floods the international market with corn (among other things). It costs less to grow corn in Iowa and ship it to Africa than it does to produce and sell corn in Africa. That’s pretty astounding. Accordingly, food should not be grown exclusively for commodity; and food should not be an industrial/artificial process.

 

 

5,000 Mile Salad was a superb graphic. Consequently, I believe the first step in creating and establishing a sustainable urban food economy is educating society and giving consumers knowledge about food system/processes. The environmental implications of putting a hamburger patty (or let’s just say red meat consumption) on your plate are immense (deforestation to create farmland and land to graze, fertilizer and water to grow grains to feed cow, transport of grains to feed lot, water for cow, methane, soil quality, transport of slaughtered, water for sanitation and processing, packaging, transport to consumer, etc.). The “foodshed” of meals have grown exponentially; it is estimated that the average meal in America travels 1,500 miles from farm to fork. Additionally, consumers in the U.S. still manage to put 40% of our food on rubbage trucks and send them to the landfills (where they rot and spoil and release methane, all while people domestically and internationally die of starvation or are malnourished). This abhorrent misuse of food sounds eerily similar to the issues of water and energy that we are confronting.

 

 

I think education is key because, similar to many other facets of life, there is extensive inequality built in to our food system. I think education will bring attention to and alleviate the food deserts that are present in low-income neighborhoods, where fast food restaurants and convenience stores, not grocery stores or markets, are the main source of food. These are typically only good for high calorie, high fat, high sugar, low-nutrition menu items.

 

I think education will introduce people to the environmental hazards and carbon chain that that is directly linked to the industrial food system, such as the pollution and carbon associated with food production, including, but not limited to, farm machines, fertilizers and pesticides, erosion, deforestation, transport, packaging, etc.

 

Education will dispel the notion that organic is a niche market and large-scale, industrial farming is the only solution to feeding the growing population. Small, organic farms produce more and are healthier (soil, ecosystem, etc.). People should understand that our current system has been developed to accommodate revenues and commodities.

 

I think on telling stat is that one time, around the turn of the 20th Century, Los Angeles County was the largest agriculture producing county in the country. Now, only 1% of food consumed in Los Angeles is produced/sourced locally, even when a majority of nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown in our backyard. Urban farming is a great start and agrotowers may ultimately be a part of the solution, but education is the most important aspect needed to create a foundation of food sovereignty and to recreate our food system.

Housing as a human right

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Equitable and just housing contributes to urban sustainability because housing is a basic human right. Establishing basic human rights creates the fundamental framework and dynamic balance of the environmental, financial, and social factors (the sustainability triangle) that contribute to a healthy, functioning society. There are various arguments about what is a basic human right, and I think the necessary elements are those that allow and provide an individual to maintain a healthy, productive life. The foundation of these basic human rights, in my mind, consists of a healthy environment (clean air, clean water), food, education, healthcare, and housing, etc. (and note that this is an abbreviated list; there are certainly more). Those, in my mind, constitute a portion of the essential, basic human rights.

 

Quick side note- it is quite curious that homes sit empty when there are homeless/houseless people scattered throughout our cities and country. It is also quite curious that in a nation with an obesity epidemic, 40% of our food ends up as waste, all while others, including the aforementioned homeless/houseless, as well as low-income and poverty-stricken families and kids, suffer from malnutrition and starvation. Which also reminds me- why don’t we take the billions upon billions of dollars of unchecked donations made to political campaigns and actually contribute to fixing the issues that politics and politicians are unwilling or unable to fix? What would that look like? I digress.

 

Housing creates the neighborhoods and communities that supply our cultural commodity and social fabric. People should have a place, and/or be able to have a place, where they can go at the end of each day to eat, to rest, store their possessions, and that is secure. I think this also gets back to the idea of democracy and the right to the city; establishing just housing conditions creates a more equitable and sound community. Further, housing is about more than just the four walls and the roof; it’s also about the power and esteem and status of owning or maintaining your plot of land and the structure (or structures) that sit on it. Housing is as much a mental construction as it is a physical construction. Giving the ownership, or control, of land and housing to the individual returns the power back to the people. These are the qualities that must be put into place to create a fair, just, and equitable society. A society that provides for many rather than a few, regardless of race or ethnicity or class.

 

The “Rise of a Renter Nation” piece really reflects the ideals of just, affordable housing. I think that the five main components, and the subcomponents therein, comprise a model that can be implemented and constitute all of these initiatives, whether it is multi-family housing or single-family dwellings. Not to say that it can’t be done; it’s the common, corporate agenda that prevents just, equitable housing. As they say, ‘if there is a political will, there is a way.’ If the Department of Defense can have a $550B budget, and if we can give large financial institutions $780B bailouts, then we can afford large-scale affordable housing (I believe the text referenced $20B-$80B).

 

Putting another spin on it, and focusing on the financial aspect of sustainability, the finance involved with housing, whether it be owning a home or renting a home, is the typically the largest piece of capital outlay that individuals and families experience. Enabling individuals and families a more secure and just path to home-ownership/land-ownership, reinforces the financial base of the sustainability triangle. This in turn leads to a more healthy financial structure, and at the community level, leads to a better tax base, which then leads to better infrastructure (including education, as well as roads, transportation, utilities, etc.).

 

Watching the “A Matter of Place” video, it was both interesting and appalling to listen to other people’s experiences and compare them with my own. Although I was too young to recall, I know my mom was pretty limited in her ability to find housing for her and I. Both from an economic standpoint, and from the stigma associated with a single woman raising a child. Also another reason we lived with my maternal grandparents quite a bit. Again, something I think I’ve been aware of and known that it exists in some form, but I thought it was relatively remote. It is clear that it is very present, and massively unfortunate. It makes me want to be a “tester” (so if anyone knows how, let me know where to sign up). This also reminds me of a story Ka’prise told me about either something he saw, or something he and a friend did. A black guy (in his 20s) went and sat next to an older white lady (40s or 50s) at a bus stop. After fiddling around in his pockets and wallet, he asked the lady for a dollar to make fare. She said she didn’t have any money. He leaves. About five minutes later, a similarly aged white guy goes and sits next to the same lady. After checking his pockets and wallet, he asks if the lady can help him make his fare. She asks how much he needs. He then explains the entire situation to the lady and comments that she sickens him. A bit of an aside, but quite astonishing and gross.

A couple of random tangents that consistent with our current module

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http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/housing_first

This was implemented in Utah with success. A Republican state of all places. They realized that it was more cost-effective for tax money to cover housing, healthcare, job placement, etc. I guess the unfortunate side of that is that money was the main catalyst, and not necessarily the welfare of people, but it was an effort that was implemented nonetheless.

 

http://www.ibtimes.com/google-lawyer-eviction-delayed-protesters-gather-mission-district-support-renter-1960706

This is just an article that is very present regarding a few things Gopal discussed last semester, and Gilda has mentioned (specifically, her mention of the Ellis Act at the Gentrification Panel earlier this week). It also reminds me of the video that Caroline sent out last semester.

 

Also, regarding Gilda’s comment from the panel, it would be interesting to see a model laid out by the City/County requiring developers to develop 4 units of affordable/low-income housing for every 1 unit of market-priced housing they develop. All I ever see or read about is high end apartments and condos.

 

This was just a quick sidenote… Back to the current post!

McKinley_SUE_Post #1

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The residency further informed my understanding of social struggle and justice and equity, and the SUE course has introduced me to neoliberalism—more so the term, as my mom just called it “Reagannomics,” or “Republicannomics” (and I listened to/believed every word she said). Further, it’s discouraging to hear about the removal and/or lack of power within organized labor unions (another group/entity, along with several racial groups, that built this country while others pocketed the property/financial capital/etc.); the loss of and attack on civil liberties and social programs; and the extent of extraction and concentration of wealth that has led to preposterous and perverse income and wealth inequality. This political ideology and process has led to our Autocratic/Plutocratic political envoys that allow the Koch Brothers to contribute $900 million dollars to campaigns that serve the needs of two wealthy white men, rather than the 330 million people that don’t represent the 1%. It is easy to give people opportunities and voice and power and democracy; it is an abhorrent choice to refuse anybody of those rights.

 

I certainly didn’t grow up wealthy, and while I’m in a better financial situation than when my mother introduced me to the world, I am employed and was able to attend a university and have an established credit rating and that all of this is likely associated with my skin color and cultural proclivities and associations and pretense. Given my racial and genetic composition, I started life on first base in the big leagues, not on the bench in the minors; making it to home plate in the World Series was inherently easier for me (apologies if that sports analogy went missing). In the current economy, I am a consumer that operates within the system. As much as I try to defy the system (buy organic, support locally-owned/produced, etc.), deregulated, globalized capitalism is the engine through which all the smaller machines operate (there is probably a Matrix reference or analogy buried in there somewhere). Further, by virtue of living in this country, technically, I am paying for the various war efforts and/or activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as our military bases around the globe; when I purchase Apple or Nike products, I am supporting non-livable, non-sustainable wage employment in Asian sweatshops.

 

Within society and its sustainable urban economy, I am most interested in education. I agree with and assert that Gilda’s Mapping (In)justice piece put it far more eloquently than I will or probably can, but I think that education is one of the truest, purest embodiments of (social) democracy. It establishes a transfer of information and knowledge and skills, all within a community and environment that creates and fosters critical thinking and dialogue. This is the ideal, at least. I have long been a believer that everything begins with education. Everyone has the right to (a good) education.

 

It’s difficult for me to pin down a preferred strategy. I surmise that negotiating resonates with me most, probably because in the back of my mind it seems to be the more civil, less potentially-hostile or overtly-confrontation approach. In my head, negotiations represent a couple of people “hashing it out over drinks” (probably not the most accurate)! Consequently, I would also tend to think that creating alternative institutions and/or building grassroots power generates a more comprehensive effort and broader base and relationships.

 

In terms of what type of intervention most resonates with me, I would likely begin with a policy analysis paper. I believe a policy analysis paper would be a tremendous place to start to familiarize and immerse myself with a topic/subject, then research and generate a significant amount of information and knowledge, and ultimately present the findings to policy-makers and decision-makers, but also to local campaigns and movements.