Growing communities

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Different types of food-based community initiatives

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Detailed analysis of patterns of energy consumption in the Spanish agri-food system show both the need and prospects for sustainable degrowth in this sector. Industrialisation of production methods since the 1950s, combined with changes in how food travels from farm to plate (increased levels of transportation, processing, packaging, storage for unseasonal consumption and use of energy=intensive domestic methods for storing and preparing food), have dramatically reduced the energetic efficiency of food production in Spain. In the year 2000, the agri-food system in Spain consumed an estimated 1400PJ of energy, mostly from fossil fuels, in order to produce food with a total calorific value of 235PJ. In other words, the system consumed six times as much fossil fuel energy as that available in the food produced. The study concludes that a shift to sustainable agriculture would require a complete structural reorganisation of the agri-food system to one with a greater emphasis on organic, local and seasonal production and consumption.[1] This corresponds with existing prescriptions and actions around food on the part of many community-led initiatives,[2][3] such as permaculture,[4] Transition,[5] slow food, community-supported agriculture and others.

  1. Infante Amate, J., González de Molina, M., 2013. ‘Sustainable de-growth’ in agriculture and food: an agro-ecological perspective on Spain’s agri-food system (year 2000). Journal of Cleaner Production 38, 27–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.03.018
  2. Seyfang, G., 2007. Growing sustainable consumption communities: The case of local organic food networks. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 27, 120–134. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330710741066
  3. Kirwan, J., Ilbery, B., Maye, D., Carey, J., 2013. Grassroots social innovations and food localisation: An investigation of the Local Food programme in England. Global Environmental Change 23, 830–837. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.12.004
  4. Mollison, B. and D. Holmgren, 1978. Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications.
  5. Pinkerton, T. and R. Hopkins, 2009. Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community. Totnes: Green Books.