A first blog post is necessarily introductory, of both subject and self.
My subject springs from much reading and engagement in the areas of: gardening; agriculture; environmental issues; nutrition; plant-based diets; and social justice. This combination of interests and experiences gives me critical insights into both the problems that cause hunger and malnutrition on our planet, and also into areas of slack in the system from which real solutions could be developed.
The problem is that malnutrition exists (despite current agricultural production of enough calories to feed everyone) while the human population is still growing. Economic factors are surely part of this problem, and improving economic equity and empowering (or re-empowering) the poor to grow and be able to buy good food is pretty well understood to be needed. But there is also concern that even if this were achieved, it would be inadequate to feed us all as human numbers grow even larger and as more less-poor people desire a richer diet.
For there are limits to what plants can produce. All the good agricultural land is now in use. Overuse of marginal land is causing desertification that exacerbates the problem. Use of water for irrigation and livestock is already at such unsustainable levels that aquifers and surface water are being drawn down worldwide (from the US high plains and California to India and the Aral Sea) to a degree that further compromises our ability to grow food into the future. Climate chaos throws an additional sabot into the works. Further, one of the biggest causes of both food shortage and greenhouse gasses is raising livestock, yet as people climb out of poverty the demand for animal food rises beyond any kind of sustainability.
Is big problem.
But there are also solutions, and they lie in correcting current misuse and underuse of what we have. Waste is a huge area to address. Devoting over 90% of US corn acreage to biofuels, animal feed, and high fructose corn syrup is another. Suburban lawns and urban rooftops and vacant lots represent space where enormous amounts of food could be grown. And people can eat amazingly well using very little animal food (or even none!). So even as we work towards zero population growth and economic equity, there are things we can do to greatly increase the amount of available food. And while we can’t end hunger solely by resolving any one of these factors, working on all of them together could do the trick.
I plan in this blog to report on efforts and initiatives already known of or being tried to address each of these areas of slack in the system. I will discuss what people can do individually and what will require concerted citizen action to make changes at the policy level. I hope to cross-pollinate ideas so that people interested in one aspect of the problem of world hunger, or working on one of the solutions, can be enabled to learn and act more widely, and in better coordination with others. It’s because of this cross-pollination of ideas that I call myself “the gentle bee.”
As far as who I am, my first tiny garden was planted in the mid-1970s when I was in my twenties. I’ve lived in urban “bedroom communities” and have gardened in back yards, front yards, and community gardens. I’ve been a Community Supported Agriculture subscriber and farmers’ market patron. I learned about human nutrition during my pregnancy and then taught it for 27 years as a Bradley Method childbirth educator. My daughter was already interested in vegetarianism when I met my vegan husband; he and I got a vegetarian group started (Milwaukee Area Resources for Vegetarianism) and I’ve written its monthly newsletter since 1994. I wrote a food/nutrition/cookbook, Food Pyramid Feast, published in 2000. I myself drifted slowly into eating a plant-based diet, and have been ov0-lacto-vegetarian for about 15 years. My interest in and knowledge about food and growing it is thus long and varied — and ongoing.
Finally, a plea for indulgence: my first exposure to computers in 1975 pretty thoroughly defined the term “user UNfriendly” and traumatized me for life. So this is my very first venture into the blogosphere, and I have a lot to learn. I can only hope that my content will be interesting and useful enough for readers to stick with me while I figure out how to do this.
Thanking you in advance for your patience, and hoping to reward it, I am
Louise “Gentle Bee” Quigley