Social justice for sustainability of the commons


Has  food got a role for sustainability and the commons?.

Within the global system, Food can be equated as sources of sustenance because without food human can stave to death Food can therefore be seen as cause for celebration, inducement to temptation, vehicle for power, indicator for well-being, catalyst for change and above all, enhance a better quality of life goods to sustainability of the commons. This picture can be extended to other life goods such as potable water, clean air, adequate shelter and protective clothing; food is something we cannot live without, therefore a common. The global corporate food system, however allow 800 million to go hungry, while an even larger number of people grow obese. How is this justified? based in money – values, this food system promotes accumulation first and foremost, enriching a few while creating economic, social and environmental externalities that are destroying local economies, devastating individuals, families and communities and degrading the planet. What would a food system look like that is base on life- values, centre on commons and anchored by social justice?

From contemporary perspective, I think that food is no longer viewed first and foremost as a sustainer of life. Rather, it has become a ‘political hot potato’ particularly to those who seek to command our food supply, it has become instead  a major source of corporate  cash flow, economic leverage, a form of currency, a tool of international politics, an instrument of power and as a weapon of manoeuvre! (Krebs cited in Millstone & Lang, 2003, p.11)

However, I am of the view that food represents many things to many people; it has always been a life good or a means of life- that which sustains life. From this perspective, food remains at the centre of human endeavour for millennia although over the last 70 years food has undergone enormous changes:

Consciously or not, it has been observed that food has moved from a means of life to a blunt instrument of corporate control,  and it seems to me to have lost any association it may have had with any social justice, leaving in its wake hunger and obesity in equal measure around the world. Both forms of malnutrition, in combination with a wide range of problems associated with industrial agriculture and an export-based economy, are inevitable outcomes of a corporate food system that avoids life values and pursues money values at the cost of environmental, social, and economic sustainability (Sumner 2011 there is also a tragedy of the commons when human are neglected by our own making


2 Responses to “Social justice for sustainability of the commons”

  1. victoriaevbuomwan Says:

    well thought through, how long have you been blogging Richie. I really admire your work. awesome

  2. victoriaevbuomwan Says:

    Promoting social justice and environmental sustainability calls for collective action through the state, locally and nationally, and through transnational institutions. Neither goal, separately or together, can be served by market mechanisms or social action alone. We need to pool resources, recognise shared interests, and act together so that everyone has an equal chance in life, not just those with the deepest pockets and sharpest elbows.

    Both require long-term planning. In the words of the Brundtland Report, the aim is to meet ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ That means taking steps to prevent poverty and disadvantage from accumulating over time, as well as safeguarding natural resources for the future. 

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