DIY Ecology: Food

Like clothing, food soon becomes a necessity that gets evenly distributed as best as possible in DE society, without regard to monetary access. As with housing, people look for ways to sustain themselves and their communities by ditching superfluous consumption. The first food situation I will address is Food Not Lawns. Again, all of these things are established practices today – they just aren’t widespread.

Edible Gardens
Food Not Lawns, or Edible Estates, is the practice of growing food in lawn-space. In DEsociety, this becomes a normal phenomenon. This means several things. Large farms would have to shrink their size or close down. Whole neighborhoods would become local farms, with the exception of large farm animals. Gardens need to be tended to more than lawns. That means pest control*, composting, and weed control become daily or weekly activities. No matter the amount of households doing this in any neighborhood, community building is fostered as people get together to keep the gardens in check and to trade food, small animals, or seed. It would be in the edible estates person’s best interest to abandon the modern day neighborhood culture which subsists through alienation and confinement. Food not Lawns isn’t a social regression back to outmoded times, because this practice would not be restricted to rural towns. Urban areas if anything, would be at the forefront of such practice.

Edible Weeds
In order to curtail overconsumption or over-planting of certain foods, as well as to keep certain plants from taking over the landscape, people make use of edible weeds and flowers. These plants include, Dandelion, Japanese Knotweed, and Lamb’s Quarters. This is also a segway to wild foraging.

*There are organic insecticides such as insecticidal soap or horticultural oils. And there are natural pests like birds, bees, praying mantis, and ladybugs (you can even get mantis cocoons and hang them in the garden, being careful not to overdo their population).

Food Not Bombs
Food Not Bombs is a worldwide organization that started in Massachusetts. It aims to cook and give away “free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry” as a way of non-violently acting against war, because war causes displacement and destruction of crops and resources vital to people’s survival. Similar acts of cooking and giving away food serve as a domestic protest against the treatment of homeless people, and calls into question the effects of capitalism on the access to necessities.
If all the DIY Ecology that has been mentioned up until now is assumed to be in effect or largely on its way, Food Not Bombs can serve several purposes. In DE society, Food Not Bombs will not only be a political initiative to feed the less fortunate. With the erosion of things that contribute to homelessness, FNB can at times be a neighborhood potluck or cookoff in which anyone is welcome to partake in eating and being with others. In combination with edible gardens and other things I mentioned, other things should follow.

  1. A detraction from the fast food industry. In a society in which people are taking ownership of what gets to their plates by growing and preparing most of their own meals, fast food industries will become less in power and number.
  2. A return to organic food at a cheaper price than the current organic food industry. People will come to rely less on supermarkets, and also will have healthful organic food at their own disposal, the front/back yard. People can still visit health food stores like Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. DE society might even have these as its average “supermarket,” but people will not need to rely on them to be healthy. Nor will poorer people be barred from eating healthy because they cannot afford shopping in such markets.
  3. A move toward self-reliance and community engagement. DEsociety practices, varied and creative, will allow poor and rich alike access to food, clothing, and shelter. That is the main point I aim to convey in this series. You can leave some innovations to a “market,” but food, clothing, and shelter should be free for everyone. It is easier to get to that point if we live in a society that allows the communities themselves to be their own “welfare provider” in ways like I have described so far. DE is also sufficient if we live in a society that aims to distribute this free welfare as evenly as possible. That means having a distribution focus that is localized and decentralized.**

Dumpster Diving
I learned about this through contact with people from Claremont Food Not Bombs. Dumpster Diving is not a good term. It conjures up images of homeless or dirty people wading through putrid trash bins for leftover scraps. That’s what I thought it was at first. It is better described a retrieval of perishable food and other goods, but obviously that is not everyday English. Dumpster diving is when one or more people get together to search through dumpsters for food that is still fit to eat. How can that be?
If food has reached or in a few days of approaching its “sell by” or “best used” date, markets are required to throw it out in order to abide by certain codes and laws. In my experience with purchased food, I have been able to eat bread, cereal, and eggs at least a few days past date. I once refrigerated a quarter loaf of bread I noticed was 2 days after date, and used it over a period of 5-6 days. If people throw away unblemished fruits and vegetables, and even meat, those can be taken. Besides markets, you can salvage food from the end of the day from places like donut shops and restaurants. I have only eaten few (but really delicious) meals from food that was retrieved from dumpsters, so you can find more information here. I have had donuts, chili, barbeque baked beans, and salad!
Food isn’t the only thing that can be retrieved. You can check out places like college campuses for items thrown away at the end of the school year (clothing and furniture). In DEsociety, dumpster diving is not an obscure practice, and all businesses do what they can to make sure that their refuse goes to good use and reuse.

Community Gardens
This is the same as Food Not Lawns, but with the intention that the food can be grown and taken by people who have no space of their own to grow food (homeless people and people in apartment complexes). I remember mentioning in the overview that people will get smart and use the cityscape for food use. Thinking more on it, I think it is a bad idea to use nearly all parts of the community to grow food. That will take too much time, and can lead to overuse of the community’s soil. Rather, having a few city or town gardens should suffice. The rest of the space should be grass or native plants.

**I doubt that laws should be distributed in the same way. But when it comes to those three necessities it is best for consensus, participatory democracy, or “really really free market” systems to do the distributing. Food Not Bombs, Food Not Lawns, Free Stores, Squats, and Giveaway Centers allow everyone in the community access to the three necessities without the government or an impersonal market system getting in the way to determine who gets access.

Tending to the land becomes a serious consideration in DE. There are several ways to go about this that don’t involve chemical fertilizer.

  1. The best is composting. This is when food scraps, tea bags, napkins and the like and put into the soil to decompose over time. At the end of a composting period you get rich soil to put on the land.
  2. Composting toilets allow a person to turn their waste into soil. NO, it does not mean crapping in a ditch. There are actually compost toilet systems. I heard on KPCC news the other day that these toilets are being used in Haiti as a sanitary toilet system, because some places do not have a sewage system.
  3. Urine can be used as fertilizer. The linked article reporting these findings says that it is sterile, unlike fecal matter, making it safe to use. True, but we use poo as fertilizer anyhow, so I really don’t understand why the article put that bit in here – perhaps to ease readers’ reactions. Anyway it’s not like you would poop directly on the plants! Urine also has things like nitrogen, and other things that help plant growth.

So another key component of DEsociety is “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but it doesn’t stop at bottles, cans, and paper.

Posted on August 4, 2011, in Ecology, Grassroots & Open Source and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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