Back to the Land 2.0 Reader (2019)

This reader is prepared for the annual Back To The Land 2.0 summer school in Sweden that I run together with Konstfack (Cheryl Akner-Koler) and Annika Göran-Rodell

Street Food
A wonderful series of short (30′) films on Netflix.

Social Food Atlas
As a legacy of #Matera2019 in Italy, a meeting of 15 social food curators met in Matera for the launch of a Social Food Forum and Social Food Atlas. Social Food Projects include municipal gardens and urban farms; community meals; social harvest festivals; farmer-to-farmer meet-ups; food waste platforms; community kitchens; community baking and brewing sites; care farms; school gardens; street food festivals; cooperative grain growing; farm hacks; regional gatherings; farm tours; and many more.A two minute video is here.
Among the key takeways: social food projects create ‘public goods’ in the form of social cohesion, public health, territorial development, food sovereignty, farmer livelihoods, learning, innovation, and biodiversity

Bioregioning: Pathways to Urban-Rural Reconnection
My 6,000 word paper in China’s new design and innovaton journbal, She Ji. Main points:
A metabolic rift runs through the economy and culture.
The reconnection of urban and rural is an enabling condition for system change.
Bioregions reconnect us with living systems, and each other, through the places where we live.
The design of social infrastructure enables the emergence of new enterprises.
Knowledge ecologies, not transmission channels, are the key to bioregional learning

Annie Proulx on Barkskins
Or, how we first got the idea that the earth’s resources are limitless. Proulx’s story begins with the arrival in “New France” – the vast tract of north America and Canada colonised by the French between the 16th and 18th centuries. Two young men set out to earn their freedom by clearing an area of forest; they are soon awestruck by the imposing, often impenetrable and seemingly limitless extent of the forest.

Simone Weil on The Need for Roots
“Rootedness in a place is the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.”

Pamela Mang on Storying of Place
“What makes a shift to true sustainability possible is the power of the connection between people and place. Place is a doorway into caring. Love of place unleashes the personal and political will needed to make profound change. It can also unite people across diverse ideological spectra because place is what we all share: it is the commons that allows people to call themselves a community. In every place, geology and nature interweave over time with human history and culture to create a place’s recognizable character and nature—its essence. Understanding these patterns helps reveal new possibilities for how to live in partnership with place, growing a future of greater abundance and creativity for all life.

Fred Provenza on “Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom”
“As humans learn to eat combinations of foods that satisfy their nutritional needs and promote health and that knowledge becomes tradition, individuals within the community no longer consider which foods they eat or why they eat them. With time, people little understand or appreciate the biological or cultural origins of their diets. Nor do they realise when those norms change, as they have in the past century, in ways that are harmful. That’s especially true when people’s knowledge becomes detached from the acts of growing and harvesting foods. By raising our level of awareness of the knowledge we’ve lost, we can redesign ‘grazing circuits’ that better enable the health of herbivores and humans and the landscapes we inhabit.

Nick Hunt in conversation with Richard Powers about ‘The Overstory’
Richard Powers, author of The Overstory (recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize) writes about tree-consciousness, cultural epiphanies,  a world going up in flames, and what lies beyond despair. “The idea, quite plainly put, is that there is no separate thing called humanity, any more than there is a separate thing called nature.…Now, when we look at a forest, we see a highly cooperative and interdependent system that you can almost think of as a superorganism”.

Jane Memmott on Ecosystem Interactions
Healthy ecosystems – including human ones – are all about connections and relationships. “All organisms are linked to at least one other species in a variety of critical ways – for example, as predators or prey, or as pollinators or seed dispersers – with the result that each species is embedded in a complex network of interactions. The sciences of the mid-20th-century, rooted in units and relations, have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes”. Memmott, Jane et al, ‘The Conservation Of Ecological Interactions’

Margaret Wheatley on Emergence
“Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.” Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Molly Scott Cato on Gaian Economics
“The heart of our problem lies not in the actions which destroy the environment, but in the economic system which causes them. The business of economics is about creating abstractions, imbuing them with power, and then using them to acquire resources. An understanding of the spiritual value of life and the ability to mediate between humans and the natural world are far more useful qualities for an economist than complex maths”

Ina Praetorius on the notion of a Care-Centered Economy
The German writer Ina Praetorius revisits the feminist theme of ‘care work’, re-casting it onto a much larger philosophical canvas. The Care-Centered Economy: Rediscovering what has been taken for granted suggests how the idea of “care” could be used to imagine new structural terms for the tire economy.

Eugenio Barba on The Dance of the Big and the Small

“What do I see when I think of history? I see the dance of the Big and the Small. There are moments during this dance when we have swept along, and others when we ourselves influence the course of time…Children who build a small dam on the margins of the current of a great river, who make a tiny pool in which to bathe and splash around, do not play in the rushing current, yet neither are they separated from the water flowing in the centre of the river. They create, along its banks, small inlets and unexpected habitats, thus passing on to the future the marks of their difference.

Ann Whiston Spirn on Bacterial Urbanism
“Cities, and the people who live in them, are part of the natural world. Cities are habitats. Cities are ecosystems. And urban ecosystems are dynamic and interconnected. Ecological urbanism weds the theory and practice of city design and planning with the insights of ecology – the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment and the processes that shape both. It’s an approach that necessarily interacts with other environmental disciplines, such as climatology, hydrology, geography, psychology, history, and art”

Gloria E. Anzaldúa on weaving
“Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks…- all of us humans need to be nepantleras – bridge builders and reweavers of relationality…Weaving can also serve as an organising metaphor for life-centered design”. (Borderlands/La Frontera 1987).

Alvaro Morales on Planes de Vida (Life Plans)
“The territory is the vital space…The concept of territory is a shorthand for the system of relations whose continuous reenactment recreates the community in question … a space for the life projects of the communities”. The concept of a `plan of life’ was first perceived by the Guambiano, an Indigenous group living in the Cauca region of Colombia. The plan is designed to serve the future needs of the community as it pursues a path towards what is yet to come, but the standards by which the success of this project is measured are the values of the Guambiano elders. As Guambiano representative Alvaro Morales says, “The future is behind us.”

Arturo Escobar on Buen Vivir (interview)
“This is the moment to change our development model – from a growth-oriented and extraction of natural resources oriented model, to something that is more holistic…a collective well-being of both humans and non-humans…a view of design in tune with the radical interdependence of all life. In designing tools, objects, and institutions, we are designing ways of being.

Les Colibris on the Oasis Project and its ecosystem of tools and people
As part of the Oasis project, Colibris rethinks the notion of community as a source of wealth – new places of life as a model of more ecological society. An oasis can be found in rural or urban areas and take different forms: shared ecohabitat, eco-district, eco-hameau, commune in transition, third-place turned towards ecology. More than 500 such places already participate in the Oasis network. We have given ourselves five years to facilitate the creation of at least 100 new oases by creating an ecosystem of tools and people at the service of project leaders.

Robert Woodford on the Deep Time Walk app
The Deep Time Walk app helps people walk a story of Earth’s evolutionary journey – a new story that can reorientate us to where we come from – our origins, our purpose. A story that combines the latest scientific insights with the deep reverence inherent in our perennial traditions that bind us to life and the cosmos. The Deep Time Walk is experienced as a 4.6km walk, inspiring wonder and reverence for Earth, and galvanising positive action needed in our times.

James W Drescher on Enrichment Forestry at Windhorse Farm
Windhorse Farm is right in the heart of the Acadian Forest, one of six endangered forests of North America. Although the entire region has been severely abused over the past few hundred years there remain a few remnants of mature, fully functioning Acadian Forest. Windhorse Farm is one such place. Settled in 1840 by the Wentzell family, the woodlot has been harvested each year for the last 170 years yet has the same volume of standing timber today as it had when the first axe bit wood in 1840. It is, in fact, the longest standing example of forest sustainability in Canada. The experiment is less than 200 years old, just a blink of the eye in the life of a forest, even for the relatively young (less than 15,000 years) Acadian Forest.

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Urban-Rural reconnection: research statement for Tongji University

In April, I began work as an adjunct (visiting) professor at Tongji University (College of Design and Innovation) in Shanghai. As part of the appointment process, I submitted the research statement below. This text accompanies the new preface for the Chinese edition of my book and my recent paper for the journal She Ji, Bioregioning: Pathways to Urban-Rural Reconnection

Research, for this candidate, means two things: the identification new opportunities; and fostering new connections between motivated and effective people to bring those opportunities to life.

Drawing on my work since 2010 organising Doors of Perception xskools in 20 countries, the following three research topics would be the focus of my contribution as Adjunct Professor:
Care. Value. Place
Urban-Rural Reconnection / Rural Social Innovation
Knowledge ecologies and scale

1 Care. Value. Place

By connecting the ‘what is?’, with the ‘what if?’, in diverse contexts, designers and artists are discovering new kinds of value among the social and ecological assets of their bioregion.

Their focus is on making connections, and supporting relationships, at a system-wide scale: in regional food hubs, High Nature Value farming, fibershed and grain chains, biorefining, forest and watershed recovery; civic ecology. land-based learning; code clubs; and the Farm Hack maker movement.

These new activities are diverse, but a green thread connects them: a new story of place.

This story re-connects us with living systems, and each other, in the context of our bioregion. It reminds us that we live among watersheds, foodsheds, and fibersheds – not just in cities, towns, or ‘the countryside’.

Growth, in this story, takes on a new meaning as improvements to the health and carrying capacity of the land, and the resilience of communities – not just money or GDP.

Value is created in a bioregion by the stewardship of living systems rather than the extraction of ‘natural resources’.

With Care, Value and Place as a frame, research is needed to understand the practical ways a stewardship can work in practice: tools to measure where resources come from; tools to identify ‘leakages’ in the local economy; tools and platforms to plug these leaks using local skills and resources.

2 Urban-Rural Reconnection / Rural Social Innovation

Most futurists predict a continued one-way migration to cities – but an opposite trend is also emerging: relationships that connect urban and rural people in new ways of working and living.

A growing number of citizens seek to play an active role in a city’s life support system – its agriculture, soils and ecosystems. Projects that embody this cultural shift include: new food distribution models; land-sharing cooperatives; social farming and care farming; ecological restoration; fibershed and grainshed networks; local energy consortiums; the maker and upcycling movement.

The best of these projects are connective: they link the health of soils, to the quality of food; public health, with the health of the land; the biodiversity expertise of scientists, with the citizen science that is popular in schools; and so on.

A new kind of social infrastructure is needed to support a whole-system approach to the health of farm communities, their land, watersheds, and biodiversity.

New sorts of enterprise are needed: food co-ops, community kitchens, neighbourhood dining, edible gardens, and food distribution platforms.

New sites of social creativity are also needed: craft breweries, bake houses, productive gardens, cargo- bike hubs, maker spaces, recycling centres, and the like.

Business support is needed for platform co-ops that enable shelter, transportation, food, mobility, water, and elder care to be provided collaboratively – and through which value is shared fairly among the people who make them valuable.

Technology has an important part to play as the supporting infrastructure for these new social relationships to flourish. Mobile devices and the internet of things make it easier for local groups to share equipment and common space.

Institutional support for urban-rural reconnection is growing in Europe.

Dozens of projects and research networks are addressing land repair, agro-ecology, food systems, #smartvillages, biodiversity, and ecosystem stewardship.

A European Association for Landscape Ecology has been established. The “Cork 2 Declaration” advocates for diversification in rural development. Programmes for biodiversity-friendly agriculture have names like RISE and High Nature Value (HNV) farming.

Many European regions receive biodiversity funding from SURFNATURE. NATURA 2000 funds biodiversity projects in cities. Land stewardship practices have been deployed by LANDLIFE, BiodiverSeA, EKLIPSE PEGASUS, ECOLISE, INNGE, ARCADIS, SIMRA, RESCOOP, URBIS.

However, few of these programmes in Europe have design innovation at their core.

3 New ways of knowing: Knowledge ecologies and scale

Alternative ways of sharing knowledge are needed to support urban-rural innovation. Social practices, for example, are a unique source of value in a living local economy – and a region’s history can often be a source of inspiration.

The sharing or Peer-to-Peer economy has been presented as a novelty in recent times, for example, but solidarity systems have existed for centuries. Ever since water was shared as a common resource 8,000 years ago, people have relied on so-called ‘non-market’ work to raise and educate their families, take care of the land, share resources,. and support each other in times of difficulty.

These practices, even when temporarily lost, have enormous potential today. We need to ask: who has cracked a similar question in the past? How might we learn from, or piggyback on, their success?

Technology has an important role to play as the infrastructure needed for these new social relationships to flourish.

The re-emergence of gift exchange can be made possible by electronic networks. Mobile devices and the internet of things make it easier for local groups to share equipment and space, or manage trust in decentralised ways. Money, today, is but one means among many of holding or exchanging value.

Urban-rural reconnection also means working differently than we do now – in new ways, with new people, and in new places.

The exploration of a bioregion’s social and cultural assets, for example, can involve a range of skills and capabilities: the geographer’s knowledge of mapping; the biologist’s expertise in biodiversity habitats; the ecologist’s literacy in ecosystems; the economist’s ability to measure flows and leakage of money and resources.

The range of potential tools available is also enormous. The Climate Tech Wiki lists hundreds of mitigation and adaptation technologies – from advanced paper recycling, to urban forestry. And a biology metrics list on Github lists more than three thousand possibly useful subjects – from molecular phylogenetics, to ecophysiology .

Design has a key role to play in helping us manage the scale and complexity of learning we have to do now.

This work is demanding, but not unprecedented. During the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, numerous regional institutions were invented to ease our transition. Many of these can be repurposed to do so again: Folk High Schools developed in the Nordic countries in the nineteenth century; Maisons Familiales Regionaux in France; community colleges in the US.

Other legacy institutions abound: There are more public libraries in the US (120,000) than there are McDonalds, and 1,800 YMCAs (now known as Ys). Many regional and speciality museums are looking to redefine their role. Thousands of post offices and local shops already act as place-based meeting points; we can use them, too, as hubs in learning networks. There is also potential for collaboration with friendly and benefit societies: Rotary Clubs, Oddfellows, Lions, Freemasons, and Elks.

Learning in a bioregion – and between them – can also be inspired by the ways people in the software world find what they need on a day-to-day basis. Design can be a bridge between urban rural innovation and the ways software people ask each other, in real time. The Tech For Good community, for example, keeps up to date on GitHub.

Platforms like this can work well for a bioregion’s knowledge infrastructure, too – but they need to be designed. #

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Re-wilding the Bauhaus: what its foundation course should be like today

To mark its centenary this year, the Bauhaus has published Design Rehearsals: Conversations About Bauhaus Lessons. It’s a fascinating account of an experimental design education that, shaped by the traumas of the First World War, sought ways to deal with the advent of mass society and the rise of the machine. As the book’s editors put it, “a generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn carriages now stood in the open air amid a landscape in which nothing was the same”.
One hundred years later, contributors to the book were shown some of the images created at that time and asked, “What do you see? How would you qualify this approach today?” My contribution – a response to images from Oskar Schlemmer’s class on ‘The Human’ – is below.

The Man portrayed in these images is a lonely one.

A preoccupation with the human being as an autonomous subject must have felt liberating at the time – but today these images remind us of what we have lost: a sense of connection to each other, and with the living world.

Situated and embodied experiences that once gave us meaning – a sense of interdependency with living systems – are replaced in these images by abstraction and ecological indifference.

The sadness triggered by these images can be productive: they contain the seeds of a Vorkurs, or Foundation Course, to replace what has been lost.

This course would foster ecological literacy, and a whole-systems understanding of the world.

It would reunite two worlds that have been sundered: wisdom traditions from other places and times, and the latest insights of systems thinking and complexity science.

The course would expose students to complex interactions between life-forms, rocks, atmosphere, and water. It would help them discover that the entire Earth is animated by interactions among systems at different geographical and temporal scales.

The experience of mapping biotic communities would teach them that everything is connected – from sub-microscopic viruses, to the vast subsoil networks that support trees.

Art, in the new course, would ensure that students connect with living systems emotionally, and not just rationally.

By making students curious about “what we’re inside of”, in the words of Nora Bateson, art would teach students to explore complex interdependencies with joy – even when they remain perplexed.

By making them aware of the power of small actions to transform the bigger picture, art would also foster activity – not just awareness, or introspection.

Many core elements of such a course already exist. Pockets of vitality can be found wherever students are attentive to the relationships between living organisms and their environment.

Ilya Prigogene described such experiments as ‘small islands of coherence’ in an otherwise chaotic world.

Caring for life – and its interdependence with the nonhuman world – is a new source of value on these islands.

And because ecological practice involves new ways of thinking about connection, patterns and context, the new course would bring designers quite naturally in contact with adjacent disciplines such as climatology, hydrology, geography, psychology, history, and many more.

No textbook for the new foundation course exists – which is probably just as well. The course is better thought of as a journey, than as a body of knowledge.

The journey is neither short, nor easy. Its destination cannot be known in advance. No pathway has been laid to ease our way. And the autonomous individual is no longer the focus of the story.

“Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks” writes Gloria E. Anzaldúa for whom life-centered design could as well be thought of as weaving, as walking. “We humans need to be nepantleras – bridge builders and reweavers of relationality”.


Design Rehearsals: Conversations About Bauhus Lessons is edited for the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation by Katja Klaus and Regina Bittner. The book includes texts by: Ludowig Balland, Stefani Bardin, Jan Boelen, Anna Bokov, Otto von Bush, Clare Butcher, Alison Clarke, Laura Forlano, Corinne Gisel, Susanne Hauser, Carolin Höfler, Tom Holert, Tim Ingold, Joachim Krausse, Marion von Osten, Nina Paim, Judith Raum, Tai Smith, Gabrielle Schleijpen, Wolfgang Schäffner, Sam Thorne, John Thackara, Franciska Zólyom.

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Urban-Rural Re-connection

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Social Food Forum: the takeaways

Above: a contadinner, organised in Italy by VaZapp

As a legacy of #Matera2019 in Italy, a meeting of 15 social food curators met in Matera for the launch of a Social Food Forum and Social Food Atlas. Social Food Projects include municipal gardens and urban farms; community meals; social harvest festivals; farmer-to-farmer meet-ups; food waste platforms; community kitchens; community baking and brewing sites; care farms; school gardens; street food festivals; cooperative grain growing; farm hacks; regional gatherings; farm tours; and many more A two minute video is here.

We discussed two main topics in Matera: how to describe the different kinds of value created by social food projects; and, how to do more of this work, with more partners, and in more places, in the near future. Here are our main findings.

Social food projects re-make relationships – between people, food and place – damaged by the commodity-based industrial agriculture system.

Social food projects focus on care, not just consumption.

Social food projects reconnect urban and rural in a spirit of mutual respect, and a practice of shared responsibility.

In the language of public policy – which determines how governments spend our taxes – social food projects create ‘public goods’. These public goods include: social cohesion, public health, territorial development, food sovereignty, farmer livelihoods, learning, innovation, and biodiversity.

Social food projects are a medium of hospitality, and therefore create solidarity and mutual understanding, among citizens of diverse cultures.

The direct participation of citizens in farm-based activities can diversify income for farmers, and reduce their social isolation. Socially-connected farmers add resilience to a region’s food system.

Social food projects are central to the emergence of new rural economies. They are pivotal in many ‘smart village’ and ‘smart neighbourhood’ projects in which relationships among social networks are enhanced by digital telecommunications.

So-called craft bread, and beer, are fast-growing alternatives to resource-intensive industrial products based on commodities.

Social food projects such as care farms increase the health and well-being of socially-isolated people, elders, or people with dementia.

Social food projects are a gateway for citizen participation in environmental restoration to increase biodiversity.

Seed saving and seed sharing networks are a staple form of sharing and mutual support in diverse local economies based on sharing and care.

Connecting the cultural meanings of food and agriculture, to stories of person, and place, adds value to sustainable tourism, too. Sites of alternative food production are visitor attractions in their own right; they also attract tourists away from over-visited city centres.

Social food projects revive cultural and natural heritage, and remake the social fabric and character of Europe’s landscapes.

Gardens and kitchens in schools and colleges are sites of social learning.

All this is great, but social food projects do not organise themselves. They happen thanks to the work of social food producers and curators.

These individuals identify neglected assets in a community – such as projects, places, or individuals – and design ways to connect them in events, services and enterprises.

Social food producers create social infrastructure by enabling a wide variety of stakeholders to work together. As collaboration experts – people who connect people – their most valuable skills are hosting, convening, facilitating, animating, and co-ordinating.

However, because such work is not yet appreciated by public authorities, many social food producers work project-to-project, rather than long-term. As a result, they are often economically precarious.

The Social Food Forum identified a number of practical ways to address these challenges.

The online Social Food Atlas launched in Matera makes visible – and findable – a wide variety of social food projects that, right now, have been little known – even to each other.

The Atlas is a valuable resource for policymakers as a repository of stories and case studies that can be used to marshal support for alternative practices that are wished for by policy, but are already emerging on the ground.

Ways to measure the value created in social foods projects can also be important for policymakers. The Social Food Green Paper draws their attention to metrics and measurement systems that already exist. (Among these: True Value: Community Farms and Gardens published by the The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens in the UK; and Kilowatt Social Impact Analysis (Bilancio di Impatto).

Working with city and municipal authorities is a particular priority for most social food projects. Recycling organic solid waste into compost for urban agriculture, for example, can re-position food projects as critical urban infrastructure – not just as a recreational resource.

The integration of food projects into urban planning is in its infancy. Multi-agency co-operation platforms – such as those that enable bicycle use in cities – could be emulated for social food projects, too.

To achieve the continuity, and longer time-scales, that trust-based projects need, the Forum resolved to work with locally-embedded institutions. These range from pubs, local museums and libraries to community colleges and Folk High Schools.

Most museums have learning teams and budgets, for example. And although budgets for learning gardens are small to non-existent, budgets for schools and classrooms persist in most governmental budgets.

A lot of useful knowledge is being created by university research networks and scholars. Technical language, and introverted institutional cultures, means this knowledge can hard to access – but the effort needs to be made.

The Forum will seek to collaborate with European networks that link agricultural and rural stakeholders and whose work intersects with the social food agenda.

These include SIMRA (Social Innovation In Marginalised Rural Areas); HNV Link (High Nature Value Farming); and AESOP. @ARC2020eu and @ENRD_CP

The Forum is committed to share knowledge online.

We were inspired by the the way that the knitting platform Ravelry supports a community of six million members. We will also learn from the ways that millions of people in the software world have found ways to share complex information.

Forum members will learn most from each other by interacting with real-world projects.

In Matera, for example, members met with the team behind the AgorAgri – a community garden project to transform one of the city’s underused green spaces.

An important lesson emerged: a community garden is as much about growing a community as it is about growing plants – and that takes time.

The project’s first two years, we concluded, were probably a small proportion of the time that would be needed, long-term.

(A conversation is needed about ‘accelerationism’ in mainstream design. The celebration of ever-faster launch-and-learn approaches is at odds with the time needed to foster trust in a community).

Among other practical suggestions to the AgorAgri team: find out if any schools in Matera might use the garden as a living classroom. The European Federation of City Farms is a good source of advice.

The Forum resolved to share knowledge about promising event formats as they are discovered. The success of the Mammamiaaa dinner instructions was an encouraging benchmark.

Among other formats discussed in Matera: the contadinners organised by VaZapp in Italy; Ireland’s Learning Landscape Symposium; Disco Soupe in France; the Art of Invitation in England; Doors of Perception xskools; and Holis summer schools.

Trans-local and Place2Place meeting formats will take priority over the intensive air travel associated with global conferences.

Formats being considered include learning journeys, pilgrimages, and modern interpretations of the transhumance.

In European Union networks, so-called cross visits are in favour; someone suggested that we need an Erasmus exchange programme for food and agriculture

Our group included: VaZapp; Rete Semi Rurali; Il Querceto; Alce Nero; Wonder Grottole; Avanzi Popolo; Liminaria; Panecotto Ethical Bistro; Casa Netural and Agrinetural – allfrom Italy; plus Simra from Scotland; Germinando and Grupo Cooperativo Tangente from Spain; Sustainable Food Lab from Sweden; Doors of Perception from France; Holis from Hungary; Atelier Luma (France) with Cohabitation Strategies, and Urbania Hoeve Social Design Lab, from the Netherlands.

Note: For decades, the production of cheap food has taken place at the expense of people health and soil health The global system of commodity agriculture, in particular, has gravely damaged our relationships – with each other, with the land, and with nature. Commodities have no identity, no story, no place. Their dominance in global trade has therefore caused a loss of identity and community, especially in rural areas.

Further information:
Mammamiaaa Social Food Atlas
Social Food Green Paper


One participant in the Social Food Forum, Rete Semi Rurali, told us about the astonishing scope, across Europe, of seed sharing and seed savings schemes
Above: a map of urban farms and gardens in Madrid.

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Social Food Forum and Social Food Atlas – launch event, Matera, Sunday 10 March

(Press Release) Social Food Forum and Social Food Atlas – launch event, Matera, Sunday 10 March From 10.30 am to 12.30 pm Lanfranchi Museum – Sala Levi – Matera – Italy. Free entrance

A new Social Food Forum, together with an online Social Food Atlas, and a Social Food Green Paper, will be launched in Matera on Sunday 10 March.

A legacy project of Matera2019 European Capital of Culture, the Social Food Forum is part of the Mammamiaaa programme. It has been co-produced by Casa Netural, Matera’s social innovation hub, and Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation, together with John Thackara, the social design curator. Read More »

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Social Food Atlas: Call for Entries

Do you know someone who organises social food projects that create solidarity among people, and connection with the land? Let us know at:

As a legacy of the #Mammamiaaa project in #Matera2019, a Social Food Forum will be launched, in March, to help the social food movement grow. This project has three parts:
 Atlas of Social Food Projects;
 Social Food Forum; and Social Food Green Paper


In preparing the Atlas, we’re looking for meals, festivals, or platforms inspired by the cultural meanings of food and farming, people and place. Read More »

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How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Preface to the Chinese edition

A cultural disconnection between the man-made world and the biosphere lies behind the grave challenges we face today. We either don’t think about rivers, soils, and biodiversity at all – or we treat them as resources whose only purpose is to feed the economy. This ‘metabolic rift’ – between the living world, and the economic one – leaves us starved of meaning and purpose. We have to heal this damaging gap.

This book is Read More »

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Chinese Book Launch of “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”

Pre-order: "How to Thrive in the Next Economy", in CHINESE

Pre-order: “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”, in Chinese

I’m in Shanghai for the launch of the Chinese version of my book: “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”.
As of today you can pre-order it! (click the image)

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