How did you find your way to the regenerative food side of social justice work?
That’s a great question! Food is at the core of building social justice. Whenever there is a major crisis like an economic collapse, the first thing you see is a lack of access to food, bad nutrition or starvation in certain places. We overlook food both as a cause of social injustice and as a solution. Food unites us. Every human – regardless of color, race, religion – needs to eat.
I found my way to regenerative food quickly after I had my first child. I was shocked that the system discouraged me from breastfeeding my son. I could see that everything was set up to have me avoid breastfeeding, and to steal from him his right to be nursed. I quickly became aware of the injustice that was driving that industry. And I became an activist for breastfeeding, which was closely connected to my background in ecofeminism. I then started looking at my own relationship with food and saw that it was also a source of injustice. And so started my journey into regenerative food.
What does regenerative food mean for you?
There is a tendency nowadays to turn the term regenerative food into something very generic with greenwashing. But to put it simply, the core idea is leaving the earth in better condition than how you found it. It’s not only not destroying it, but improving it. There is a saying from the North American indiginous people: “we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. That is the concept of regeneration for me. The future is coming, and it needs to be better and more abundant.
Agricology is an approach to food that is absolutely aware of the social, environmental and communitarian needs of our planet today. Regenerative food is an entirely holistic approach that looks into improving the future for all – nature, humankind, and society. Or as Satish Kumar says, soil, soul, society. For example, if you’re taking care of the soil but ignoring the rights and welfare of the workers, this is not regenerative.
At Be the Earth Foundation, you’re strong believers of food being a tool for creating change. Just how powerful is that tool?
When we talk about food, we are talking about a massive tool for addressing various problems of the world today. And this is a holistic system. If we would commit as humankind to produce food in a regenerative way, i.e. not destroying our natural resources, this would be our bridge to the future.
But let’s pretend that we don’t care about climate change or extinction, but we only care about health. If we were to eat nutritional food, planted in nutritional soil with agriecological techniques our health would be better, we would develop less diseases and we would live longer.
Or let’s pretend we don’t care about climate or health and we’re only concerned with minding our spirituality. Food is how we as humans are connected to mother earth. It’s basically her nursing us forever. Food nourishes us, it keeps us alive, and it is a tool to prevent us from ruining our possibilities of a future on earth.
Has the global pandemic changed Be The Earth’s vision for the future in any way?
Everyone that is an environmentalist or a social activist knew that this was coming. It is very hard and very sad, but this pandemic is not surprising.
Be The Earth is just two years old as a foundation, but everyone in the team already had been working with the idea of adaptation. The future requires us to be adaptable, to dance according to the song that’s playing, to respond to the needs of life. And we have been practicing.
So did Covid change our plans? Not really, and definitely not our vision. But of course we had to shift all our work that was previously on-the-ground to the digital world. The pandemic has proven that we’ll dive deep into highly complex situations and show up every day for something that is meaningful.
What are the top three ways people can support more regenerative food systems?
- Abandon harmful habits. We have this tendency of cultivating habits that are harmful for ourselves, the people around us, and the world. We have to start committing to abandoning harmful habits. From smoking to using a car for small daily trips.
- Replace harmful habits with new ones. We can make healthier choices. There’s 50,000 shades of colours in between black and white, in between doing nothing and being perfect. Select a new achievable habit to replace the harmful one with and commit.
- Plan to adapt. Changing your habits is an ongoing process. It’s just not possible to save the world from one day to the next as change is ongoing. What’s important is showing up every day with the commitment to improve food systems.
What solutions have you seen lately that bring you real joy and hope?
I am starting to see many systemic approaches, meaning that people are starting to really believe in the power of collaboration and diversity. When humankind stops thinking linear and stops thinking profit, it starts to collaborate and create together. And from that, we see systemic change starting to happen.
A very concrete example: At Be The Earth, one of our partners is a group of activists based in Brazil called Frente Alimenta (something like the Feeding Frontline). They formed during Covid because of the many people who were starving due to the fallout of the pandemic. Simultaneously, small farmers around the city of Sao Paolo were losing their produce as they lost their roots to the market. This group started to fundraise to buy the produce from the farmers and voluntarily deliver to the people in vulnerable situations.
The movement quickly started to scale because there were people interested in donating, there were people interested in receiving the agriecological food, there were farmers interested in selling, and there were people interested in volunteering. There was a place for everyone. The solutions that really create change are those that are non-linear, those that have a place for everyone and that are diverse and complex.
So we’re seeing more people open to complexity, open to challenges, humble enough to know we don’t have answers to everything but want to be a part of the solution. And that is very inspiring. I believe such systemic approaches with that kind of perspective can go a very long way.