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Edible Schoolyards?

November 12, 2008

Just got the following from the "BG Green Group" that is way ahead of us in pursuing sustainability issues in Bowling Green. It is a thought provoking piece.

The recent Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education had 1,700 in attendance! I wanted to share a synopsis of the keynote by Vandana Shiva, on food - "the currency of life." 

Vandana Shiva: 'Why Shouldn't Edible Schoolyards Be on Every Campus?'

Raleigh, N.C. — Vandana Shiva, the physicist and environmental activist, spoke here at the national conference of the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education this morning. Her topic was food — what she calls “the currency of life” — and how an industrial food system has poisoned the soil and pushed people off their land.

The speech hit on a number of agricultural issues that have been widely discussed recently and made popular by writers like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver. There is no doubt that food issues will be increasingly important in coming years, as agriculture is stressed by climate change, dwindling petroleum supplies, and environmental degradation in the form of loss of biodiversity and erosion. (Read essays in The Chronicle‘s Buildings & Grounds about this topic here and here.)

Ms. Shiva said that “the issue of food has increasingly become an issue of peace” because stresses on traditional agriculture and the industrialization of food have led people to wage war against nature, against each other, and even against their own bodies, in the form of cancers and obesity. The industrialization of food has led to empty countrysides both here in the U.S. and in India, Ms. Shiva’s native country.

“An empty countryside has never been a good human design,” she said, because it means that people are cramming into megacities and are falling away from the skills needed to raise food in traditional ways.

Colleges have a big role to play in fixing agriculture because they are partly to blame for its problems: The so-called Green Revolution, which created fertilizer-dependent industrial agriculture, is a result of research done at colleges and universities. “The solutions will have to come out of the place where it started,” she said.

She pointed out that Alice Waters, the Berkeley chef and food activist, had gotten a lot of attention for her Edible Schoolyard project, in which middle-school students are learning about agriculture and cuisine by growing gardens. Colleges should start setting up their own edible grounds, she said.

“Why shouldn’t edible schoolyards be on every campus?” she asked. —Scott Carlson

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