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What kind of system change do we want right now?

Written By: - Date published: 2:11 pm, March 19th, 2020 - 37 comments
Categories: food - Tags: , , ,

From the Herald article,

An Auckland woman in self-isolation has been left empty-handed after her online grocery order was cancelled without any warning.

The woman said her order at New World Stonefields comprised mostly of baby items and she was now working out how she would source her groceries

“We could have had someone else get everything for us but we’re now stuck.

There’s a conversation to be had, which the mainstream are already doing, about how to swiftly transition conventional systems into ones that can cope with the new landscape. For example, using a closed supermarket as a warehouse for online shopping. These processes take time (that Countdown example won’t be ready until sometimes in April), and smaller hacks within existing systems are being implemented too.

There’s been a new surge of panic buying in some places in NZ. Incognito mentioned in Open Mike about flattening the curve in relation to groceries, and we can be mindful here of the need for this, the relationship between our needs and supply lines. This isn’t new. In many circles conversations about how NZ only has enough food for three days in a big emergency is pretty normal (and may be part of people’s panic). But we’re not in that kind of emergency. The global system hasn’t collapsed, this is not a fast emergency despite all the stress of how quickly and often things are changing, it’s not a hard collapse. It’s that the demand has increased suddenly. That’s on the people.

Pertinent here is how many (or few) people trust society or the collective. We can and should be working on that. Lots of messaging to help people feel more secure would go a long way. How to share, how to trust, how to build security.

There’s another conversation that needs to happen too, which is the need for a cultural shift away from expecting the global food supply chain to be always the thing we rely on, and to working with our communities as our primary security. Someone in that woman’s street or wider area should be able to help with her shopping, but she is stuck because we don’t have those systems set up to be reliable either.

This isn’t always going to work of course, because humans are fallible and we’ve lost a lot of community skills in the last half century. But while I think changes to those conventional systems are needed, the wider need is to change in ways that not only meet the existing crisis but future proof us as well.

This is a particular skill set, I see it in regenerative, transition towns, permaculture sectors a lot, where it is normal to do both at the same time.  The first thing I see about that is how many people will be assuming that this is a temporary crisis and that we will go back to normal in time. I think this is unlikely and that we are entering a long period of transition, but we don’t yet know what to. Being committed to it being something good would go a long way.

In my circles I’m see the understanding that we need to start growing more food where we live. This isn’t a fear based, survivalist action. It’s a recognition that we will probably need to take some of the pressure off the food supply lines this year. People who already grow food will see growing more as a natural extension of what they do, and a proactive response to the crisis. In terms of the point above about big picture resilient design, it dovetails neatly with two things.

One is future proofing. Relocalising food supply to any extent makes society more stable, because small, complex systems are inherently more resilient.

The other is that it’s exactly what we need to be doing anyway in regards to climate change. This is the ideal opportunity to get a number of things right, and it is very easy in NZ to get a lot more people growing food. Not everyone mind, but more.

The added benefits here are that gardening is something we can do while staying at home, and for many it is a great stress relief. It also keeps us fit instead of going to the gym. The bigger, longer pictures is we can create jobs from local food growing, keep money in the community where it belongs, and foster better community connections.

The middle classes need to do some heavy lifting here. Make resources available to low income people in our communities so that they can garden. Lots of ways that this could happen right now, from tool buying/sharing, to teaching propagation. If you can’t garden, but have the funds, then pay someone else to grow food for your and your community.

If you’re in a part of the country that has panic buying this week, maybe swing past the Mitre10 or local garden centre and pick up some seeds or seedlings for the garden, and share them around.

Mod note: please take care to be kind. We’re all stressed in various ways, and some are managing and some aren’t, so let’s cut ourselves some collective slack and make everyone’s lives easier, including the mods. If you can’t be kind please at least think about respect.

37 comments on “What kind of system change do we want right now? ”

  1. Grant Insley 1

    Isn't it strange how the most popular opinions and fixes revolve around someone else doing something? Then like a breath of fresh air we have a suggestion we could be more self reliant. I have several different types of garden in my modest back yard. Raised beds, pyramids, espaliered fruit trees, various hydroponic sets even a small greenhouse with a static hydroponic system. I have 4 chooks and some top bar beehives. I advise the local community gardens and share my experiences via my Photographic FB page. It's what I was taught and yes it is therapeutic. even talked my GP into setting up some plants in flexi tubs, he now recognises what a great stress reliever it is for him. Honest it's not hard if the you use the techniques that suit your ability. The best bit? ALL of my gardens are relocatable!

    • weka 1.1

      I reckon fruit and nut trees would be a good bet at the moment for people who don't normally garden. Bit long term for some, but very easy to do for people that have the space. Can be relocatable too!

  2. infused 2

    working from home won't stick. It's been tried. so many people just fuck around.

    • weka 2.1

      can't see the problem with that tbh, NZers work too hard as it is.

    • Brigid 2.2

      Can't agree with that.

      I found that I worked far more hours when I worked from home than I did when I worked from an office. The job is always there waiting for your attention. It does pay to have a job you enjoy of course.

      • JanM 2.2.1

        I agree

        . When I was lecturing the only way I could prepare in reasonable time was to work from home

    • KJT 2.3

      Found the opposite in fact. When I was doing an office job.

      Achieved a lot more than in the office. Especially avoiding all the pointless, meetings.

      Stopping the job from taking over my entire life, because my "office" was in the lounge, was the real issue.

  3. Rosemary McDonald 3

    "…maybe swing by and pick up some seeds…:

    Gee. Ta, weka. Now there will be all the 'nutters' in the garden centre buying up large.

    🙄

    Old People/Offspring conversation the other night went a bit sour as I pontificated quite emphatically that for the sake of Mother Earth we should not go back to our jet setting ways.

    'Stay home. Skype etc …use the tech you youngsters love to cut down dramatically on the overseas travel. Even After, don't go back to those planet fucking ways.'

    Went down like a cup of cold sick, initially.

    They'll come round.

    Just wait till I show them about the canals in Venice.

    (Link locked onto my clipboard and I can't free it )

    She's forgiving, our Mother, ain't she?

  4. Brigid 4

    Went to paknslave yesterday in Whangarei. The place was more crowded than I've ever seen any supermarket before, even more so than an Christmas. Queues of 4 or 5 at every checkout.

    Twas most strange.

    Called in at Mitrebe 10. Not a face mask to be seen. Too bad for those wanting to do some sanding etc.

    But Flip, the loverlies, have given us an unlimited connection cuz covid. Damn nice I reckon.

    • Did a small shop at New World tonight and weary butcher told me they had done more sales by 4pm than they did on Christmas Eve. All the workers looked tired and well over it.

    • RedBaronCV 5.1

      Hickeys view of the new normal – largely seems to be predicated around giving Nact a share of the power .

      • RedBaronCV 5.1.1

        any suggestion of that during the GFC – sharing power – that would be a "no"

        • Incognito 5.1.1.1

          Ah, yes, but this time we have a different team in power that is kinder and more inclusive 😉

  5. bill 6

    Just a very rough and ready sketch coming off the top of my head…

    A several hundred dollar per week universal payment to every person.

    Buy what you want with that. I guess people will initially buy stuff and "smash" as they do at present.

    But with several hundred dollars in the pocket, I can think of a fair few people who will dump time consuming and stupid jobs, so maybe it won't be possible to spend any of that several hundred dollars on "smash"…because no-one's turning up to produce it in the first place.

    All those people suddenly not holding down daft jobs is a lot of people suddenly confronted with the opportunity to rediscover community.

    So (illustrative, off the cuff example), although everyone walks away from the local toilet paper factory, communities kinda reckon they quite like having toilet paper, and so the toilet roll factory gets set back in motion by workers/members of communities who organise the work in ways to ameliorate the soul destroying reality that probably accompanies current toilet roll production (anyone who has ever worked in a factory will know what that's about)

    If the urge to rush to the final destination of right wing tosh is resisted (ie – a world where all human interactions are monetised), then the several hundred dollars per week that's initially spent on smash merely becomes a vehicle away from capitalist relationships – ie, the money itself loses value because no-one is really interested in charging for anything – the food is grown, children are cared for/schooled, infrastructure is maintained and hell, even toilet paper is produced 🙂

    And it's all done from a community perspective where individual identity is contingent upon or subsumed by something larger than self and not predicated on the dysfunctional individualistic nonsense that we're currently conditioned to.

    Alternatively, we can make like foetal in the corner, hoping and waiting for the whole shebang of last week/last month to be cobbled back together so we can carry on riding the world off a cliff of warming. 🙂

    • Stunned mullet 6.1

      A type of NZ kibbutzin movement ?

      • bill 6.1.1

        Exercising forms of self-empowering control and responsibility at a community level could have any number of labels and ideological sign posts attached to it. I don't really care what anyone might want to call the elevation of basic human wellbeing above an all pervasive and highly destructive chrematistic ideology.

        If you're thinking "NZ kibbutzin", then sure… whatever. Like I say, the name or label doesn't matter for me – as long as it doesn't foster an ideology that might impinge on our ability to bring into being, humane ways by which we might live, and dance, and die, and cry.

    • Incognito 6.2

      yes

  6. joe90 7

    What kind of system change do we want right now?

    One that sets this in stone.

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    –Abraham Lincoln September 30, 1859

    • KJT 7.1

      Funny that.

      As noted in the twin towers collapse.

      All those high paid accountants, lawyers and assorted financial wizards had to be shown by cleaners, maintenance workers and firemen that internal non structural walls are not solid barriers.

    • arkie 7.2

      Now is a great time to read Marx, which one can, online, for free!

      Capital
      A Critique of Political Economy

      Volume I
      Book One: The Process of Production of Capital

      https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

  7. Robert Guyton 8

    Gardeners won't need to say, "I told you so!", they'll need instead to share their experience. Already, sales of seeds and seedlings are escalating. Fruit tree sales as well. Our environment centre organic food cooperative is already planning how to deliver to homes instead of opening our door, if it comes to that. I notice that our several community orchards are being visited "vigorously" and this was the intention should there ever be a crisis. It seems to me that everyone will see opportunity and confirmation of their world-view in the pandemic; the isolationists will believe their preparations have been wise, the traditionalists will welcome a return to the "simple, conservative old ways" and people like me will thrill to the potential that this is a turning-point for humanity's spiritual development smiley It'll all come out in the wash though but I'm betting things will never be the same.

    • weka 8.1

      that comment made me really happy 😀 I've been wondering what you've been up to, noticing your absence and hoping for a report. Ka tino pai.

      • Robert Guyton 8.1.1

        For you, weka.

        “Having resisted every warning and admonishment to transform and change our ways, we are now, as a collective, being forced into a cocoon ourselves, in lockdowns and self-isolation, to do the work we should have done generations ago.”

        “We are not going to break out of our collective dilemma if we cannot hear the voices of non-human creatures outside the door, and humbly accept their help. If, as it is assumed, this pandemic is a result of the woeful treatment of wild animals (60% of new human diseases are zoonotic), we have a lot of reckoning to face. It is hard for human beings, who have for generations never learned to say thank you to the planet that has hosted us all our lives, where it has never crossed our minds we had to honour life and give back, nor that we had soul work to do, legacies and tasks that we hold like a small kist in our hands, when we are born.”

        https://dark-mountain.net/outbreak/

  8. tc 9

    Comes down to a more agrarian lifestyle IMO. We've got the land types, fertility, rain etc and as scarcity bites harder distributing resources gets even tougher.

    The old food miles again as that reduces GG and helps CC if you grow/consume local.

    CVID19 today, sars and mers were recent warning shots…what’s tomorrow ?

  9. gsays 10

    Excellent post weka,

    There are lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the impact on Cuba.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhfpmKAEfy4

    Also a systemic change I would like to see is sharing. Not barter, nor trade or exchange but sharing.

    Sharing time, wisdom, food, knowledge.

    This can be done along side the system as it exists now.

    Try it, I reckon it will accord with everyyone's nature.

    • georgecom 10.1

      Cuba is an interesting case study. If you talk to Cubanos who are old enough to live through the special period it certainly has left its scars on them. The measures Cuba took such as urban gardening and localised food distribution helped to ensure no one starved. They redesigned their food production system. What lifted Cuba out of the special period however, and stabilised their economy, was opening up to global tourism and toward the end of the 1990s patronage from Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. The Cuban economic model was and continues to be fundamentally broken. In a sense tourism and Chavez allowed the system to continue on without fundamental change. Some change, but not fundamental. One very interesting aspect to look at is 17 minutes through the video, Miguel Salcines from the UBPC Organiponico in Alamar. A highly productive worker collective urban market garden.

  10. Tiger Mountain 11

    Stream of etc. post…Well something has to change, like dispatching neo liberalism and capitalist hegemony. Little fun in the short term for those that lose people in the pandemic. Life is an existential dilemma at the best of times, but it typically goes on for 7 or more decades for many, so this virus has essentially massively sharpened up our fight or flight mechanism and sense of mortality.

    What is life really all about? Food miles, and a whole bunch of service related, discretionary spending is going to change alright (not picking on all you life coaches and dog walkers out there). Talk to people in your circles. Start a neighbours garden or collective enterprise of some sort. Swap skills. We already do that in some places obviously, but it is new to many others. Supermarket workers–get together on how to deal with abusive power shoppers. i.e. an operator puts hand up and all tills close until a manager has talked to the aggressive person. Take charge. The EMA is already encouraging SME employers to do silly things with leave etc. without thinking long term.

    Start small till you learn the techniques–solar charger for your phone and gadgets, and gasp–transistor radio, a pot of herbs or chillies, a lemon tree, Rig up a small rain water collection tank in the yard–for emergency drinking or garden use.

    All those corporates that scurried off to low wage corners have left NZ without even a footwear or credible clothing industry. “we created great value for shareholders but unfortunately the planet burned” as the old joke goes. Time to get serious–could Fisher and Paykel Health turn production to protective gear and ventilators? Good post Weka.

    • bill 11.1

      All those corporates that scurried off to low wage corners have left NZ without even a footwear or credible clothing industry.

      That's quite a big deal. It's not as though the old machinery is sitting around gathering dust and just waiting for a brush off and a 'once over' – the arseholes trashed any machinery they might otherwise have been leaving behind.

      The other big deal is that goods we have sitting around tend to be unservicable – the days of "opening the toaster" to see what's broken with an idea of repairing it are basically gone.

      And with the possibility of repair disappearing, the ability to repair has also disappeared – ie, the simple "how" and the once 'common knowledge' work arounds…

      Actually. How many houses on an average street do you reckon contain no tools whatsoever?

      So yeah. Production, driven by fashion and ideas of disposability, has led us a merry glitzy dance up this here garden path. And now we just have to make the best of what we've got.

      edit – I could agree with the suggestion that the government mandate production from the likes of Fisher and Paykel in the very short term.

    • RedBaronCV 11.2

      Err Fisher & Paykel healthcare already do that sort of stuff and are working hard as according to their stock exchange notifications

  11. Billy 12

    God moves in mysterious ways.

  12. Adrian 13

    Had a revelation today when I walked past empty shelves of toilet paper on my way to try and buy a small bag of non-existant flour and it was this…FFS stay away from the flour diet, it obviously gives you the worst dose of the shits imaginable.

  13. I cannot understand why several commentators, of clearly political and/or theoretical economic views have not joined this post. Their know all wisdom is sadly missed.

    They almost always butt in, usually quite irrelevantly.

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