Skip to main content

How could Scotland have a more resilient food system?

The question that's led me to write this has been how do we adapt long term, specifically here in Scotland, where I live now, to coronavirus and the idea that pandemics are here to stay if we stay this industrialised and globalised. How does a society look if it's to be resilient long term, sensible and ecologically regenerative? We do know a few things about this novel coronavirus that we seem to be slowly figuring out as it evolves and spreads, and I have almost a picture of how it might look in my head. Here is the closest I can get so far to it, on a regional scale at least:

In the picture, each block is a community of several households and work spaces, and each green space is where they grow crops, or graze animals. So why this system?

Around the time when it was obvious a lockdown was coming, I read a community organisation manual that mentioned how graph theory applies to limiting the spread of something like Covid-19. It advocates getting together with your closest neighbours to help each other, rather than all helping all across the city, so that you limit the spread of infection. Since then I've seen a lot of information about this idea. So how can we take this concept and apply it to something more long term. A way of looking at our society is as a network of places all related to each other by people travelling between them. Currently that's a huge globalised system that is interconnected in lots of ways. In some ways that's beautiful and brings connection in positive ways, but we want to avoid all the things that lead to situations like what the world is in now: too much connection between the points and you have an easy way for viruses to spread, especially if all those points and connections follow the same philosophy of profit maximisation at the expense of many other things - like hygiene. If you apply Graph theory, specifically epidemiological connectivity principles to urbanism, you get a pretty green environment. We need to be diverse, and like a clump of sand, made of small very densely connected units, that are only loosely connected to the units around them. But our sand is electric, because it's also connected by telecommunications so we are all still here together if we wish: I'm only talking about physical connectivity.

You need to have very minimal connections between the bits that add up towards a functioning healthy life for an individual, and that means a social network around them to take care of everything the modern industrial capitalist city does. So how can we provide all these basic elements in a reduced network that nevertheless can quickly close it's borders if infection is identified further on? So you get these autonomous, self sufficient spaces that are a mix of residence, work  space and green space, and a distribution system that gets everything else to them - everything that we may still need to depend on that can't be made locally. Some of this "everything else" might be regionally made, so a local area might concentrate on producing something that's needed elsewhere, and this can provide cash for that area beyond what can be directly made within that local unit.

So I've looked up some info, like connectivity, as shown above, and some info about how contact tracing is done.

So how to calculate this: well to start with in Scotland there is a certain amount of land that can be used for foraging, crops, living, workspace etc. And there is probably an amount of imports we can guarantee either from England or from Ireland and other surrounding countries regardless of EU membership or whatever happens with Brexit, but assuming there is a food issue with closed borders at any point in the long or medium term, the issue is how do we guarantee a food supply for Scotland.

Scotland has 30k square miles. And 5 million people. How can we keep all these people fed? A square mile according to yahoo answers can feed 500 people. It works out at 15 million people could be fed if every single square mile of scotland was farmed for 500 people each, but knowing scotland that is certainly not the cultivated space we have now, although we can see if a meat industry would be willing to make a progressive switch and open up further land as time went on. I think people would always want a bit of meat and poultry but they would probably be cottage industry sized as large installations are conducive to infection by sars like viruses, and the livestock industry is looking very shaky right now. So we'd be looking at a large reduction in the meat we'd be able to consume which is actually quite a large part of scottish people's consumption right now.

The other aspect to that is the proximity as we would need to be close to the place where the veg was produced so we'd basically all need to go out there even with our laptop jobs as we'd be financing that local industry and doing away with the need for petrol which is looking pretty weird right now.

So you end up with community spaces following the principle of low graph connectivity. Here are some stats on what is actually produced here, at least the best I could find, and if anyone knows better or more up to date sources I'd be very grateful:

Out of the total 7.8 million hectares that if used to produce for all the people currently living in Scotland, we are currently using it for rough grazing of livestock - a currently collapsing industry, and a quarter is grass, whereas 10 percent is used for crops. So at a stretch we'd have about a million hectares for crops (currently barley!!). So this means famine. If we go on as we are now, and there are food supply shocks, we will have famine again in Scotland! We need to do something.

So this is just one proposal: a locally tightly cohesive and globally loosely connected society. It allows for some of the fun we used to have before Covid: at a local scale you can have pubs, dancing, mixing, hugging, as long as that group is a unit. so it can be 10, 20, maybe 40 people at once who never really mix much outside of that group. They are a block, so more like a unit. They are various families and households who meet and agree stuff about how to repair or manage their area. Then you have a shop or work, office space which is one or more of those people opening an adjacent space. this space usually receives deliveries and then maybe elaborates and disinfects the produce at various steps.

(and as a small aside I want to make an app that tracks covid infection but whose data isn't connected to any authority as is what the UK wants now. This is possible by rebranding the singaporean open source tracker.)

A community unit has a contract with each other about adherence to their own lock down rules, and they decide as a group but transparently via public meeting notes if they want to lockdown or not, in response to some event or other. so this is basically neighbourhood shops and houses. but these have to go together with some kind of delivery system, so the more we can actually make the better. so what kind of production is done directly locally? The first is agricultural and livestock farming.

This is done by each community at will and the government simply allocates them land in order to cultivate as it did with the allotments during world war 2, and streaming internet to learn and tools etc to get started. Most green, simple vegetables, about 80% of the vitamin intake(we used to get similar proportions of vitamins from our allotments too) will come from this. The idea is this new low connection society should grow until we can also do cereals and staples using this system. This requires more specialisation for communities who still live and work together but get all their income from the work they do growing wheat, potatoes etc. I am guessing the staple and more water or management intensive vegetables - the stuff that's harder to grow - will need to be done at a city or regional level. I had thought of a community block unit, but that block is in a square - i.e a group of 4 or more communities.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

An app for mutual aid groups against coronavirus in Glasgow

After a bunch of mutual networks formed over the weekend of the 14th of March in Glasgow and as I can see from the internet, are still forming around the world, I started to look into the tech side of the response to coronavirus. A lot of things happening, with Tech companies giving away free access to their content, data bundles and services, during the crisis, On the other hand the governments plan and in some cases already carried out intrusive policies that violate many established privacy rights. Many people have also lost their jobs and the capacity to renew their data packages, so have gone offline, just at a time when online forms and services become a far more attractive format than going in person to somewhere that with the lockdown is probably now closed.

So many things can be solved: a neighbour can open their wifi network for others, a group of techies can help build a local wifi network that might cover all of Glasgow and beyond, coronavirus makers on telegram have alrea…

Para Chile

El deber

Me sacaste mi tierra de debajo de mis pies.
Los andes se fueron volando y quedé al otro lado del mundo.
Y mientras no estaba, viste esas tierras y las saqueaste,
eran tuyas para destruir, porque no nos dábamos cuenta.

Estado fascista de Pinochet, que vendió esa tierra.

Las valles se hicieron viñas, mineras gigantes crecieron..
Pedimos que no se compraran las cebollas. Que íbamos a hacer?
Mataron por tantos años, de todas las maneras más crueles.
En la carretera mataste un niño, de 13 años, panadero
En la población de Camilo aún se llevan a la gente.

Aún atropellan y crean leyes para pegar mejor.
Para reirse de los derechos con escopetas.

La tierra sacude, se mueve, se levanta con la gente..

Tu modelo se rompió
Tu modelo del gran capital
El modelo de tu gente ya se rompió de repente
Tu modelo se rompió
Tu tiendita se saqueó
donde pagan poco y cobran mucho
precariedad consumista.

Patriarcado que rige el capital,
destruido por las encapuchadas.
El pueblo denunció
el estado asesi…