Sustainability (and such)

Archive for the ‘Food sovereignty’ Category

Conferences, meh.

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on October 1, 2012

Today I’m polishing a presentation for the upcoming AASHE conference and I’m wondering why, this time, I’m dreading it.  Do I fervently believe in the mission of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education?  Yes.  Have I benefited from previous AASHE conferences?  Yes, again.  Don’t I want to share my research, which is about food sovereignty and sustainability in American Indian tribes?  Oh, yes.  So why aren’t I looking forward to the upcoming get-together in Los Angeles, exactly?

I’m conferenced-out, especially with national/global meetings, especially about sustainability.  In this era of Google circles and hang-outs, plus the question about whether big conferences are becoming obsolete, why are so many of us still spending thousands of dollars and tromping with huge carbon footprints into far-flung cities like Godzilla tourists, albeit well-meaning?  (Plus, a POSTER SESSION?  Seriously, hundreds of paper posters, at a sustainability conference? Really?)

A few years back I studied how the World Social Forum was creating smaller, regional events so that more people could afford to network and make incremental progress about common issues.  While the Seattle version fell flat and is an excellent case study in organizational communication, the idea still burns bright:  Short of the comfort of face-to-face interactions and the excitement of new venues and reunions, why aren’t we relying more on virtual sharing rather than continuing this practice of photo ops and per diem elitism?

If I’m gonna stick with AASHE, I’ll need something different next time. What if some of our $200-$600 registration fees went toward actual college projects rather than vendor booths with swag?  How about holding several smaller meetings on college campuses rather than “North America’s largest campus sustainability conference” at the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center?  And maybe we academics could suck it up and stay in college dorms off-season rather than at the gorgeous Westin Bonaventure?

Yes, I’m dragging my feet because it seems hypocritical to travel the planet on other people’s dimes in the name of sustainability.  HOWEVER, I must confess that this whining is selective, because I’m also  winging my way to Orlando next month to the upcoming National Communication Association conference.  Yes, I’ll pay my own way to learn stuff I either already know or can easily access, given the convention’s archive.  But I pinky-swear to do a knowledge transfer when I get back, okay, just as soon as I take off my mouse ears.

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Food and independence at the tribal level

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on July 15, 2012

(Part of the continuing Food 2.0 series)

One of the brightest success stories about American food security comes from the Sovereign Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and I’m honored to be part of that tribe’s upcoming Food Sovereignty Workshop.  I already love how this program combines the best of so many public campaigns, such as buying locally, supporting small businesses, and increasing sustainability efforts while connecting with the land.

Simply, the Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems works to integrate “local food and resources, improve the community’s quality of food, educate the people of diet-related health risks, increase employment and youth opportunities, and assist in bringing all people closer together”.  This replicable model centers on recovering food systems that don’t destroy social and natural communities with specifics such as:  visioning and planning programs; importance of cultural considerations; “how-to” operate canneries and raise poultry and (Black Angus) cattle; plus garden and greenhouse production.  In addition to this nuts-and-bolts approach, the Oneida tribe considers food an important part of a community that regularly celebrates, harvests, and gives thanks.

Want second helpings?  You can find more info via social media that dovetails with your personal interests.  For instance, the #SahelCrisis Twitter group spotlights an ongoing African drought and famine for millions who live on what they can grow.  Within the gender lens, there are increasing links between women’s economic opportunity and access to safe, affordable food. And technology is an important tool to assess a situation before interceding:  at a global level, food security is often analyzed using VAM (Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping) methods that include GIS, satellite imagery, and Personal Digital Assistants. And, of course, you can always tie sustainability and food security to other social justice issues of poverty, economics, trade, inequality, public policy, and immigration.

While my research has focused on food security within American Indian tribal colleges, such actions are part of the larger findings about culture and sustainability.  The 2008 economic and financial crisis caused an eruption of hunger within this country that continues to escalate for nearly 49 million people, which is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population and more than 1 in five children. It’s a part of our community that needs more research, corporate involvement, and volunteers.  To that end, I’ll post more in early August after the workshop and please let me know if you’d like to join!

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