Posts Tagged: policy
When people don't think about the impact of their decision-making on others, it can ultimately lead to tragedy - the tragedy of the commons, said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researcher Mark Lubell during an interview on Jefferson Public Radio. Lubell, director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at UC Davis, studies human decision-making in the context of the environment.
"People think about what happens on their private land and make their private decisions, but they don't think about how their private decisions affect others," Lubell said. "You see this all the time with human decision-making."
An example he uses with his students is how they and their roommates manage their shared kitchens.
"When one person's dishes pile up, it impacts the others," Lubell said. "I ask how they would make rules to solve the problem."
Lubell said the parties need to collectively develop a policy that is mutually beneficial.
"If we didn't have that capacity, we would be in big trouble," Lubell said.
Cooperation tends to be the norm, however the media is more likely to cover cases of conflict, so they tend to get more attention.
Crank back to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, when Democratic strategist James Carville hung a sign in the campaign headquarters in Little Rock detailing the three key messages of Clinton's campaign. Point two read, "The economy, stupid." The phrase - meant to be an internal campaign slogan - caught on, and entered popular culture.
That phrase might now read "It's the Food System, Stupid." Tonight I read a breaking CNN story on the worsening international situation vis-a-vis skyrocketing food prices. Riots continue in Haiti, Egypt and Zimbabwe; Bangladesh is the site of the latest civil unrest centered on food prices and shortages. Expect more nations to experience food riots in the upcoming days and weeks. Expect some of these nations to experience serious political destabilization. And expect impacts from the international situation to affect us domestically; America has vital strategic interests in a number of these nations (particularly Egypt).
Historians know that nations that cannot keep food supplies cheap, abundant and secure are in trouble. Food is national security. Food, fuel and the rise and fall of nations are inextricably linked. If the cost of fuel rises, the price of food will rise as well. That's the big picture.
The small picture - but the one with emotional impact - is the middle-class mom in my community who reported to a local newspaper that she didn't buy eggs this week because "they were too expensive." Eggs are expensive. The price of nearly food item has risen lately, and the increase in food prices has far surpassed any concurrent rise in income that families may have experienced.
I spent my lunch hour walking through the grocery store today, looking at prices and wondering, "How the heck are people going to do this?" I saw more people pondering their food choices in the aisles. Baskets didn't seem as full. I know that I've been much more careful about closely following my own shopping list. We are buying more of our food directly from farmer's stands in our area, which is certainly a cheaper, fresher and more sustainable alternative than the chain grocery store. But that's an option that many Americans don't have.
There is so much newspaper space devoted to rising food costs right now. It, more than even our presidential election, is the story of the year. However, most of the articles overlook an important part of the solution: gardening. Gardening can help families bridge the gap in challenging economic times. Even a modest container garden can help the budget. A larger garden can become an integral part of a family's diet, and can also provide a low-cost, healthy and fun alternative to more expensive activities.
The federal government is going to have to step in to address rising food prices. It's an issue of national security. And any part of a government plan to address rising food costs should include promoting school, home and community garden programs. Yes, it's the economy, but it's also the food system.
"A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden."
The American Public Health Assocation (APHA) recently issued "Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System" (Policy Number: 200712). It provides an excellent summary of the state of America's food system and the public health implications of how we're currently operating. The APHA's report explicitly links issues relating to the food system with public health, which of course makes sense. The APHA also has some interesting recommendations. Among its many and sound recommendations, the APHA:
- "Urges the public health community to increase its engagement in food system issues and to educate policymakers; media; food industry; and public health, nutrition, and environmental professionals about public health issues and solutions associated with the food system, including issues related to sustainability, nutrition, and justice."
- "Better align US investment emphasis with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and seek to make healthy, sustainably produced foods the affordable, convenient choices
- "Encourages governmental food procurement programs (including school breakfast, lunch, and snack programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and institutional food providers to consider the benefits of locally and sustainably produced, healthy and fair trade foods and to take steps to incorporate these into their programs."
- "Encourages cooperative efforts in local food systems, with governmental support, to—
a. Improve local food marketing, distribution, and processing capacity and infrastructure
b. Establish and promote food policy councils to enable evaluating food systems and recommend changes
c. Reduce barriers to obtaining sustainable, locally produced, fair trade and healthy foods
d. Increase state and local cooperative extension program activities targeted to small farms and those producing fruits and vegetables"
- "Urges involvement of an independent body such as the Institute of Medicine or US Government Accountability Office to conduct a broad review of the public health impacts of US agricultural policy and engage in ongoing monitoring to assure that public health concerns are better heard in decisionmaking about agricultural policy."
The complete report is available at http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1361
While it's not explicitly or strongly argued in this paper, school, home and community gardens could - and ought to be - an important strategy in creating a more healthy and sustainable food system. Local gardening efforts are one of the most effective strategies in reducing barriers to obtaining sustainable, locally-produced, and healthy foods. School gardens provide an excellent way to improve nutrition on school grounds, and complement a number of APHA's suggestions about how to improve governmental food procurement programs.
While it doesn't plug gardening as strongly as it should, the APHA's report deserves wide distribution. It should give all Americans - and especially policy makers - ample reason to consider again that our current national food system has real problems...and that the increasing number of Americans struggling with chronic, preventable diseases demonstrates this point.
"A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden."