Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

The Myth of Quality

At the People’s Summit in Rio, Brazil, I attended a very powerful and informative session on Women, Feminism, and Agroecology. Women had gathered from places such as Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Agentina, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, and Morocco to discuss their common realities in different parts of the world and how they were faring under this global agrobusiness model which has resulted in agrotoxins becoming another food group and trees being pimped for their ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

So many vital topics were brought up, and I will be exploring them in more depth as I unpack the learnings of this session, but today my thoughts are on challenges to buying local food as a parallel to environmental racism.

One sister from Brazil brought up the issue of “quality”and food. More specifically, “the discussion of quality as a means to avoid local production and circulation of food.” The narrative that comes out of big-ag, as well as all areas of media on aesthetics or beauty, is that unless it looks a certain way and is packaged in a particular package, the quality is suspect. We are taught to idealize row upon row of unnaturally large apples, oranges, potatoes, and peppers at big box stores, mistakingly believing that uniformity is somehow a natural state. We accept that these fruits and vegetables are waxed and polished, that flavor and nutrition are being sacrificed for aesthetics, and that obviously the only place this “perfection plant phenomenon” can happen is about a billion miles away from your home town thereby justifying flying them in from all corners of the world to meet our needs.

The other underlying message in the discussion of ‘quality’ is that big-ag can do it better. They can clean and package fruits and vegetables more effectively and safely that you little local farmers can. Unfortunately, many consumers believe this to be true even if most large food contaminations have come more as a result of the practices of commercial farming than at the produce stand of Saturday farmer’s markets.

It saddens me to hear children (and adults) look at the spectacular display of nature’s diversity and exclaim with all seriousness, “What’s wrong with it? Why does it look like that?”. I can’t help but reflect on how this myth of quality and beauty plays itself out all over the world with people too. This ego-centric, privileged assumption that has corporate entities deciding what is “natural”, “beautiful”, “healthy”, and “acceptable” (and who gets to be or have access to those things) is one of the foundational bricks of environmental racism and marginalization of certain communities. If you have any question as to the truth of this just think about where poor people live and where polluting facilities are located. Now, reflect on where the best or most effective city services such as landscaping, trash removal, and beautification projects are located…Now you tell me:

What is your city’s message about “Quality”? Image

Women, Feminism, and Agroecology Session – Rio People’s Summit June 15, 2012

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In Praise of “Women’s Work”

Buen Vivir! from Women, Feminism, and Agroecology session.

“Nature is the mother of everything, its no coincidence She’s referred to as Mother. Earth gives life, Women give life. We are seeking complimentarity, our work is not valued as highly as that of men.”

“We have the right to work and feed ourselves with our own seeds. We should not have to depend on food from abroad. We have traditional knowledge to feed ourselves and our people in our countries.”

“Women have to deal with the food shortages when raising our children, feeding our families.  Without land, we have to go to the city and look for jobs. This takes us away from our children and families.”

Idioteque – Handling the Contradictions with Love

Here in Rio at the People’s Summit, I have been moved to tears several times this week. My mind is trying desperately to wrap itself around the contradictions it is experiencing, needing a logical resting place. I’m not sure that there is one. The beauty of nature, the anguish of people, and the din of the machine. Literally a stone’s toss away from glorious sandy beaches, sparkling waters, and majestic mountains is a powerful convergence of community, indigenous, and grassroots people of this Earth, united in a struggle to keep Earth alive. Simultaneously the United Nations Rio+20 Conference seems to giving Earth’s closing arguments, sentencing her to perpetual corporate and government servitude.

At the People’s Summit, more than 30 tents have been erected and activist groups are gathering for discussion regarding a variety of climate injustices and their impact on the planet and Her inhabitants. We are celebrating ecological diversity and honoring the deep wisdom which comprises our very DNA. We are looking resolutely toward solutions and necessary systemic change. This gives us the strength to keep going despite an ominous thread that is weaving its way through every conversation, threatening to drawstring itself around our truths, bind our tongues, and cut them off at the roots.

At times like this, times of deep anger and pain, I realize that we have go in even more deeply and lean heavily on love. I ground myself in knowing that at the center of this gathering, every plenary and workshop, the early morning and late night meetings, in every ritual dance, every spiritual ceremony, every hug, kiss, and handshake, is love. The love is palpable amidst the urgency surrounding this crises we have been forced into at the hands of the corporate greed economy, and is what will ultimately disempower that machine. We come from a place of peace and healing and love will always be at the forefront.