The idea for this issue initially came as a response to the farmer’s strikes of the previous year. While this still forms a core part of the content of this issue, particularly in the first few sections, the project ended up growing much beyond that. Whether you live in the top floor suite of a skyscraper or spend your days tilling the soil, we are all – with the exception of a handful of non- agricultural societies – dependent on the farming of food. When we first thought about farming, however, it was myopically – largely a lens through which to address pressing current affairs. But in reality, the way we produce and consume food is intimately linked to the way we perceive the world. Whether we choose to nourish, respect, tend to, and care for our soil and crops and animals, or choose to devastate, poison, raze, and reap – this is indicative of the most basic values and principles that dominate in a community and in a society. Of course, in practice (as always) it’s not a simple black-and-white issue. Most of us would agree that it is better to produce food equitably and sustainably. Yet, at the same time, most of us still eat that cheap, bad food which we know has definitely not been made with the wellbeing of people and earth in mind.
The truth is that the dominant, deep-seated logics of capitalism have structured society in a way where convenience, value, and the libidinal attraction of a naughty bite are sacralised. The time poverty that many of us urban-moderns face, with the line between the working life and leisure time fast being erased, has all but encouraged this. Naturally, many of us feel guilty about our complicity. The giddiness that comes with eating a Big Mac is in no small part due to the knowledge that it is, on some level, wrong. But the guilt is really a neat trick. Years ago, petroleum companies found a way to foist the burden of responsibility for their catastrophic actions on to the individual consumer (the infamous “carbon footprint”). This essentially changed the narrative. No longer was eco-catastrophe a systemic issue. It was the responsibility of each of us – as atomised individuals – to make the right consumer choices. So today we can have the absurd scenario of a company responsible for clearing large swathes of rainforest for cattle ranching offering us an eco friendly veggie burger. Just like that, capitalism shores up our guilt, then launders it into profit. It is for these reasons that the way we conceive of our relationship to food can be, quite literally, a revolutionary act. It’s no coincidence that many of the most impactful revolutionary movements in history have had the distribution and organisation of food and farming as core concerns. One only has to look at the Zapatistas in Mexico for a living example of this.
Obviously, many readers will not be farmers or peasants. Many readers may not even know one personally. Or eat anything that is not off a supermarket shelf. But that does not matter. The point of this issue is to explore the conditions which have led us all down this destructive path. The point of this issue is also to help each reader envision alternative visions being conceived of and enacted by communities each day. And, ultimately, the point of this issue is to give each reader a glimmer of another possible, to try and put a chink in that protective shell of quiet resignation many of us wear day in, day out. The optimism of the people and collectives featured in this issue will, for many of us, contrast with the cynicism of the people we may be used to remains a crucial rallying point for us all who have grown up with the individualistic philosophies of neoliberal capitalism is to reject the misanthropy it engenders in many of us. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore, “We live in the world when we love it.” We are a part of that world. And so the first, most vital step in loving the earth is to love each other. We hope that with this collection of articles we can help in that regard demonstrating the communitarian spirit which truly defines humanity.