Regenerative food systems expert, Javier Carrera, shares with us the strategies of a long struggle to protect ancestral maize in Ecuador, along with the cultural practices related to this special plant. He will talk about what maize is in Ecuador and why it is so important and share lessons to transform organic maize systems worldwide.
Javier has been fascinated by maize for as long as he can remember, partly because it has so many different types and uses: canguil, mote, cau, choclo, morocho, tostado, chulpi, chicha, humita, chuchuca, tortilla, champús. And so many different colours, forms, sizes, textures and flavors. He says the genetics of maize are so similar to ours in many ways and there have been so many stories, cultural practices, folk songs, rituals, recipes written about maize.
“I totally understand when people say ‘we are people of maize. Our bodies and souls are made of it.”
But out of the 300+ maize varieties listed by national researchers in the 1960’s in Ecuador, Javier’s network of seed guardians, Social en la Red de Guardianes de Semillas, has only been able to find only around 50. The rest of them are gone. Probably forever. Who were they? What were their names, stories, flavors, colours?
The food and agrochemical industry spends billions of dollars every year to shape consumer demand for their products and public perception about their practices. Some of this vast spending underwrites the most visible form of this narrative shaping—advertising. But billions more are spent around the globe on strategies to shape the story of food without industry fingerprints. In this session, author and advocate Anna Lappé talks about reporting she and colleagues have been doing for years that reveals the stealth tactics of industry to shape what we believe about food in order to influence the policies and regulations that most impact the bottom line. Join Anna Lappé for this talk and apply for the workshop to get more in-depth training on spinning food.
Our food system is central to the most critical issues of our time. Not only is food the one thing that we produce that everyone, everywhere, needs every day, but its production – as well as its consumption – connects us intimately with the natural world. But the globalised food system has separated us from the sources of our food, thereby severing the land-based relationships that informed our species’ entire evolution. This system has become the biggest contributor to climate chaos and ecocide, as well as to the ill-health of humanity.
But if food lies at the centre of the problem, it is also central to the solution. By transforming our food systems – by transitioning away from large-scale, industrial monocultures for centralised markets, towards diversified, smaller-scale place-based food production – we really can maximise productivity and feed the world, while simultaneously minimising resource use, healing ecosystems, and increasing the number of livelihoods. Recognising this truth is the doorway into a new paradigm, one that empowers us to support human flourishing even as we begin to solve our ecological crises at their systemic root cause.
Do we even have a right to be hopeful? With political and ecological fires raging all around, is it irresponsible to imagine a future world radically better than our own? A world of healed ecosystems? Of food sovereignty and equal access to land? A world where governments fear the people instead of the other way around?
These are questions that Naomi Klein and Nnimmo Bassey wrestled with when they conceived of a sequel to last year's Emmy-nominated short, "A Message From the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez." The first film, co-written by the congresswoman and illustrated by Molly Crabapple, was set in a can-do future: one in which bold, progressive politicians joined with grassroots movements to launch the "Decade of the Green New Deal," battling poverty, injustice, and climate disruption all at the same time. The film touched a nerve and ended up being viewed more than 12 million times, convincing our little team of the need for more art that departs from well-worn apocalyptic scripts. Then Covid-19 hit.
Join globally-known activists, Naomi Klein and Nnimmo Bassey, as they show us the eight-minute sequel to Message from the Future, discuss the lessons we can learn from this extraordinary time and what a better and more hopeful future might look like.