What might the future look like?

17th February 2021

Last week, Celia Bradley wrote about understanding the bigger global picture when it comes to sourcing sustainable food at Lee Greens. This week you can read more about what the future of food may look like.

What might the future look like?

We know that our food system is broken. We know that fixing the food system will go a very long way towards fixing the climate crisis. Sometimes we feel helpless: we as individuals can change our shopping habits, reduce our plastic use or increase our recycling but it seems like we have such a very small impact when we look at the global picture.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly governments responded to the threat presented by Covid-19?  The science relating to the climate emergency is utterly compelling and yet they do not seem to be acting with the necessary urgency. Perhaps disaster needs to be staring us in the face before our leaders decide to act.  Maybe for individuals it’s too frightening or too difficult to picture the potential outcomes of the climate emergency.

One answer is to turn this on its head. Let’s turn our imaginations to what might be possible.  In the words of Rob Hopkins (founder of the Transition Movement), “We can’t build what we can’t imagine.” Collectively, as humans, we have an amazing capacity to imagine and to create. How do you want the world to look in ten years? In fifty years? In the twenty second century?

Have you ever come across an edible bus stop? Take a journey on the 322 bus (which runs from Crystal Palace to Clapham Common) and you may spot one. This project is taking neglected and disused sites along the route and transforming them into community growing spaces and thriving neighbourhood hubs.

A little further from home, in the city of Liege in Belgium, the people have taken the local food system into their own hands. Local citizens have invested their money in local businesses that are committed to sustainable production methods and who sell produce directly into the City. The Liege Food Belt now includes 14 cooperatives involved in growing, production and distribution. Underpinning it all is Le Val’Heureux, the region’s local currency. This endeavour has been so successful that the local government is paying serious attention and adapting their policies to support the change that is underway.

Ursula le Guin wrote: “The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary.”

In Bologna, Italy, they have a Civic Imagination Office. What a great name! They have developed a cooperation pact between citizens and city and the people have a real say in what happens. This is not about consultation processes where citizens often feel they have little power, that their views won’t actually be listened to. This is about the creation of a ‘collaborative city’. If you think that local governments are all about bureaucracy and frustration then such an idea sounds rather futuristic, doesn’t it? How exciting to learn that it is happening right now. Another similar scheme is underway in Brazil – could this be something to be mirrored everywhere?

In the words of Neil Gaiman, “We all – adults and children… have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”

Imagining a future of joy and abundance in food and nature will help us all to shake off feelings of fear and despair for the plight of our planet.

In my next article I look at what actions we can take to be a part of the transformation.

For more inspiration, watch Rob Hopkins at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. From What If to What Next: Why We Need to Cultivate Imagination Alongside Agricultural Produce

Celia Bradley, Lee Greens Founder and Director