Tonight, accompanied by one of my NYU students, Vanessa Bernstein, I attended a talk by Andrew Faust at the Quaker House in Manhattan. I found the first hour of his talk fascinating, as he gave a wonderful multi-disciplinary discussion of the evolution of the earth and of humanity. As a non-physical science person, I found many of the insights new and novel (full disclosure: Vanessa said that she knew all of that information already.) And coincidentally, the discussion of physics was quite similar to one that a new friend shared with me just days before.
Andrew is clearly passionate about his life’s vocation: permaculture. In addition, he is only the second person I have encountered who has lived off the grid for an extended period of time. I found his talk riveting and he managed to hold my attention for two hours (no small feat for a professor who prefers to do the talking rather the listening.)
One point Andrew emphasized repeatedly was that Manhattan (and the rest of NYC) could be transformed into more livable and healthy city through carefully selecting site-specific plants and trees, planted in rooftop gardens, along the streets, and in “brown” areas. In addition to cleaning the environment, the greenery would sooth us. He argued for new parks and places where people could congregate in ways that would connect us to the ecosystem and natural cycles (sunrises, sunsets, solstices, etc.)
Throughout the lecture, my mind kept returning to one point he mentioned: humans would have to change their behavior. This change included eating in a way to support our digestive system, plus drastically reduce our consumption of material goods. Sound familiar? It sure does to me. A food system transformation requires the same change in human behavior. This is a critical element that appears, in my opinion, unlikely to occur anytime soon.
Another point seemed particularly relevant to an important aspect of the food movement: regional food systems. Andrew spoke of ecosystem specificity in regards to plants, habitats, and climates, and the regions he displayed on his map were fairly small. It is clear to me that our notion of a regional food system needs to incorporate this region specificity. I am sure some food system geographers have already thought about this, but now it is clear that I should start incorporating these region specific aspects into my personal research.