Sustainable food and agricultural futures require more than technological or regulatory fixes or finance-as-usual with an enhanced ESG mandate. It requires radically different imaginations of how we live and retire well. Obviously, this is larger than food! Ideas abound and complement or enrich the post-capitalist politics envisaged by the authors just cited above. They obviously go beyond this research, but this should not make us shy away from a bit of radical imagination. “Radical” as an ethos needs to be reclaimed from its common association with being unjustifiably “extreme” or simply “utopian”. Rather, it should be understood as a call to go to the roots – “radical” derives from the Latin word radix (“root”; plural radices) – of the problem of modern finance. This implies acknowledging that a model built on imperial claims on the future and in need of constant expansion does not serve us well to get into the core of the “doughnut” .
Economist Kate Raworth came up with the concept of the doughnut model of the economy. The doughnut is a compass that allows us to develop a system that serves all well by meeting a range of basic social needs globally while making sure that we do not transcend the ecological limits or “planetary boundaries” of the Earth system . Although Raworth could be challenged on the grounds that she promotes a “new idealism”, rooting all our economic-ecological malaise in flawed economic theory (and, indeed, more radical roadmaps to a world beyond capitalism exist), the doughnut probably still provides the most powerful visual model of how systemic, target-oriented and transformational knowledge can be brought together to carve out other kinds of food futures.
The realization of “doughnut agriculture” hinges on a whole variety of other interventions by governments, companies, grassroots movements, and individuals aiming at reshaping how we live, consume, produce, organize technology, distribute, care and retire. This ranges from stranding assets such as fossil fuels to rethinking the ways money is generated, circulated, and taxed, and to new forms of property (both material and intellectual) and corporate equity that are in line with a doughnut economy in which the relational ethics mentioned above can flourish. This would also imply drastically reducing the volumes of interest-bearing capital roaming the globe (various forms of debt, including pension- to- be- money), and, indeed, moving beyond an economic system based on the amassment of spatially extensive return claims. For agriculture, this could mean reinvigorating some of the ethics that cropped up in some of the Aotearoa New Zealand case studies. I am saying this in the full knowledge that these often served in a more instrumentalist way as a value proposition for investors. Such an agriculture would, rather, thrive on short investment chains – “community investments and relationship-based lending” . The notions drawn from Māori philosophy such as kaitiaki (guardianship) and whanaungatanga (kinship), if adopted in a robust way, offer some interesting entry points in overcoming an “economy as machine” ethos. They could inform a more meaningful financial ethics that aims at ensuring there is “balance, collective custodianship or guardianship and respect for the spirit or the force of the natural world” . Reducing the physical and relational distance not just between investors and investees but also between food consumers and producers within an agri-cultural system that harnesses accessibility, diversity, multifunctionality and intergenerational care could be an outcome of this.
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