The Prince’s Speech: On The Future of Food

I just read the book titled The Prince’s Speech: On The Future of Food, which is based on a speech given by The Prince of Wales on May 4, 2011 to The Future of Food Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Here are a few key points I took away from the essay:

— It is our human obligation to increase “the long-term fertility of the soil” and we must use a form of agriculture which recognizes that “the soil is the planet’s most vital renewable resource.”

— He said that “social and economic stability is built upon valuing and supporting local communities and their traditions” and “small-holder agriculture therefore has a pivotal role.”

— One point that really stuck with me was the notion that “Capitalism depends upon capital, but our capital ultimately depends upon the health of Nature’s capital.” Nature’s capital…I really resonated with that comparison and word choice. The idea that the price or importance of something depends on the value place on it. On our values. In our globalized, industrial world we value money, increasing profit, and material wealth. What we need to acknowledge is that our capitalist society, which depends on non-renewable resources and the exploitation of mother earth, only factors in ideas of “productivity” and “efficiency” and completely disregards all other inputs and outputs. The capitalist system is fragile, vulnerable, and far less resilient than systems of nature. Resources of nature are ultimately the most valuable forms of “capital” we have, all other capital heavily depend on them.

— Another point was made about the connection between biodiversity and social/cultural diversity, which was an idea I explored recently in a paper I wrote while in Hawaii:

“Just as industrial agriculture persistently creates monocultures within the soil, so too are we creating monocultures within the minds of humans across the world. When cultivation is defined by one set of variables, those being profit, income, and monetary wealth, our culture becomes blind and weak. Without a diversity of perspectives, we are highly vulnerable to the breakdown of this single, narrow-minded view of success and progress. Just as the genetic diversity of a given farm protects against the devastating effects of a major crop failure, so too does intellectual and emotional diversity provide the resiliency we will need to recover from the inevitable collapse of our globalized economy, centralized world bank, dependence on fossil fuels, and industrial food system.”

— Again, on the topic of values, the speech talks about the fact that food is much cheaper  than it used to be, and therefore we do not value it as we once did. He states, “I cannot help feeling some of this problem could be avoided with better food education.”

— One really important excerpt from the speech: “The point, surely, is to achieve a situation where the production of healthier food rewarded and becomes more affordable and the Earth’s capital is not so eroded. Nobody wants food prices to go up, but if it is the case that the present low price of intensively produced food in developed countries is actually an illusion, only made possible by transferring the costs of cleaning up pollution or dealing with human health problems onto other agencies, then could correcting these anomalies result in a more beneficial arena where nobody is actually worse off in net terms? It would simply be a more honest form of accounting that may make it more desirable for producers to operate more sustainably-particularly if subsidies were redirected to benefit sustainable systems of production.”

— In conclusion, we have to “put Nature back at the heart of the equation.”

(Image above is a drawing I did recently titled “Nature’s Capital”)

You can also listen to the speech here: 

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