Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eat. Play. Love.

The sustainable food movement's roots are branching.

In June 2010, The American Dietetic Association, American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association met to develop a set of shared food system principles.

For the first time, national leaders in the nursing, nutrition, planning, and public health professions worked collaboratively to create a shared platform for systems-wide food policy change.

Endorsed by coalition members, the principles were written to support socially, economically and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health — the current and future health of individuals, communities and the natural environment.

You can read their combined statement here (pdf). What are your thoughts on educating for a sustainable food system? How can we support it?

Lately, I've been wondering if gardening is enough. Sure, it gets our hands dirty and keeps us working out there with ourselves and our power instead of being plugged into this machine in front of me and eating crummy industrialized potato chips. I'm not in a car. Kids are working and playing and learning at the same time and using their senses, assuming they're actually doing what's asked of them. The potential richness of experience of place is right there. But is it enough?

A friend of mine, a fairly experienced English teacher and avid wilderness explorer, went to Norway last year and visited schools. He talked to teachers there about environmental education (EE). They don't have much of what we would call EE and this perplexed him. It is a highly industrialized nation with an incredible standard of living, healthy and happy people, a fairly high rate of consumption, but has incredible environmental conservation. Maybe it's not even fair to call it conservation because it is part of Norway's identity to preserve wilderness.

People in Norway do much of what their leisure outside. They recreate in action with the wilderness. According to the United States' Official Norway site, "adoration of nature is a vital ingredient in the country's national identity." This is part of schooling, with annual ski jaunts at school. Out you go. Can you imagine? Status quo is cross country skiing, hiking, going to the lakes, or playing outside in nature. Playing in nature breeds love of nature instead of an outdoor-phobic people who don't see the relationship between them, natural resources, and the more-than-human environment.

So gardens are a start. A great start that connects us to a particular place and its cycles and system. It lets us work and play right there and experience growth; growth we hope is external and internal. But I think that we need more than that. We need, I think desperately almost, to bring children and adults into nature where they are and beyond where they are.

Who wants to go hiking? We can bring some food from one of our local farmers and breathe in the air given to us by the hemlocks deep in Allen Seeger or walk the deer paths in the local game lands (wear your orange). Sustain food systems and sustain yourselves. All the while we'll be playing and learning. And maybe, if you're lucky, you can start to love a place and want to be in it and with even more.

Who's game?

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