Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tangled Routes Ch. 8 Response

In one of our readings for our April 21th meeting, “Tangled Routes: Chapter 8 ‘Signs of Hope’” (285-313), I found an interesting and optimistic approach to social and ecological issues associated with food, which illustrated the future steps necessary to develop food in a just and sustainable way. In her analysis of the globalized food system, or in this case tomatoes, Deborah Barndt speaks adamantly about the issues faced today by female workers reinforcing what needs to be done in order to change how wealth and power are distributed. Although disheartened she points to the influential everyday things people are doing to resist current conditions and to create alternatives. At the core of the current social movement in Mexico and Canada, what is being done arose out of the need for education and collective/global assistance. The Mexican Institute for Community Development (IMDEC) has been a source of inspiration and a training ground for popular educators in Mexico for 40 years. An example of its importance can be seen at the Tomasita Project, where they helped popular educators discover conceptual frameworks, and tools for educating in their communities. Citing the impacts of the “El Campo No Aguanta Mas” organizations she reiterates and calls for more collective action on the part of the Mexican People. These and similar protests of international trade agreements and other governmental and economic barriers are described as necessary for change. Along with protests and education, activism such as the Zapatista revolution is deemed crucial in linking “the rights of indigenous people” ultimately calling for “…for an insurrection of civil society, for the democratization of Mexico, and for a global struggle against neoliberalism.” (Barndt, 291-292) The stories she presented from Canada were almost more inspiring. Her description of the FSC-SAC and their goals towards food security (Zero hunger, a sustainable food system, and healthy and safe food) seem very radical in the shadow of the current system. The work of Common Frontiers was an added bonus for me. To hear about the struggles they encountered while fighting the hemispheric trade agreements suggests how difficult it is to influence our leaders to make good choices. In her final words, Deborah Barndt, tragically describes the current fate of not just women but of all workers who face social injustice in the food system, calling for education, collective action, and transnational coalition support. In the last paragraph of the book she emphasizes that optimism rather than cynicism will be needed for pushing forward in the hopes that someday “another world is possible.”The stories that Barndt enlightens us with are extremely eye opening to experience as a reader. You feel immediate emotional responses to the injustices and “backwardness” of the current food issues in Mexico. As Americans, we all must feel somewhat guilty because of our current demand for food causes the urgency for supply. This urgency fueled by economic gains, ignores those social gains which benefit us all. I for one do not feel sympathy for the workers, because sympathy is not beneficial to them or me. What is necessary is the implicating of local agriculture in our communities. If enough customers grew their own food, or bought it from local co-ops, that need for supply would evaporate. I feel that although it is very necessary for people to begin to exhibit what the woman from pg.286 exemplifies, we need some sort of top-down change as well. Reexamining our hemispheric trade agreements to better suit workers and consumers and not government trade-economics is an important step we will eventually have to take. I also felt that the guilt inducing elements of this book do not represent the attitude needed to make the changes Deborah Barndt desperately appeals for. From the generous work of Canadian activists, and through further willingness and determination from the women working the fields of Mexico small but substantial changes will rise out of the pathetic system that governs the 3 largest countries in N. America.

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