The Circles of Food approach begins with a simple but demanding proposition. Principles for better food systems should be grounded in a general framework that concerns the human condition. Rather than just a set of proposals that are added together from the immediate concerns of the drafting committees, principles need to be connected as part of a social whole. All too often, we see skewed sets of principles that reflect fashionable concerns.
We thus proceed based on a second guiding proposition — that guiding principles should relate to each other across the basic domains of social life: ecology, economics, politics and culture. This proposition is based on the Circles of Social Life approach.
Within our proposed framework of four domains it is possible to suggest a very simple set of first-level principles that can both be readily understood and systematically connected to an underlying set of second-level principles that provide guidance to practice. The following list is a working list only and will require considerable global consultation and debate to finalize. Click here for a pdf (1.2MB) outlining the principles.
Towards a Positive Ecology of Food
Ecology: Our food system should actively maintain the health and integrity of the natural environment on which it depends, seeking to maintain the health of existing ecosystems and enhance biodiversity.
Towards a Positive Economics of Food
Economics: Our food system should support, create and sustain local and regional livelihoods while building a resilient food industry.
Towards a Positive Politics of Food
Politics: Our governments and organizations should collaborate and work holistically, both internally and externally, while proactively engaging with communities to inform policy, planning and legislative actions relating to environmental stewardship, food security, health and wellbeing, and urban and regional livelihoods.
Towards a Positive Culture of Food
Culture: Our food system should embrace the diverse and cultural significance of food, recognizing its central role in promoting social cohesion, life-long and intergenerational learning, and community health and wellbeing.
Then, using the same framework of four domains, each with seven subdomains, it is possible to elaborate the detail with each of the four domains. Again the list below is only a draft list and will inevitably be changed as our local-global consultation continues. The principles maintain their consistency by being related to overall framework. Claims are being made in relation to a systematic set of domains and subdomains as set out in the Circles of Social Life framework.
Our food system should actively maintain the health and integrity of the natural environment on which it depends, seeking to maintain the health of existing ecosystems and enhance biodiversity:
- With food production and processing based as much as possible on organic fertilizing, recyclable materials and use of renewable energy with distributed generation;
- With water for food production sourced sustainably as far as possible without impacting adversely upon regional ecological complexity;
- With agricultural land, both urban and regional, complemented by zones and linear parks providing continuing habitat for indigenous flora and fauna;
- With urban settlements planned so as to both restrict suburban encroachment upon fertile farming land and allow significant local food production within urban boundaries—including through dedicated spaces being set aside for community food gardens;
- With the food system organized to minimize transport distances from sites of production to consumption;
- With the food system contributing to secure access to healthy food for all; and
- With waste management in all aspects of the food system directed fundamentally towards green composting and hard-rubbish minimization.
Our food system should support, create and sustain local and regional livelihoods while building a resilient food industry:
- With food production and exchange shifted from an emphasis on production-for-global-export towards generating local mixed food economies and sustainable local livelihoods;
- With financing and co-financing of prioritized aspects of the food system built into all relevant municipal annual budgets and services spending;
- With the accounting and regulation of different aspects of the food system recognizing that food is a social good rather than just another commodity;
- With a stronger relationship developed between producers and consumers through a diverse array of local produce outlets;
- With food production workplaces brought back into closer spatial relation to residential areas, taking into account issues of personal infringement (such as processing smells and noise) through sustainable and appropriate processing methods, filtration and waste-management;
- With appropriate technologies used for food production and processing, respecting the given limits of nature, including seasonal production; and
- With healthy, fresh and where possible, local, organic food made available to those who cannot afford it through redistributive processes.
Our governments and organizations should collaborate and work holistically, both internally and externally, while proactively engaging with communities to inform policy, planning and legislative actions relating to environmental stewardship, food security, health and wellbeing, and urban and regional livelihoods:
- With food governance conducted through deliberative and participatory democratic processes that bring together substantive community engagement, expert knowledge, and adequate public debate about all aspects of the food system;
- With legislation enacted for sustainable and fair food production and exchange;
- With public communication services and media outlets supported to generate debates about sustainable and fair food;
- With political participation in decisions and processes about food production and consumption going deeper than passive engagement;
- With basic ‘food security’ afforded to all citizens;
- With all actors in the food system actively acknowledging the need for on-going reconciliation with the original inhabitants of the land—particularly in relation to land-use; and
- With ethical debates concerning how we produce and consume food becoming a mainstream aspect of social life.
Our food system should embrace the diverse and cultural significance of food, recognizing its central role in promoting social cohesion, life-long and intergenerational learning, and community health and wellbeing:
- With food consumption recognizing and celebrating the complex layers of community-based identity that have made and are making our region;
- With active support for creative engagement with the culture of food through festivals, shows, celebrations and other public events;
- With museums, cultural centres and other public spaces dedicating some of their ongoing space to comprehensive ecological histories of the local-global food system;
- With locally relevant beliefs about the food system from across the globe woven into the fabric of the built environment: symbolically, artistically and practically;
- With conditions for gender equality pursued in all aspects of the food system;
- With the opportunities for facilitated enquiry and learning about food available to all, from birth to old age across people’s lives—not just through formal training in the food industry; and
- With public spaces and buildings designed and curated to enhance the sense that food is part of the everyday health and wellbeing of people.