Food sharing meets degrowth in ‘Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices’

Published by Monika Rut on the 29th January 2021.

Food sharing meets degrowth in ‘Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices’

In our first blog of 2021 Ferne Edwards talks about how her SHARECITY food sharing research with ethical consumer cooperatives in Barcelona informed a chapter she co-wrote with Ricard Espelt and which is published in Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices, edited by Anitra Nelson and Ferne Edwards (Routledge 2021). The theory of degrowth is informed by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Ivan Illich, André Gorz and Serge Latouche, where in practice, degrowth is about living well whilst also minimising the use of materials and energy.

‘Food for Degrowth’ breaks new ground in urban food and degrowth studies. The book showcases 16 chapters from 33 contributors from four continents. Topics include socio-political, gender and economic issues related to food sovereignty and food security, alternative food networks, community supported agriculture, appropriate technology, advertising, utopian visions and social change.

Food sharing plays a key role in security a degrowth future, with case studies in the book describing food sharing and caring in dachas in Eastern Europe (Chapter 5), cultivating and sharing traditional knowledge of African indigenous leafy vegetables in Kenya (Chapter 4), the establishment of alternative food networks in Hungary, Italy and Catalonia (Chapters 6, 7 and 8), platforms to catalyse innovative approaches in Food City Labs in Budapest (Chapter 9), and strategies to bring stakeholders together across sectors to scale up and out food sharing practices across the world (Chapter 11). Together, this collection provides grounded insights on how the food system can be revolutionized in household, community and regional contexts, appealing to a wide audience of academics, activists and an interested public.

Chapter 11 ‘Technology for degrowth: Implementing digital platforms for community supported agriculture by Ferne Edwards and Ricard Espelt situates the SHARECITY case study of a consumer cooperative in Gràcia, Barcelona, within a wider study on cooperatives and community supported agriculture (CSAs), where Barcelona is home to “56 collectives representing 157 producers and 13 intermediaries (Espelt 2018; Espelt et al. 2015)”.

The chapter investigates degrowth outcomes through accessing the feasibility, viability, conviviality and appropriateness of digital platforms for CSAs. ‘Feasibility’ and ‘viability’ consider a technology’s physical and material structure, including energy consumption and impact on the environment, ‘conviviality’ draws on ‘convivial tools’ by Illich (1975) to be later reinterpreted by Vetter (2018) as ‘convivial technologies’ to consider the social impacts of institutions and products, while ‘appropriateness’ draws on work by Schumacher (1973) to consider the values and desires of participants (Alexander and Yacoumis 2018). Desiring to promote direct, ethical exchange between consumers and producers through the application of emerging technologies, and to share successful technologies to support the work of other CSAs, this chapter asks: Are digital technologies viable and feasible for degrowth-oriented CSAs? Do they support goals of fair, ethical, convivial, appropriate and political consumption?

The research reveals that a wide range of technological applications is being trialed by CSAs in Catalonia (see Table 10.1). The authors find that the most appropriate technology for sustaining degrowth values in CSAs are digital platforms, where“platform cooperativism supports collaborative online sharing and prevents vertical power relations”. Furthermore, Edwards and Espelt note that continuous monitoring of the functions and impacts of these technologies is crucial.

For more information on this topic see the video presentation by Edwards on Food Sharing ethnographies in Barcelona. A pdf of ‘Technology for degrowth: Implementing digital platforms for community supported agriculture’ can be downloaded at Edwards’ Academic.edu profile while the book can be purchased here. Endorsing values of sharing and the commons, we encourage interested readers to request libraries to purchase the book to share with others! Both editors have also recently released two additional books that further expand their specializations on urban food practices, sustainability and degrowth: Food, Senses and the City (by Edwards, Gerritsen and Wesser, published by Routledge in 2021) and Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide (by Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson, published by Pluto Press in 2020).

This article was written by Ferne Edwards, a researcher on the SHARECITY project from 2016-2018, who since led the urban food governance work package for the H2020 IA EdiCitNet project based in Barcelona, Spain, and now contributes to research on Socially and Environmentally Just Transitions in sustainable design specializing in urban natures at NTNU – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Ferne can be contacted at ferne.edwards@ntnu.no.

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