Circular systems can help secure food supplies, address climate change – IIED

Food security and climate change, currently two of the world’s most nagging issues, are the focus of a new system suggested by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for food production.

The recommendation is contained in a book published Tuesday, November 22, 2011 by IIED, titled Virtuous Circles: Values, systems and sustainability.

Authors of the book who call for circular systems that mimic natural cycles to produce food, energy, materials and clean water, state that the global food system’s dependence on fossil fuels that contribute to local pollution and global warming is just one example of an unsustainable system.

The book also shows how the linear systems that shape the world are flawed, as they assume a limitless supply of resources and a limitless capacity for the environment to absorb waste and pollution.

According to co-author and principal researcher at IIED, Dr. Michel Pimbert, “Circular economy models that reintegrate food and energy production with water and waste management, can also generate jobs and income in rural and urban areas” and “This ensures that wealth created stays within the local and regional economy.”

He states further, that “A transformation towards re-localised food systems will significantly help to address climate change and other challenges,” while “Circular systems also provide the basis for economic and political sovereignty – the ability of citizens to democratically manage their own affairs and engage with other communities on their own terms.”

One example given of a circular system in the book, is a system that recycles food waste and chicken manure to feed a worm farm. The worms in turn feed the chickens and farmed fish whose bones are used as fertiliser in a market garden.

Human waste via a compost toilet also enriches the garden, whose crops, together with the farmed fish and meat and eggs from the chickens, feed the people.

The system is a closed circle with loops within it. All the nutrients stay in the system and just move about through the circle, rather than being pumped as sewage into the sea and leaving the soil forever poorer, a statement issued by IIED on the book says.

In her foreward of the book, Dr. Caroline Lucas, a member of parliament from the Green Party of England & Wales, writes; “I warmly welcome this book’s contribution to the debate on how food systems can be redesigned and re-localised to sustain diverse local ecologies, economies and human well being.”

“The authors rightly emphasise the need for a systemic and fundamental transformation of industrial food and farming in the face of peak oil, climate change, biodiversity loss, the water crisis, food poisonings, and the impoverishment of farmers and rural communities,” she states.

Dr. Lucas maintains that “The challenge is to design resilient food systems with, by and for citizens – to reduce ecological footprints and foster local democratic control over the means of life,” adding, “But rather than look at food and agriculture in isolation, we need to consider ways of re-integrating food and energy production with water and waste management in a diversity of local contexts in rural and urban areas, – and at different scales.”

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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