From the 7th of October and for 2 weeks Extinction Rebellion is calling an International Rebellion. The aim is to use peaceful direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency many have already declared. We’re supporting the London Rebellion by supplying food for their kitchens. Josiah explains why...
A few weeks ago I spoke about Hodmedod at the Byline Festival in Sussex, afterwards I was asked an extraordinary question which I’ve been thinking about ever since: How did you feel when you first heard about climate change and the extinction crisis? It’s not a question I could answer, I can’t remember a revelation or awakening. I’m only 45, climate change and habitat loss (the main driver for species extinction) have been increasingly present in my life for decades and for the last 25 years have been a key part of my work.
But on reflection it’s clear that for many, including my questioner, the depth of the climate emergency and the extent of the extinction crisis is new and disturbing news and that scientists, campaigners, businesses and politicians (I include myself, Nick and William in that) have utterly failed to communicate the enormity of the challenge and the rapidity with which it now has to be addressed.
Nick, William and I founded Hodmedod in 2012. The idea for the business emerged from work we’d been doing with East Anglia Food Link and Transition City Norwich (part of the Transition Network) since 2008/9. The Norwich group had asked us to help them understand what a more climate resilient, less destructive food system might look like for a city the size of Norwich and to help them demonstrate parts of that new system. With them we established a community supported agriculture scheme called FarmShare, worked with a baker and local farmers to create a Norwich loaf and ran a trial – The Great British Bean Project – to see whether people would be prepared to eat more locally grown peas and beans.
Pulses, we quickly realised, are a key element in any more sustainable food system; they’re not especially resource intensive to grow, build soil organic matter and benefit other crops in a rotation, and are a nutritious addition to our diets. For the last seven years our purpose has been to increase the amount of pulses grown and eaten in the UK and to advocate for more diverse arable rotations that use pulses and other crops to provide us with nutritious (delicious) foods whilst leaving a lighter ecological footprint.
Our time as Hodmedod has been very rewarding, but often incredibly difficult and exhausting - physically and emotionally. We’re a very small business attempting to do something new and huge, not only managing the day-to-day of sales, crop production and processing but communicating our wider vision for better food and farming in the face of an ecological crisis.
We’re not alone in this work. As well as fantastic support from our farmers and customers we’ve benefited from the publication of numerous (and increasingly frequent) scientific research papers that have lent credence to our purpose. At the same time organisations such as the Soil Association, PGRO, Eating Better, WWF, the Land Workers Alliance and the RSA have carried out research and initiated campaigns that have brought news and positive ideas for change to a wider audience.
And yet still there are many for whom climate change and extinction are problems for tomorrow. Not least politicians who seemingly don’t feel they’re being given a clear enough mandate to act by civil society - all of us.
Extinction Rebellion appears to be changing all that by clearly defining the challenge and focusing on three demands (below) made in a way that has inspired millions and caught the attention of government and media. It's been a breath of fresh air and has immeasurably helped us as we tell our story about better food and farming.
For that reason we're very happy to be supporting the London Rebellion through the donation of a tonne of yellow split peas. We hope that for a few days our peas, a symbol of the changes we need to make, will keep the Rebels fed as they help create a space to discuss the kind of radical changes our government needs to enact now.
The team behind the catering are planning to produce 15,000 hot meals a day (you read that right) and will not only need food but also help cooking and moving the cooked food to various locations across London. Please do use the contact details here if you'd like to help.
And if you happen to be a food business like us and would like to offer a donation please do either email us or tweet a message to @OctSustenance
Tell the truth. Government must tell the truth by declaring an climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
Act now. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Beyond politics. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
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2020 was a difficult year in many ways and for many people. At the Bean Store we struggled with long hours, uncertainty and anxiety. But we were also incredibly lucky. We continued to trade and had our health where others were less fortunate, and we had time to reflect, re-group and make new plans. We’re really looking forward to 2021.