Interdependence. This is my new favourite word. It’s an extremely pertinent term. A fundamental characteristic of our increasingly globalised economy and culture. It’s something that many reactionaries reject as they deride the Black Lives Matter movement and legendise undeserving colonialist figures, squabble over the ostensibly unique characteristics of ‘Britishness’, or procrastinate on climate change; but which they tacitly embrace as they sip their Kenya-grown ‘English’ breakfast tea before work, fill up their cars with OPEC-sourced petroleum on the way (fuel imported from a collection of mostly North-African and Middle-Eastern states) and later clap in thanks to NHS workers. It may be hidden to some of us, it may be denied by others, but it is already a pervasive and necessary condition of globalisation. You just cannot have one without the other. Yet, interdependence isn’t exclusively a cultural or politico-economic phenomenon. Undoubtedly, as the influential 19th Century environmentalist John Muir once said, “When we try to pick anything out by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” This truth remains omnipresent.
As things currently stand, there is interdependence between pretty much every element of humanity and Earth’s biosphere, Mother Nature. Though, this isn’t always that evident. Take the peacock butterfly as an example. Peacock butterflies are not evolutionarily dependent on human beings. However, the nettles that we allow (or that the better of us encourage) to grow in the margins provide shelter, the perfect environment for egg-laying and a home for caterpillars which upon metamorphosing take to the wing and pollinate crops and cut-flowers to our benefit. What’s more, they are an alluring addition to the majestic tapestry of life upon which our mental health and well-being relies; a unique part of a deeply complex ecosystem which would be vastly ecologically degraded and thus less beneficial to us – psychologically, agriculturally, perhaps aesthetically – in their absence. If you were to pick any other fauna or flora and trace its causes (its explanatory factors, reasons for being as it is) you would indubitably find instances of interdependence with humanity. The ecological webs between nature and us are mysterious, complicated and vast. Which makes complete sense really doesn’t it? We are a part of this incredible biome, not apart from it. Like everything else, we are hitched to everything else.
These days Mother Nature herself is becoming increasingly dependent on the role we humans play because the collective scale and impact of our habits is nearly beyond measure. This is why a monumental global culture shift is so vital and why I decided to engage with the Food Resilience Project. For me, it was and remains a part of an ongoing critical process of self-rebelling; of challenging myself to become a better person, actively seeking out my destructive habits and prejudices, attempting to understand them, their origins and effects and eradicate or transform them into something new, moral and life-giving. Interestingly, Muslims refer to this process of striving as ‘jihad’, and one who practices jihad is referred to as a ‘jihadi’. Similar themes can also be found within Christianity as Christians seek to deaden their original sin. As I see it, if the world is to ever overcome its ills – inequality, neoliberalism, racism, the existential threat of climate change and mass extinction – all of us, religious and non-religious folk alike, need to become jihadis of sorts. Culturally we all need to become more devoted to self-rebelling and less to self-fulfilling.
That said, my involvement with The Food Resilience Project has conveniently evolved from being simply a small part in my own attempts at self-rebelling to becoming a fervent passion of mine. As strange as it may sound to some, growing food, observing it’s beautiful transmogrification, experimenting with it, sharing it, eating it, continues to be an immensely rewarding enterprise. What admittedly began as a self-appointed chore is now an empowering, spiritual, self-guiding perennial adventure. So (finally!) what is The Food Resilience Project?
The FRP is a slow-burning yet powerful initiative that puts human rights, education, sustainability, self-awareness, compassion and mutual aid at the heart of what it tries to achieve. It is a collection of self-rebelling, internally and bilaterally interdependent nano-communities that work cooperatively with a shared aspiration to become less reliant on the increasingly struggling and destructive global industrial food systems and more resilient, self-sufficient food producers and land users. By linking up with or forming a local FRP group, communities are encouraged and enabled to support each other with growing, harvesting and storing home-grown crops and seeds.
For the first time in a long time, it’s becoming popular to grow your own. People are beginning to understand how much we take food for granted. Better yet, people are learning and the FRP is empowering them to do so. They are learning to forage again. They are exploring their local environments, attempting to understand them and to develop reciprocal relationships with them. They are making themselves smarter, more aware, more resilient; modelling to and teaching their children how to survive if or – what’s more likely – when our global food systems collapse.
“By growing, foraging and sharing food together with our communities now, we are laying the groundwork for a future which values sustainably produced food not as a commodity from which to extract profit, but as an essential human need.”
This is powerful stuff and I wholeheartedly support it. So, now my evenings are filled with feeding, watering, tying up, pinching out, mulching, harvesting, hanging out, potting up, storing and composting. And despite all this light work every day I’m flabbergasted by what my garden has in store for me in terms of wildlife. To make it all the more sweeter there are courgettes, tomatoes, apples, damsons, raspberries, strawberries, carrots, beetroots, potatoes, rhubarb, corn, cucumbers and more all slowly growing and ripening in every nook and cranny of my garden waiting to give life to something else. Either to my family, or to my community, the birds, the bugs or the soil and plants. People, fauna, flora. Interdependence in abundance. Everything hitched to everything. My life, your life, hitched to all life.