Climate change is of course a current topic in the media, politics, movies, literature, social networking, and world-wide initiatives — but it’s an overwhelming topic for most people. Agriculture producers and food processors are faced with some of the largest challenges associated with climate change. Rocketday worked with the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative to create a visual identity, website, photo gallery and print material to help educate farmers on these issues. Emily MacNair, the Initiative’s coordinator, speaks her thoughts on how climate change is impacting the industry and how the Initiative is taking action.
Why is the Climate Action Initiative important to farmers?
Agricuture and food are deeply reliant on the environment and weather. If water resources are at risk, so then is food production. If we experience increasingly extreme weather, that has potentially serious consequences for agricultural operations. There are so many factors for agriculture to consider — not just how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s unique about this project?
This project was initiated by the BC Agriculture Council — meaning that an industry association has stepped forward and is taking leadership. It’s often government agencies (or in the United States, universities) that lead this type of strategic approach. In BC, the agriculture sector has recognized that it’s going to take a lot of forward thinking to support agriculture through climate change, and are proactively taking steps to address this.
What challenges does the project have to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges is to take a complicated topic and apply it to a diverse and complicated sector. We try to provide clear information and develop strategic priorities. Farmers tend to be practical people who want to move beyond talking about big broad concepts into the realities of their everyday lives and businesses. They want to understand how concepts like carbon offsets and green energy and a cap and trade system will impact their operation or how a changing climate will influence their production system. It takes time to get to that level of specificity.
Most of our grocery stores are stocked with produce that has travelled hundreds or sometimes thousands of kilometres and likely been soaked in pesticides. But walking through Salt Spring Island’s community market paints a different picture of fresh, local, organic and sustainable small farms.
Foxglove Farm and the Centre for Arts, Ecology & Agriculture (a short drive from the market through picturesque rolling hills) is responsible for providing some of the market’s organic produce, eggs, grains, and legumes. Beyond demonstrating that organic community agriculture has sustainable and economical value, owner Michael Ableman and his partner Jeanne Marie Herman offer accommodation and seasonal workshops where they are joined by well-known and expert farmers, chefs, artists and ecologists to share their expertise. By bridging connections between farming, community and arts, Foxglove Farm takes a step back to its roots.
Rocketday worked with Foxglove Farm and the Centre for Arts, Ecology & Agriculture to create a visual identity, website and print materials, which you can see at Behance. The snapshots below are from a visit to Foxglove Farm in Spring 2009, including visiting farm hands Susannah and Chris Adams.
Alex photographed by Christian French, for Worldchanging
“How do we craft our society to deliver that kind of prosperity, while really transforming our relationship to the ecosystems we depend on? It turns out that there are enormous possibilities.”
The World is Changing
A few years ago we were inspired by the book Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century, a book which catalogues the ideas, inventions and solutions to building a sustainable future. In addition to the book, WorldChanging is nonprofit global team of independent journalists and designers, headquartered in Seattle. Rocketday recently worked with WorldChanging.com to refresh their email newsletter template. We caught up with WorldChanging’s co-founder and executive editor Alex Steffen.
How did WorldChanging start?
There’s a sense that simply making the world’s problems less bad would be a real success, and actually solving them would be impossible. So I spent about a year traveling around the country talking to all sorts of people — scientists, politicians and so on — asking them what solutions they brought to the sustainability crisis. What I found is that there was a huge number of solutions that weren’t getting much attention. Jamai [WorldChanging’s other co-founder] and I figured that we would create a place to make note of the solutions we were discovering — where we could have intelligent discussions about what the pros and cons were, and what sort of possibilities were illuminated for other people. We found an audience pretty quickly and within about a year we had a team of forty people working on it and a monthly audience of thousands.
What’s the biggest challenge that we face?
We’re at a moment in time where the way that we structure our economy and society is unsustainable, meaning it literally cannot go on. The longer we wait to change the aspects of our economy and societies that are unsustainable, the more damage we do. A billion of us have gotten rich being very wasteful of natural resources, and very destructive of natural ecosystems. But there are another five billion people on the planet who understand how we live and who want quite naturally to be richer. If they follow in our footsteps, we’re going to turn what we have already generated as a massive crisis into unbelievable catastrophe.
How do we envision a better future?
Journalism and academic research absolutely have their place — they do. But they’re missing a part of the puzzle, which is how do you actually share tools with people for re-imagining and then rebuilding their lives along more sustainable lines? How do we re-imagine prosperity?
I don’t know of any sort of simple solution to the kinds of problems we face in terms of visioning and long–term thinking. I think that one of the problems is that in order for these things to be real they have to be done by people (or at least with people) who have the ability to make the changes needed. There’s a lot of discussion these days about things like citizen-visioning. But the reality is that a bunch of us sitting around in a room and coming up with our own personal take on the perfect world doesn’t really change anything. We should have our own visions — it’s good that we do. It helps us to have a clear idea of what we want to do in the world. But simply creating a vision doesn’t actually change the dynamics in the wider society. We need new visions and long-term thinking with those empowered to affect systematic improvements.
In writings and lectures, you’ve referred to the concept of “Bright Green”. What is meant by “Bright Green”?
“Bright Green” is a term that describes systems which are both sustainable and generate prosperity. They are things which make your life better while reducing your impact.
Bright Green, as a category of thought, sort of juxtaposes itself against both Light Green and Dark Green. Light Green being the idea that personal change is what’s called for — that environmentalism is essentially a behavioral problem. Dark Green being the idea that we need to step back from our society as a whole, that the answer is to be found in smaller scale, more local, less industrial, perhaps more like the past models.
Fundamentally, Bright Green environmentalism is about the idea that we have about society. It’s not going away: people want prosperity. People make it quite clear that they are willing to have prosperity even at the expense of other people on the planet. So given that prosperity is something we need, how do we craft our society to deliver that kind of prosperity, while really transforming our relationship to the ecosystems we depend on? It turns out that there are enormous possibilities.
de Hoog & Kierulf architects design some of our favourite buildings in Victoria (Canada). They are committed to the principles of sustainable development, and are certified building code professionals, LEED certified, and members of the Canadian Green Building Council. Way back in 2002, Rocketday enjoyed building a website for the architects (samples below).