CURLS: Neoliberalism and the food System

„You hum something, a tone or a sound and the rest of the group is following you!“

A sound is coming from one corner, gradually the rest of the group adopts this sound. It becomes louder and louder, like a swarm of busy bees flying towards you. The sound stops and after a while also the last imitator fell silent. A new tone is hummed, everyone listens carefully, searches for the right tone and joins in.

In the end we were even able to hum/ sing songs and melodies by simply following the improvised tune of the person who is leading the song.

This morning we spend an hour that we only dedicated to our voice. Where does our voice come from, how does it feel like, can we follow a sound from another person, how can we modulate our voice. Not only was this a perfect start into the day, it is also something very important when you are an activist who wants to promote change. Alok Ulfat, who is a trainer for theatre, expression, voice and appearance from India holds one hour of “mind & body movement”- workshops every morning. He is convinced that there is a voice in every person that has the right need to be heard and especially for a group of changemakers it is of utter importance to bring the message across to other people, to speak out loud and to use emotional and convincing body language.

After this very active start in the day we dived into the matter of political economy, the concept of neo-liberalism and the impacts of the agenda on South East Asia. The short lecture, followed by a lively discussion, was held by Surat Horachaikul who is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. After a journey starting from A. Smith and J. Locke, via role of the state in neoliberalism and a discussion on populism, we ended up talking about possible paths out of the neoliberal agenda. What´s the role of the individual in this process? What´s the role of companies? Maybe this system is too adaptive and powerful that there won´t ever be any change? No, says Surat Horachaikul. There is hope! The small steps towards Right Livelihood each of us goes every day, from buying organic food, to campaigning have an impact on the system that is not to be underestimated. And as long as we live in a system that is shaped by supply and demand, we can have an impact on that “demand” side. But can we really change a company that is already deeply embedded in the current system, thinking about increasing the profit margin rather than mother earth? The discussion reached long into the break…

The break was followed by a presentation by Ong Kung Wai, board member of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) who focussed more on the economical, systemic and technical arguments in favour of a shift toward organic agriculture.

The afternoon was all about food systems and supply chains where we used the method “World Café” to find out more about what food means to us, why we think the current food system is not sustainable and how we can work towards a more sustainable way of producing and consuming food.

A brief summary of the discussions and outcomes is soon to follow but one thing can already be said: for every participant producing, cooking and consuming food is something precious and the current system disconnects us from the roots of the food system. Fast Food, Take Away, far distance between production and consumption and the destruction of soil (and many more of course) are all aspects of the food system that create an imbalance and disharmony. We need to find ways to appreciate food again, to take time to cook properly, we need to support local markets and to see food not only as a means to appease one´s hunger but as a gift and our basis of life. If we keep on destroying traditional knowledge of farming, if we keep on spraying chemicals on our vegetables and if we keep on putting profit over people and the environment we will eventually not only harm humankind but damage the whole environment.

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