Mon 16 Oct 2017 6:02AM

P2P food system as a major environmental and social solution?

RL Robert LaRocque Public Seen by 118

Hello everyone.

I'm new to the group. Have been interested in P2P-Commons ideas for some time though.

I'm an Ecology student and particularly interested in agriculture. Both from a social standpoint, and an ecological standpoint.

So, existing practices in agriculture often focus solely on maximizing profit. And that focus excludes other externalities. There are several major issues with the dominant mode of food production.

Soil degradation: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

Encroachment on ecosystems: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study

Large levels of chemical input, domination by "cash crops", developing countries producing only expert crops and not food for people to eat locally, etc.

I think that agriculture can be better be done with a few novel principles. These principles are embodied in concepts like permaculture, agroecology, aquaponics, etc.

We can do agriculture in ways that have diverse benefits. Such as increased soil carbon uptake, increased farm biodoversity, as well as returning something of a humanistic heart and an ecology-valuing ethic into it.

One of the links above claims that agriculture and land use is a bigger threat to wildlife than climate change. Which I think is accurate. And now consider we are going to add another 3 billion humans on to the planet by 2050. What will our land use impact look like then?

Well, I think that we can shrink this footprint drastically, and at the same time make the fundamental human activity of growing food one that is regenerative and actually friends with ecology/biodiversity.

There is a good argument that we can bring a significant proportion of food production into the area of in and around urban areas: http://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2016/10/can-local-food-feed-an-urban-world/

With new systems such as aquaponics, we can produce with less water, less size footprint, less resources of all sorts.

So, perhaps an alternative system is possible. It could be organized with a platform that allows direct P2P exchange on local markets. Perhaps the idea can be popularized to attempt to eat your entire diet based on local sustainable food, which can be done as simply as using an app.

This connection would also help prospective growers enter and sell food with much lower barriers to entry. Maybe all you've got is an apple tree and a squash plant in your backyard. But those will produce a surplus, and we can incentivize that local and environmentally benign mode of food production for those who would like to enter and earn a small amount of money doing so.

You can boost the practices of the producers in such a market by amassing a common pool of resources and knowledge, on farming in local conditions, using certain techniques, on issues like carbon sequestration or habitat creation, etc.

Local seed markets could reinvigorate our ancient traditions of active plant breeding and adapting diverse strains to our local conditions. Hierloom and local cultivars could make a big comeback.

Such a system, in my view, could be a major first step towards truly developing an alternative economy. If we can grow and trade our own food in this way, what else? Perhaps energy? Or goods in themselves?

A P2P Local Food Market, hosted on a coop platform, using a common resource of knowledge and practices... Not only does this have the potential to be broadly beneficial, both environmentally and socially, and return autonomy and connection to our own resource base as humans, it could also be a major cirst step starting point towards creating other horizontally networked modes of production and cooperation in other domains.

Sorry to go on at such length here, but I had to get the idea out of my mind fully! Does anybody have any thoughts on this?


Nicolas Stampf Mon 16 Oct 2017 7:28AM

I totally follow you on this. Indeed, p.m. (pseudonym) wrote about such a society (and more than just agriculture) in "bolo'bolo" and "Voisinages et Communs" (neighborhoods and commons". Your name lets me think you can read french, so here it is: http://www.lyber-eclat.net/lyber/voisinages-et-communs from the editor's website (bolo'bolo too is available on the net).
Chemical agroculture isn't sustainable and will need for transition anyway because of the approaching end of Phosphorus. If we are to avoid pests, we'll need to shrink mono plant fields and go for smaller fields, or better yet multi-crops. Which means impossibility to use machinery to harvest (with the peak oil already there, transition is mandatory as well).
And then you have all those cities without proper diversity of vegetables in a close distance which will need to change as well.
And finally don't get me going on nearly 80% of cereals grown to feed cattle (at the expense of developing countries) for the developed countries. #GoVegan ;)


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017 12:27AM


Yes, exactly. This sort of transition is impending and necessary anyway as time goes on. So all the wiser to get started on it as well!

Also, I cannot read French unfortunately. That is one to work on I guess! But I definitely like the idea of not only food, but many different forms of production taking place in hyper local areas amibg peer networks.


Nicolas Stampf Tue 17 Oct 2017 7:16AM

Ok @robertlarocque, sorry for the french affiliation :-) Here's a translation I found in english. Don't let the style turn you down from this book. It's utterly important IMHO as it's a clearly laid out model of a better way to live in an energetically challenged world.
Here's the book: http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/bb_3.pdf


Steve Huckle Wed 8 Nov 2017 11:44AM

http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/bb_3.pdf - fantastic read, thanks for sharing, @nicolasstampf. Rather sobering, however, that a generation after that was written, the malaise deepens, and still very few people see :(


Michele Kipiel Mon 16 Oct 2017 9:05AM

Hi Robert, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. I believe many in this group will find this thread interesting, including myself.
I've been looking into ways to grow fresh, local and sustainable food for quite some time now and, if thigs go as I hope they will, I'll be trying my hand at it soon. As a firm believer in the commons+cooperative paradigm, I believe common ownership of the means of production (be it land or repurposed containers) should be the guiding principle of the new agriculture revolution, one in which industrial farms will be replaced by small, distributed, cooperatively operated and commonly owned ones.


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017 12:42AM


Yes, thank you for the response.

I agree, it is so much about ownership. Who owns the land and the farms that sustain our lives? And what are their practices and motives?

Massive industrial agriculture operations have been forcing small farmers out of production for a lomg time now. Even a small movement to counteract this would be very beneficial.

I have tried my hand at urban farming over the past 2 years. Very pleased with the outcome. If you set up an automatic watering system, a very small time investment can reap great results. Likely an average of less than 30 minutes every two days or so, in just a corner of the yard where I was living, and it sustained a good garden and now I have a freezer full of different food stuff.

This is also why I think an architecture of sharing or selling yields would be good. If you have even just a few plants of the same kind, or even just one fruit tree, it'll often give you more of that specific food than you know what to do with!


Simon Grant Tue 17 Oct 2017 7:44AM

Robert @robertlarocque you write

"now I have a freezer full of different food stuff"

I guess domestic freezers are fair in the short-term for food storage. Some quick browsing suggests that very roughly 10% of household electricity use is for refrigeration, at least 1 kWh per day. I haven't researched the energy input to freezer manufacture and the complications of current freezer fluids; but I was guessing that one major future advance will be small-scale shared freezer facilities. If you scale up existing technology without changing it at all, then a freezer 8 times the size should only take 4 times the energy -- but there are lots more savings to be made through using better techniques, and not having refrigeration in a warm living space.

Cold storage seems to be hardly ever talked about, and to be the business of only very few highly centralised companies. It's one thing to get started on working towards decentralization.


Simon Grant Mon 16 Oct 2017 7:10PM

There's nothing more important than food (OK, and drinkable water). I am delighted to see a focus on how to do food, including how to produce, store and distribute it.


Robert LaRocque Tue 17 Oct 2017 12:45AM


Agreed, food is so fundamental.

It's human health, human autonomy, it's also pretty much the basis of creating culture, which you see anywhere you go!

Also it's just about the greatest environmental dilemma that exists. 75% of our water, the vast majority of our land use, a large proportion of our chemical pollution into the environment, all from how our agriculture system functions.


Danyl Strype Sat 31 Mar 2018 6:51PM

Not to mention the lion's share of our oil use is associated with the corporatized and globalizd food industries, according to figures quote in the doco 'The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil'.

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