COP22.

Today, was invited to – and officially accepted – COP22 as a U.S. delegate.  I don’t think it has completely set in yet.  Honestly, receiving a cheery call from Morgan Curtis of SustainUs feels cheery in and of itself; realizing that’s she’s really saying, “See you in Morocco to push amazing global policy work on climate change and the environment!” is a whole other thing.  To think, 10 years ago today I was stressing out over which shows my high school, Celtic Rock band would or would not choose to play in…Actually, 10 years ago this summer I was competing in my first Junior Olympics in Detroit.  But that’s besides the point.  The reality is, 10 years ago today I never imagined I would be more than a female violinist behind a male-dominated music ensemble, or more than a defenseman on a team I hardly made the cut for.

It’s exciting to see all of my work come together.  What’s the most exciting is not a day goes by without me realizing how much of my work came from my grandmothers.  My paternal grandmother, who just had her 87th birthday on Friday, taught me work ethic.  She’s been independent for decades.  In fact, she’s been independent her whole life.  The only girl among many brother and half-brothers, she always held her own.  She worked a whole slew of jobs, bought her own cars, and even worked to keep the farm afloat when her husband died and she was on the verge of poverty.

Then there’s my maternal grandmother, teaching more than maybe she realized.  I’ve traced my lineage through a line of medicine people, the clan I’m enrolled in, and it seems fitting.  The emphasis she placed on plants.  The central part gardening played in our lives growing up.  Making salads of Lovage from her Salad Bowl…It has all translated into my work today.  It has taken me some time, but I finally realize how many people have lost this common sense.  That’s why so much of my work is dedicated to food sovereignty, seed saving practices, and native seed banks.

One thing I love about engineering is how flexible it can be.  I learn all of the tools to apply it to fancy technology, but there’s a whole other realm of possibilities too.  That realm is where engineering overlaps with the most basic concepts.  “Expounding on traditional knowledge” is probably my favorite way to describe it.  It’s taking engineering to analyze why certain traditional farming and other techniques work, then looking at how to make them even more efficient or effective.  Water use and resource management.  Seed cleaning, saving, and distribution.  Even traditional structures.  (Did you know kivas utilize convection to function?)

It’s hard to imagine, based on how I grew up, that people don’t raise their own food, that they don’t know how to grow it or how to save seeds.  But I’m realizing how much that is the reality.  Through the local programs our AISES group has been collaborating with, I’ve been able to work with Working in Beauty, members from COPE, and a variety of other organizations to tackle food sovereignty topics on both the educational as well as policy levels.  Outreach.  Outreach.  Outreach.

If you ever want me to speak at your function, be sure to contact my agent.  Just kidding…my agent’s on vacation this month. 😉

I like local, but local sometimes local is the wrong answer.

Yup.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  For all of you “go local!” buffs, the ones totally obsessed with this new trend, first of all, WOAH.  Going “local” is NOT some new trend, people!  Local is the way we evolved!!  Do you think cavemen imported food?  How about frontiersmen?  Yeah, local is a way of life, so get over yourselves…

But local isn’t always good.  In fact, sometimes it’s bad for the environment.  Ever thought of that?  It’s a pretty simple concept.  The first step in realizing the fault in locavore lifestyle is acknowledging the unrealistic demands today’s food industry.  Back when we were a naturally locavore society and didn’t have the option of importing goods, we ate what was available when it was available.  That means eating melons in the summer, roots in the winter, and there’s nothing wrong with that…we still do that.  The problem is, now, we also expect other crops to be there.  Crops that aren’t supposed to be there.  But now that we have the technological ability to grow them, we will.  And we’ll do it locally.  So it’s locavore food…or is it??

I vote, NO.  Just because a food is grown locally, that doesn’t mean it’s locavore.  Although “locavore” is supposed to include locally grown foods, I think classifying it as such misses the point.  LOCAVORE means LOCAL because LOCAL is SUSTAINABLE.  So locavore is really sustainable.  Nothing else.  Locality is just a vehicle of this sustainability.  So what’s my point?  Well, do you really think growing a non-winter crop in a greenhouse during the winter is sustainable?  Maybe it’s being grown on a local farm, but does that mean its energy expenditure is valid??   No way!

Here’s an example:  A study has shown that “it can be more sustainable (at least in energy efficiency terms) to import tomatoes from Spain than to produce them in heated greenhouses in the UK outside the summer months”, according to a food mile study.  I think this sums up my point well.  Truly eating sustainably means getting rid of fresh fruits in the winter, and in fact ditching a lot of the crops that we eat out of season.  Thinking about this, I realize how unsustainable a lot of Farmer’s Markets crops are if they’re not actually produced in fields and are instead closely monitored in greenhouses and watered frequently.  I now realize that scrutinizing a company for importing goods is not necessarily worse.  Maybe those pineapples came from Hawai’i, but just imagine the energy expenditures had we grown them here?

vegetannual

What’s my point?  Just this: If you want to eat sustainably, don’t focus so much on “local” as being a matter of “distance”.  Realize that “local” really means being locally available.  Eat seasonally.  That’s what makes the real difference.  Think about that the next time you make a grocery list, and consider growing your own food.  Cheers.