Fields of Abundance: Sustainable Culture and Agriculture in California
“To ask the biggest questions, we can start with the personal: what do we eat? What we eat is within our control, yet the act ties us to the economic, political and ecological order of the whole planet.” Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe
This spring the bus will be developing a deeper understanding of the significance of food and farming to the environmental and social issues of our time through explorations of the land and people of California. Our library continues to support bus experiences with classic as well as the latest books relevant to thoughtful living and acting with respect for the planet. We want to share them with all who have common interest with bus programming. Some of these books are easily available and some you will have to search for. While you may not be “on the bus” you can still join our learning community through reading!
Trees in Paradise: A California history by Jared Farmer
This book weaves together natural history and culture through the lens of four iconic trees of the state – both native and immigrants. Farmer’s beautiful writing and informed research reveal the interconnections between the natural, social, historical, and cultural realms unique to California, but which can easily be extrapolated to a better understanding of today’s global conditions.
A Foodies Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the political economy of what we eat by Eric Holt-Gimenez
The author exposes the underpinnings of how a basic life necessity – the food we need to eat to survive – became a profit-governed commodity, offering simple coverage of both the evolution of our food system and the basics of capitalism. But don’t be afraid, it’s also quite readable, as well as disturbing. We have observed that US Americans tend to shy away from any talk about capitalism and are relatively uneducated about the economic structures that rule our lives, affecting society and the planet itself. Perhaps this is a legacy of the “Red Scare,” an artifact that unconsciously influences thoughts and actions of people today who were not even alive when this was happening. Through its unravelling of the power and privilege inherent in our current food production and distribution we gain a greater understanding of the economic system to which it is tied. In this book we are offered what the author calls a “political-economic tool kit” for change for the food movements.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver
If you have somehow missed Kingsolver’s lyrical voice in her fiction, you will find it here in this memoir cum political exploration of her family’s decision to commit to eating locally for a year. There is information here, from the author’s observations and reflections, sidebars from her husband with some of the science related to their choices, and additional comments and recipes from her daughter. This book has a clear viewpoint, presented in diverse voices.
Cultivating Food Justice: Race, class and sustainability edited by Alison Hope Alkon & Julian Aygeman
This collection provides a wide-ranging exploration of the idea of food justice, exploring how race and class inequalities permeate our food production and dissemination systems. We hear from the voices that have long been ignored or suppressed from low income and communities of color, who are now beginning to create local sustainable food options that meet the needs of their communities. While education and individual choices and more available options are important, the larger issue is the manipulation of the global food system for profit which exploits farmers and diverse consumers across the planet.
As the title might suggest, this book provides an extensive overview of the diverse approaches to agriculture in today’s cities. Fox explores the history of (urban) agriculture, takes the reader to visit “practitioners,” and offers a wealth of practical how-to approaches. In our time, when over 50% of the world’s population is living in cities, and we all need to eat to live, growing our own food in our home places can be one of the answers to how to craft more sustainable lifestyles.
Street Farm: Growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier by Michael Ableman
Take inspiration from the work of radical activists through whose experience and collaborative vision Sole Food Street Farms in the urban slums of Vancouver emerged. The book tells stories of food and people and community building through the transformation of vacant and abandoned urban land to productive lots for growing quality fruits and vegetables. The social enterprise provides training, employment, and supportive community for impoverished people of diverse abilities and backgrounds as well as food for sale to restaurants, CSA’s, and farmer’s markets. We need these signs of hope as we act to make positive social and environmental change.
Field Guide to California Agriculture by Paul F. Starrs and Peter Goin Ableman
More than just a field guide, this book could make great bedside reading! It explores the relationship between nature and agriculture in a lively manner, respecting and revealing historical and cultural elements that have brought California to where it is today. The text is interspersed with great photography and maps for those who love the visual aspect of learning.
The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting food systems with ecosystems edited by Dana L. Jackson and Laura L. Jackson
This is an offering by the non-profit Island Press – the only publisher in the US whose mission is to put out titles focussing on environmental issues and natural resource management. We believe that supporting them is action. This book connects Aldo Leopold’s principles, conservation biology, and ecological restoration with current sustainable agricultural practices and ideas arguing that industrial need not be the adjective that describes modern agriculture.
Introduction to Water in California by David Carle
Written by a biologist and California native, this is a modern look at the water issues facing California, and by extension, the continent. The author draws together history, weather, politics, culture, impacts of climate change, and much more. It provides current context and a slightly different take on the issues addressed in the “classics” Cadillac Desert and The Great Thirst – all recommended.
One of those classic books that you always mean to get around to reading. It’s part adventure story, part history, part science – predictive of the issues the American West still faces. The roots of the messy political climate that continues to engender ongoing environmental problems can be seen here. Stegner’s writing is enduring and engaging.
And finally, let’s end with a quote from Hope’s Edge: The next diet for a small planet by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. Lappe’s original Diet for a Small Planet was a traditional bus education and recipe book. Every bus had a tattered copy.
To free ourselves from the thought traps – to bridge the painful disconnect between our inner and outer worlds—my hunch at age 26 was that food is a perfect starting place. Because food is our most primal need and our common bond to the earth and one another, it can ground us…With food as a starting point we can choose to meet people and encounter events so powerful that they jar us out of our ordinary way of seeing the world, and open us up to new, uplifting and empowering possibilities. They call us to travel “hope’s edge.” (p. 11)