An Inconvenient Sandwich


This is the title of a recent report from nef (the new economics foundation), an independent UK "think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being." These are the same people that have developed and promoted the Happy Planet Index and other topics relating to sustainability. Their topmost objective is to transform the economic system at its roots in what they have called, The Great Transition. While much of their research is derived from the UK, the findings and implications are highly relevant for the US. For those of us that grew up with Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, the nef has updated the subtitle of his book to read "economics as if people and the planet matter."

I have used the publications of nef for my own research and in my classes. I find them to be carefully thought out and executed, and often compelling. The one I headline above is a long report on the effects of the trend toward fast food in the UK. The situation is much like that in the US. I found this paragraph that pretty well summarizes the general tenor of the report.

The ‘food system’ encompasses all the activities involved in growing, processing, manufacturing, distributing, serving, and selling food. The adverse impacts of this system, known for decades, are now seen to be at crisis point: the exploitation of workers, the low value placed on animal life, the damage to the environment, the effects of climate change, and the recognition that even as the world’s population expands, the natural resources on which food production depends are being depleted. The existence of a billion overweight and obese people alongside another billion who do not have enough to eat is an affront to justice. And there is growing realisation that the foods being produced are not best suited to maintaining healthy human beings. The challenge, therefore, is to produce more and better quality food, more ethically, from less land, using fewer resources and with fewer negative impacts, and to share it more equitably - this, broadly, is what is meant by the transition to a more sustainable food system.

That's about all I am going to say about the work, except to note that this title doesn't work as well as Gore's version. But it is nonetheless on target. I encourage my readers to download it from the link above and read it in its entirely, substituting images of the US for those of the UK. The names may be different but the stories are very close. And while you are on the nef web site, gather a few more of their reports and read them. They're all free when you download them. Many readily implementable ideas for transforming the economy toward sustainability can be found in them.

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David M Carter said:

Thanks John! nef does great work.