You never change things by fighting existing reality…

You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model better.

Buckminster Fuller

The quote is in Adam Kahane’s book: Power and Love: A Theory and Practice for Social Change. I came across the book at the local independent bookstore the other day and found some time to sit down and largely read it cover to cover. Kahane has some pretty fascinating experiences. As stated on the book website and back of the book:

Why do some groups of people manage to solve complex problems, while others stumble or fall? The two methods most frequently employed to solve our toughest social problems—either relying on violence and aggression, or submitting to endless negotiation and compromise—are fundamentally flawed. This is because the seemingly contradictory drives behind these approaches—power, the desire to achieve one’s purpose, and love, the urge to unite with others—are actually complementary.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.” But how do you combine them?

Kahane is also part of Reos Partners: “an international organisation dedicated to supporting and building capacity for innovative collective action in complex social systems.” As outlined in Kahane’s book and on the Reos website they have been involved in very complex and important global issues, including assisting Canada with climate change initiatives, child malnutrition in India, rebuilding efforts in South Africa following the fall of apartheid, “growing mainstream sustainable food chains”, HIV/AIDS, “collective prosperity in Colombia”, and other tough issues.

In Chapter 6 of the book “Walking” Kahane discusses “Growing Sustainable Food in Europe and the Americas”. The opening of chapter caught my attention:

“… the largest industry in the world, one on which every person in the world depends — cannot be sustained in its current form. Food production has kept up with population growth over the past decades (through the use of a lot of fossil fuel-based fertilizers), but it has done so in a way that deliver inexpensive food to rich people and expensive food to poor people, leaving one billion people undernourished.

It uses half of the earth’s habitable land and three-quarters of its fresh water, has decimated many fisheries, and has degraded continent-sized expanses of soil.”

Several of my earlier posts have commented on the issues with various worldwide fisheries; for example: one fish, two fish… in the red, debt fish and who are the culprits? – Part II specifically:

The world fishery has doubled since 1979 from 70 million to over 141 million tons captured in 2005. And worse yet, only 20% of the 2005 catch is from the waters of developed countries – 80% of the catch is from the waters of developing countries, and the bulk of this was not caught by local fishers.

If we look at where the bulk of population growth is occurring in the world, as well as projections:

The bulk of growth is, and will most likely occur in developing nations. I’m guessing that the bulk of that 80% of world fisheries catch is not being well distributed through the developing nations.

As I read about Kahane’s work on growing sustainable food I thought of salmon farming. There is a story repeated by the salmon farming industry that the industry, for example:

Every year, B.C. grows 18 million salmon, an affordable source of heart-healthy protein available fresh year-round that – best of all – doesn’t deplete wild salmon stocks.

This is a quote from Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance in a recent letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail newspaper.

I’m curious to hear about the: “affordable source” for whom?

Is this an example of Kahane’s suggestion of: “inexpensive food to rich people and expensive food to poor people”?

It appears that the bulk of over 1.8 million tonnes of farmed salmon produced annually are sold in the U.S., the European Union, Korea, and Japan. Farmed salmon are produced at a protein net-loss — meaning that significantly more than 1.8 million tonnes of feed fish is required to produce the 1.8 million tonnes of farmed salmon.  This feed fish (ground into fish meal) is most likely coming from the waters of developing nations — yet they are not seeing the “affordable” farmed products in their markets.

There is also this great irony, I find. The day after the letter to the editor from a salmon farming proponent was a column highlighting the brutal statistics in Canada surrounding “the battle of the bulge“.

Recent studies by Statistics Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation paint a truly shocking picture. Adult obesity has risen 70 per cent and childhood obesity threefold over the past three decades. The number of people in their 20s and 30s with high blood pressure has nearly doubled in just 15 years. The proportion of teenagers aged 15 to 19 with bulging waistlines has more than tripled.

…The average 45-year-old man is 20 pounds heavier than his counterpart would have been in 1981.

…From 1994 to 2005, rates of high blood pressure were up by 77 per cent, diabetes 45 per cent and obesity 18 per cent. Knee- and hip-replacement operations doubled over the past decade, partly because of heavier, less active bodies. Studies are linking excess fat to cancers of the breast, colon, gallbladder, pancreas and other organs. The Heart and Stroke Foundation speaks of a “perfect storm” as the effects of an aging society and a fatter population converge, with a crushing cost to the already-overburdened health system.

South of the Canadian border the situation is even more tragic. This is from the book “Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human” by Michael and Ellen Kaplan:

“…the last twenty-five years have put a horrifying strain on the nation’s scales. We are getting fatter, faster, than ever before. Taking obesity to be defined generously, by a body mass index of 30 or higher, only ten states reported more than 10 percent obese people in 1990; none reached 15 percent.

By 1998, no state had less than 10 percent, although none reached 25 percent.

By 2006, however, only four states had obesity rates under 20 percent; all the rest were over 25 percent and two – Mississippi and West Virginia were over 30 percent.

And this is not just being big-boned, zaftig, roly-poly, pleasantly plump; no, this is a situation where more than a quarter of American adults could be heading for major health problems, caused solely by extra body fat. As for just being over-weight, that category includes 66 percent of U.S. adults.”

It’s not much better in Canada — 60 percent of us have weight problems; including 30 percent of youngsters.

It don’t matter how much “heart-healthy” farmed (or wild) salmon one eats. It doesn’t matter whether that “affordable” source of protein is available year round. Apparently, food shortages are not a problem for us in developed countries…

A fitting quote from Kahane’s book:

There is no way to change the status quo without discomforting those who are comfortable with the status quo.

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