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This Spring, a group in Concord, New Hampshire has been exploring the challenging and sometimes frustrating world of resource depletion and the many impacts of food production on climate change and the environment through participation in NWEI’s discussion course Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability. This is the fifth post from the Nourishing Words Blog, where author and course participant Eleanor Baron muses on conserving water, sustainable cheese production and the call towards a plant-based diet.


The people drawn to participate in our Hungry for Change group (perhaps predictably) are environmentally conscious by nature and are concerned about tending this planet for future generations. We come to the discussion knowing at least the basics and with a personal commitment to live our lives in alignment with the our values. Many of us do our best to stay up to date on emerging topics like climate change, soil depletion and the exploitation of the earth’s greatest aquifers.

Is that enough?

Once again, as we talked, the answer emerged. It’s important to keep learning and take action.

As an example, we talked about how we use water in our lives. We each monitor our usage, whether motivated by a city water bill, the level of water in our well or a general sense that water is a precious gift that should be honored as such. We don’t buy bottled water, we mulch our gardens well and take short showers. We’d each argue that we use less water than our neighbors.

But as we talked, we discovered more that we could do to conserve water. By the end of our discussion, we were considering setting up rain barrels other finding ways of catching water before it heads either down the drain or down the driveway. We talked about catching wasted water in the shower (before the water gets hot, that is) and reusing it to flush the toilet. We talked about using gray water to water plants or for some other purpose. One participant articulated her practice as “never letting water go down the drain until it’s done a job.” Our eyes were opened to a world of tiny practices that together would surely save a meaningful amount of water…

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This week brings a fourth post from Eleanor Baron’s Nourishing Words Blog out of Concord, New Hampshire, where a group is participating in NWEI’s Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability discussion course. This post addresses Session Four of the course: Just Food, where articles deal with food’s complicated world of ethics and justice.

It’s easy to turn our attention away from the disturbing, messy and sometimes horrific side of food production. We protect ourselves from this perspective; the industry protects us as well. Indeed, it would seem to be in everybody’s best interest not to talk about these things. We wouldn’t upset one another, and we wouldn’t have to face difficult decisions.

How animals are treated, the working conditions of many agricultural workers, forced labor and paltry wages are all topics not often covered by mainstream media. Due to powerful lobbies, even our politicians seem not to care. The fact that those winter tomatoes northerners so innocently buy at the grocery store are possibly the product of human slavery in Florida—that’s information that would shock most people, if they took the initiative to dig a little deeper into the story of their food.

This course does just that. It urges us to dig deeper, consider more thoughtfully and discuss more actively the stories our food can tell us. More importantly, it asks us each week what we are going to do to change those stories. Northwest Earth Institute courses are all about personal action. Reading is the first step on the path to action; discussion is the critical second step. Hearing my thoughts spoken out loud, and considering the thoughts of others, makes me realize each week how important it is to do something. Whether it’s the simple personal act of not buying something, now that we know its story, or a more public act like picketing or taking political action—it’s all important work.

Each of us has power to create change. (*Please click here to follow Eleanor’s blog and to read the full post).


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