- Values on Your PlateDinner 2040
What ought to be on our plate in twenty-five years in order to ensure a sustainable, culturally appropriate, and just food system? That was the focus of a three-day workshop held in the fall of 2014 with North American Observatory researchers headquartered at Arizona State University. With invited world-famous food and seed activist Vandana Shiva, we critically reflected on the question, "What would an environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and culturally rich meal look like in the year 2040?" Both Shiva and workshop consultant Giovanna Di Chiro have long experience working with community groups to address local and regional food systems, economic development, and agriculture (Di Chiro 2013). The outcome of this workshop, titled Forms of Collaborative Knowledge and Collective Action, was a project, Dinner 2040, that emerged out of and affirms the notion—articulated in an array of international instruments, including the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—that humans have a sovereign right to food (Adamson 2011, 213–15). The aim of Dinner 2040 would be to engage with community members about the humanistic dimensions of our food system and to educate communities about the notion of "food sovereignty," a fast emerging concept covering a range of positions, interventions, and struggles that are "centrally, though not exclusively, about groups of people making their own decisions about the food system" (Grey and Patel 2015, 431; Adamson 2011, 215). Dinner 2040 is meant to empower communities to envision and ultimately design their own future food system. [End Page 137]
The workshop drew together an environmental artist, an urban organic farmer from Phoenix, a Navajo farmer, a Phoenix city administrator, two philosophers, a community public land trust organizer, English professors, a Maricopa food-access worker, two sustainability scientists, food-policy experts, and other humanists and community members who found themselves working in groups to envision what the food system should look like in Maricopa County in 2040.1 We hoped to design a future regional food system focused on the notion that the food system should support and nurture important human values, hence the idea that when we eat, values are on our plates.2 The humanists in the group had begun designing this event in 2013 at two previous workshops organized by the Humanities for the Environment (HfE) project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a grant to the Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centers. Like all HfE projects, this collaborative project would look at the centrality of the contributions of the humanities to the problems of the Anthropocene. The project, one of several piloted by the North American Observatory headquartered at Arizona State University, was designed to focus specifically on the ways that humanists might facilitate transdisciplinary imagination and look toward ways to collaborate with multiple epistemologies in order to tackle challenging problems in the Anthropocene, from conserving biodiversity in the face of climate change to establishing justice in global food systems (McGregor 2014; Adamson 2011).
Debates about the Anthropocene often focus on the question of whether we can say that there is a different geological epoch after the Holocene. However, our group engaged in the broader cultural and political discourses that recognize the Anthropocene as a time when humans must come to terms with how to curb environmentally harmful collective actions that appear to be unstoppable, especially colonization, capitalism, and industrialization. Our initial idea, inspired by Valerie Brown's discussion of wicked problems, was a Wicked-pedia, which would take the form of an archive of short entries about complex social and environmental problems. This archive would be found on the WordPress digital platform designed specifically for the HfE project as a mechanism for giving voice to multiple epistemologies. Ultimately, the group built on their own research expertise in food systems and cultural notions surrounding food (McGregor 2014; Adamson 2011; [End Page 138] Carruth 2013; Di Chiro 2013). As a group we decide that producing a shared real-time experience would better exercise the imagination in a dynamic fashion, building on and synthesizing the varied expertise of a...