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Anna Harris

223 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Anna Harris 223 days ago
  • the fast development of new technologies threatening (encouraging the reduction of work) to reduce the demand of  workforce
 
  • Not commercializable without destroying the motivation and value of the work for the whole society 
  • Strongly questionging the main neoclassical economical theories behind EU´s economic policies: The most productive motive for work is supporting the communities and commons, not money. (Kratzwald 2014, Rifkin 2014)
 
223 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Anna Harris 223 days ago
Food Insecurity is rising in Europe with this dominant narrative of food as a commodity: Food Insecurity (understood as the inability to eat meat every second day?) is already affecting 13.5 M people (10.9%) with a 2.7% increase since austerity measures were implemented; there 30 M malnourished people in Europe according to the Transmango Research project; 50 M people with severe material deprivation including food and water (EUROSTAT, 2015) and 30-40% children in 6 EU countries are below poverty line (UNICEF, 2014). 
 
In this scenario of rising food insecurity in Europe, food is not even considered as an enforceable human right in the EU legal frameworks or the national legal frameworks of the EU members. As an enlightening example that may illustrate this mono-dimensional valuation, table 1 below shows the different political constructs applied to specific basic needs in Spain. Health, education and water are human rights enshrined in the Constitution and enjoying a political consideration of public goods, where the universal access to them is guaranteed by the State to every Spaniard (although this consideration is under threat by the privatisation measures triggered by the austerity ideology). However, food is the only basic need that enjoys neither the category of enforceable human right, nor the consideration of public good where all should have universal access to that vital resource. It's provision is left to market forces that are only interested in producing cheap food for those who are capable of paying the price, with environmental consequences. Food is neither a right, nor a public good or a commons in Spain. Just a commodity. 
 
Forests, fisheries, land, water and food have all been considered as commons and the consideration different civilisations have assigned to food-producing commons is rather diverse and certainly evolving. Food-producing commons are ubiquitous in the world, largely based on their abundance in historical times and the fact that different past and present enclosing movements have not been able to make them disappear…yet. Historical records are full of commons-based food production systems ranging from the early Babylonian Empire (Renger, 1995), ancient India (Gopal, 1961) and Medieval Europe (Linebaugh, 2008) to early modern Japan (Brown, 2011).
 
In Europe, despite centuries of encroachments, misappropriations and legal privatizations, more than 12 million hectares of common lands have survived up to now in many EU countries[5]. This figure is estimative since it includes only 13 EU member states and only refers to Utilised Agriculture Area (area used for farming). Forested or coastal areas are not included, which will certainly raise the figure.  
 
In United Kingdom, common lands are a mix of use rights to private property and commonly-owned lands[7]. Local residents (called commoners) have often some rights over private land in their area[8]. Most commons are based on long-held traditions or customary rights, which pre-date statute law laid down by democratic Parliaments. The latest data indicate England has circa 400.000 ha (3%) registered as common land[9], Wales 175.000 ha (8.4%) and Scotland 157.000 ha (2%), which amounts to 732.000 ha representing at least 3.3% of United Kingdom[10]. Common lands in Spain, those owned by communities and not being part of state-owned territory, are 4.2% (2.1 million ha) according to the most accurate agrarian census. These lands, with more than 6600 farming households that depend entirely on them for earning their living, are grounded on legal principles that ensure the preservation of the communal condition of such property, as they cannot be sold (unalienable), split into smaller units (indivisible), donated or seized (non-impoundable) and cannot be converted into private property just because of their continued occupation (non-expiring legal consideration) (Lana-Berasain & Iriarte-Goni, in press). The 1978 Constitution (Article 132/1) included an explicit reference to the commons, also defined in the Municipal Law of 1985. Ownership corresponds to the municipality or commonality of the neighbours and its use and enjoyment to the residents. 
 
In Europe there still are many examples of customary food commons that are functional, providing food to many communities and stewarding natural resources and cultures. Some examples can be provided by the irrigation system in the Huertas of Valencia, the emphiteusis proprietary regimes in Italy, the management of oyster beds in the Arcachon bay, the pastoral traditions of Sami people in the Scandinavian countries, the hunting licences in Switzerland and so on, so forth. A couple of rather different examples from a traditional food commons and an innovative new one can be found below: 
 
Policy makers and academics are moving from the stringent economic definition of public/private goods to a looser but more practical definition of the so-called Global Public Goods, those goods to be provided to society as a whole as they are in everybody’s interest. Many food-related aspects are already considered, to a certain extent, common goods, while others are quite contested (wild foods and water) or generally regarded as private goods (cultivated food). 
 
e.- Food price stability: Extreme food price fluctuations in global and national markets, as the world has just experienced in 2008 and 2011, are a public bad that benefits none but a few traders and brokers. Those acting inside the global food market have no incentive to supply the good or avoid the bad, so there is a need of concerted action by the states to provide such public good (Timmer, 2011).
 
The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which represents 40% of EU budget (52 billion Euro in 2014) is shaped by the capitalist ideology of commodification, profit-maximisation and individualism, being thus the main facilitator of the enclosure of the food commons and the restructuring of food systems, by discouraging small farms and making access to land difficult for them. The Common Agricultural Policy is closely related to managing the commons-based food producing systems and the final output (food for feeding people or other uses), but it fails to recognize the commons nature of food-producing elements such as land, seeds, water and knowledge and, at the very least, food as a commons.    
 

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