With so much trouble in the world these days, we need solutions that will develop resilient communities.
I am going to start by exploring resilience at a community level, then what we can do in the household in my next piece.
The idea around resilience is that, if everything turns to custard, those that are resilient will be able to survive. This comes to a head when you have an emergency situation - it dawned on people in the South Island when the tragic earthquakes rattled Christchurch - that the supermarket shelves were quickly being emptied. Real chaos and anarchy comes at the point when people lose the only way the know of feeding themselves.
Whether we are to point the finger at climate change potentially causing more destructive storm events, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) potentially causing earthquakes, or simply bad luck, makes no difference. The better prepared we are the better off we will be - for a host of reasons beyond short-term survival.
One of the best things we can do to be resilient is to grow our own food. Ask yourself the question - how long would your family survive if there was no food in the shops that you could access?
Some may have a garden they can rely on- most people living in rural areas would last a long time but city-bound folk would surely struggle. Personally, I would be most likely to take to the sea to feed my small family.
So how do we develop more resilient households and communities?
A great example came to us from Christchurch when young, social entrepreneurs at the Student Volunteer Army mobilised thousands of young people to help the old. There is much to learn from this situation that can help people nationwide and across the world.
I lived in the city of Colima, in Mexico on a student exchange for a year in 2006. This is one of the only places on the planet that is more volcanic than New Zealand. This city has been levelled by earthquakes several times and rebuilt. One of their best initiatives that helps them with resilience is having fruit trees all through the public spaces.
As a poor student, being able to feast on free public fruit improved my nutrition significantly, as it does for many people over there who are below the poverty line.
Why do we not have public fruit trees throughout New Zealand? Some will say that it is because councils don't want to clean-up all the green waste they create.
In a disaster situation it is about survival and we won't always be able to rely on a supermarket truck to turn up. In Wellington for example, the fault line runs along the main arterial route for supplies.
In Wellington, when they did a hugely expensive upgrade to the public hospital, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on pretty palm trees. This could easily have been a fruit orchard that would've given some good nutrients to those in repair.
Some places, like the fantastic Otuataua Stonefields managed by Auckland Council in Mangere where there is a public avocado orchard, are doing it well (check out the Herald review here) - and I will discuss community, household and school gardens in my next piece - but we should all look at the benefits that come from utilising this land.
Even if we started with the berms, which some people have made into excellent gardens and others made into a source of food, or other publicly-owned roadside areas where instead of utilising the land, we spend a significant amount of money mowing the grass. We could create a veritable cash crop that would improve our standard of living, nutrition, air quality and reduce the bills for mowing all at once.
Do you think that we should utilise our vast amount of publicly owned land to grow food?