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As a last major ClimATE Change activity in Poland, Polish Green Network organized in January and February 2016 the Film Festival "Climate Change - Community - Future".

The festival took a form of traveling film screenings presented over two days in 3 Polish Cities: Warsaw (28-29th January), Rzeszów (17-18th February) and Wrocław (24-25th February). All screening were free of charge and were held in cinema halls. The festival coincided with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Polish Green Network as well as with the launch of our newly published book "Climate-Friendly Food", which was distributed among the festival participants.

In each city the film festival was organized in cooperation with local Polish Green Network member or partner organizations. In Warsaw it was Institute of Global Responsibility (partner), in Rzeszów Association "Ekoskop" (member) and in Wrocław Foundation for Sustainable Development/Fundacja EkoRozwoju (member). Additionally, our festival was prepared in cooperation with Terra di Tutti Film Festival in Italy which provided several films.

Altogether we screened 9 documentary films and most of them were presented in Poland for the first time. The films showed the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of natural resources for the environment and the life of communities in different parts of the world. Two biggest hits of the festival were first Polish screenings of the documentary "This Changes Everything", based on the Naomi Klein's newest book about climate change, and the presentation of the film "Inhabit" about various permacultural initiatives undertaken by people in the US. Other presented films were: "Waiting for the t(rain)", "When Elephants Dance, the Grass Gets Beaten", "Indigenous People: Our Fight!", "Amazonia 2.0", "Unearthed", "Hamou Béya, Sand Fishers", "Moving Forest".

In all festival cities each day of screenings was concluded with a discussion with invited experts. In each city one discussion focused on modern activism, especially in the context of climate movement, and the second one on permaculture as a way of addressing problems related to climate change and environmental protection.

The festival was very successful and in each city was attended by a few hundred people.

Lunedì, 22 Febbraio 2016 02:00

Book Climate-Friendly Food

In order to reach even wider audience in Poland with the message of the ClimATE Change project, Polish Green Network published a book titled "Climate-Friendly Food".

The book was written by the invited expert, Marcin Gerwin, PhD, who specializes in sustainable development and participatory processes. He majored in political sciences and is a co-founder of the Sopot Development Initiative (Sopocka Inicjatywa Rozwojowa). He is also a columnist and the author of the book "Food and Democracy: Introduction to Food Sovereignty" which was published by Polish Green Network in 2011.

Our new book, "Climate-Friendly Food (And Other Solutions to Protect Climate)", deals with various aspects of climate change mitigation and climate protection. It presents such solutions to climate problems as renewable energy sources which lower emissions, organic agriculture which allows to store more carbon dioxide in soils, sustainable economy which is people- and environment-friendly, but most of all efficient democracy which allows to build a more climate-friendly system. The book shows that by implementing these solutions we can protect climate and natural resources, and at the same time build stronger ties in our communities and lead better lives.

The book, published in Polish language, is distributed free of charge both in the printed form (limited number) and in different electronic formats directly from Polish Green Network and during various public events. The electronic versions of the publication are available to download from the Polish website of the ClimATE Change project. The official launch of the book was organized during our traveling Film Festival "Climate Change - Community - Future".

Our book is divided into 3 main sections: I. Climate, II. Food and Agriculture, III. Society. The first one presents the main causes and consequences of climate change and tries to answer the question what we can do to protect climate. The chapters in the second section describe the role of farmers in protecting climate and environment as well as the benefits of organic food. They also try to answer the question whether organic agriculture could feed the world and show how permaculture can help farmers in addressing the impacts of climate change. The last section deals with the main problems of the current capitalist model which is based on the idea of economic growth without limits. It also presents the benefits of deliberative democracy, the ways of applying permaculture principles to living in cities as well as the issues related to the access to land. The book contains also the appendix explaining the basics of permaculture.

The book has been met with a big interest from the potential readers and we have already received a lot of positive feedback regarding its content.

Giovedì, 04 Febbraio 2016 02:00

Webinars Food - Climate - Cooperation

As a part of the ClimATE Change project activities in Poland, Polish Green Network organized a series of free and open webinars titled "Food - Climate - Cooperation".

The webinars were directed at everyone interested in learning more about the problems caused by the currently dominating model of food production and consumption as well as the possible ways for farmers, consumers and citizens to create a food system which is more climate-, environment- and people-friendly.

The event consisted of 6 online lectures in Polish which were held between 14th December 2015 and 20th January 2016. They were given by some of the leading Polish experts and practitioners and covered the topics of climate change, permaculture, renewable energy in agriculture, cooperation between farmers and consumers, system changes needed to protect climate. Each lecture was followed by an online discussion during which participants could ask questions to our experts.

The topics of each webinar were as follows:

1. Climate change – where are we and which way are we heading?

2. Permaculture – basics and practical application in the context of climate change

3. Renewable energy in the rural areas – benefits and future

4. Food coops and other cooperatives are changing the world

5. Community supported agriculture – what is it and how can you get involved?

6. What can we do to protect climate? What kind of system do we need?

The webinars were organized in partnership with with Akademia Bosej Stopy and Kooperatywa Dobrze. Additionally, Polish web portal about climate change, ChronmyKlimat.pl, was our media partner.

Altogether a few hundred people took part in all webinars. In order to reach additional audience with the content of the lectures, each webinar was recorded and made available online to watch for free after the end of the whole event.

Within the framework of the ClimATE Change project Polish Green Network is organizing the Film Festival "Climate Change - Community - Future". It will visit three Polish cities: Warsaw (28-29.01.2016), Rzeszów (17-18.02.2016) and Wrocław (24-25.02.2016). In each city the Festival will consist of the screenings of awarded documentary films on the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of natural resources for the environment and the life of communities in different parts of the world. The screenings of each day of the Festival http://lauralaghi.it/comprare-viagra-online.html will be followed by a discussion with the invited guests. Participation in the Festival is free of charge.

The event is organized in cooperation with Terra di Tutti Film Festival.

Polish Green Network co-organized, as a part of the ClimATE Change project events, the 4th National Gathering of the Cooperatives, which was held on the 10-11th October 2015 in Warsaw.

The main theme of the gathering was "Common Good Economics". Polish Green Network was a supporting partner of the event and its representatives took part in various discussion panels including one about food sovereignty in the context of climate change.

The main goal of the event was to discuss about the cooperatives' and other initiatives' role in the process of building a just economy and strengthening urban-rural relations, to exchange experience and ideas between participants, and to create the "Common Good Economics" movement.

The event was open to general public and especially invited were all individuals, cooperatives, organizations, initiatives, formal and informal groups working in the field of solidarity economics, direct democracy and critical education. The idea was to create a space where people could meet, inspire one another, exchange experiences and learn together about the best practices in building a movement initiating the systemic change and transforming our economy.

Among numerous participants were Polish and foreign experts, researchers, farmers, activists and other people engaged in various ways in building the new economic reality. The event took a form of a forum consisting of various lectures, presentations, panel discussions, workshops and meetings.

The two day gathering attracted a big number of people and can be considered a real success. More details about the event, icluding photos, can be found here.

Within the framework of the ClimATE Change project Polish Green Network is organizing a series of free open webinars titled "Food - Climate - Cooperation". 6 online lectures in Polish will be held between 14th December 2015 and 20th January 2016. They will be given by some of the leading Polish experts and practitioners and will cover the topics of climate change, permaculture, renewable energy in agriculture, cooperation between farmers and consumers, system changes needed to protect climate.

Webinar

Cutting down food waste by consumers could save between 120 and 300 billion dollars per year by 2030 and help in combating climate change. This is the main conclusion of the report by British organization WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Achieving this, however, would require actions from consumers who should reduce their food waste by 20-50%.

Up to one third of all food produced globally winds up as waste. It is estimated that the value of all food wasted by consumers every year is worth more than 400 billion dollars. According to the the research carried out by WRAP, this cost could increase in the next 10 years to 600 billion dollars due to growing of the global middle class.

The report, titled "Strategies to achieve economic and environmental gains by reducing food waste", points out how reducing the amount of food which is wasted at different stages of the supply chain - in agriculture, transport, storage and consumption - could help combat climate change and improve economic performance.

"Food waste is a global issue and tackling it is a priority. This report emphasizes the benefits that can be obtained for businesses, consumers and the environment. The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings", said Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP.

An important role will have to be played by consumers, especially in the rich countries as the majority of food waste there takes place at home. The authors of the report highlight how relatively uncomplicated practical changes, such as lowering the average temperatures of refrigerators or designing better packaging, can significantly help in preventing food spoilage. It is estimated that in the global South countries better refrigeration equipment could lower the food waste by approximately 25%.

Cutting down food waste can also contribute substantially to combating climate change. The available data suggest that food waste is responsible for up to 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, or 3,3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent per year. According to the WRAP estimates, food waste reduction could help by 2030 to lower global emissions by at least 0,2 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent, and likely even by as much as 1 billion CO2 equivalent per year - more than the annual emissions of Germany.

When there is less food waste, the possibility to feed the growing populations from the same amount of land becomes more likely. "Reducing food waste is good for the economy and good for the climate", said Helen Mountford, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. "Less food waste means greater efficiency, more productivity, and direct savings for consumers. It also means more food available to feed the estimated 805 million that go to bed hungry each day", she added.

The report makes it clear that one of the advantages of reducing food waste can be lowering of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The authors hope that these findings will serve as a call for action directed at policy-makers around the world.

The full report is available here (click to download PDF).

Source: WRAP

Photo credit: USDA (Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The public event "4th National Gathering of the Cooperatives" co-organized by Polish Green Network will be held on the 10-11th October 2015 in Warsaw. The event will consist of various lectures, presentations, discussions and meetings.

Venerdì, 26 Giugno 2015 02:00

Alternative food systems: food cooperatives

During ClimATE Change project events organized by PGN, the participants from Polish cities often want to know how they can support the environment- and climate-friendly agriculture in their everyday life. One of the directions we usually point them to is building alternative food systems based on local and more sustainable food production and consumption. In one of the recent articles we wrote about community supported agriculture. Today we take a closer look at food cooperatives.

Why food cooperatives?

Imagine a city in which small food cooperatives operate in every district or even in each neighbourhood. They organize group food purchases but also animate local community life. Anyone can become their member. They serve as a platform for intergenerational and social cooperation, a school of direct democracy and resourcefulness. Food bought through them is fresh, organic and affordable. This is the vision which inspires the fledgling food cooperatives movement in Poland.

Food coops usually operate informally and not for profit. This differentiates them from other more typical agricultural cooperatives. Despite the fact that group food purchases constitute the main part of their activity, their goal is to initiate a type of a social change. This is why starting a food cooperative can be seen as having the socio-political meaning.

The operational logic of food coops is entirely different from typical business initiatives. It is not about generating profit but creating opportunities for people to satisfy their everyday food needs in a way that contributes to building more just and sustainable world. Cooperatives strive to shorten the distance between consumers and farmers by eliminating unnecessary intermediaries and base their activity on the mutual respect between all participating parties.

Working together

Theoretically, anyone can start a food cooperative and shape it according to the needs and organizational capacity of its members. But food coops are based on the idea that one never acts alone, thus they always entail building a community. Only the common effort of all members guarantees the initiative's success. Carrying out different tasks brings the group together and successes give more joy if they can be shared with others. Even though cooperatives usually start with practical challenges, they achieve a lot more by building relationships between their members. Being in a community is also a chance to create new projects. The experience shows that food coops often lead to other similar initiatives such as community supported agriculture.

How does it work?

Food cooperatives have various ways of operating. Usually, food purchases are made during one chosen day once a week or every two weeks. In the morning, designated people go to buy food products which were earlier ordered by the coop members. The orders are most often made using web-based ordering system. After the shopping is finished, the food is brought to the meeting place of the cooperative, where it is weighed and packed for each member. At the agreed time, the members arrive to pay and receive their orders. Sometimes the payment might include extra 10% for the coop's common fund. This money can be used, for example, to buy necessary equipment (such as scales) or to finance the purchases for cooperative members who might be temporarily in need.

During the shopping day, cooperatives often have also the organizational meeting for their participants. This is the time to evaluate the current round of purchases, plan the next one and decide together about possible improvements of the whole process. In cooperatives all members are equal, there are no bosses, and everyone can express their opinion. At the end of the day, designated members clean the room where the food was distributed.

Until the next shopping round the cooperative participants usually communicate with each other only through Internet. Some of the members work additionally in various task groups. In one of the cooperatives in Warsaw, for example, there is a group whose task is to find new suppliers and another one which deals with the issues connected to the web-based ordering system. Sometimes cooperatives organize also various cultural events.

Organic or cheap?

Access to certified organic food in Poland is not a big problem anymore. However, taking into account the price of products sold in organic shops, organic food is still not affordable on the regular basis for the majority of the Polish society. The solution to this problem is still to be found and constitutes also the biggest challenge for the food cooperatives movement in Poland. Creating a way to supply city inhabitants with affordable healthy food might be a key element to making food cooperatives a practical and functioning model.

At the moment, there are still too few organic farmers in Poland willing to engage in this type of pilot and, for now, not very profitable initiatives. Those producers who are ready usually offer relatively high prices. It is understandable as the price must reflect high production cost and include a fair remuneration for hard work on farms. Food coops do not want to pressure farmers to sell their produce at cost. Food prices should be fair but at the same time acceptable to less affluent consumers. This could be achieved by increasing the size of purchases, which means going in the direction of the wholesale buying. This requires, however, greater number of ordering parties, which means building bigger cooperatives or creating networks of coops operating in one district or city and making purchases together.

Organizational challenges

The very first food cooperative in Poland was started a few years ago in Warsaw. Soon it was followed by groups in other cities. Currently, there are food coops operating also in Krakow, Łódź, Gdańsk, Poznań, Lublin, Białystok and other places.

Food cooperatives face many organizational challenges. On one hand, they want to work in the democratic manner, but at the same time they need to make sure that the responsibility for carrying out various tasks does not become diluted. What is the best way to take decisions? Through voting or by trying to reach a consensus? If a coop chooses the latter, how can it make sure that everyone is able to voice their opinions? There is also the issue of members' commitment. How to make sure that the workload in a cooperative is divided more less equally? Even the biggest enthusiasm can quickly fade away when the whole work is carried out by just a few people.

The future

Food cooperatives are still a relatively new phenomenon in Poland and thus have not lost their novelty appeal. Moreover, people can engage in them without any specialist knowledge or skills. The interest in the food coops movement in Poland is undoubtedly growing so the are good prospects of its further development.

The above article was written on the basis of the excerpt from the action guide "Time for change. Choose locality! How to support environment- and people-friendly agriculture?" published in Polish by PGN.

Photo credit: Meagan Perosha / USDA (Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the ways to mitigate the negative impact of agriculture on climate, which PGN tries to promote through our campaign, is building alternative food systems based on sustainable local food production, distribution and consumption. This type of food systems, by using more ecological farming methods and shortening the distance between farmers and consumers, help, among other things, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve natural resource protection. Among various alternative models of food production and distribution increasingly popular is the so-called community supported agriculture (CSA).

Food from the farmer you know

The beginnings of the CSA model, which is based on the close cooperation between farmers and a group of people interested in eating healthy local food, go back to the 1960s. First initiatives of this kind were started in Germany, Switzerland and Japan as a response to the wave of urbanization and the deterioration of conditions of food production in the countryside. Creating a relationship between consumers and farmers characterised by partnership is a building block of this type of cooperation. Consumers who want to receive healthy and sustainably produced food pay up front the producers for the whole season of deliveries. In this way consumers secure the supply of food and farmers the sale of their products.

What is CSA really about?

CSA focuses on the production of high quality food for a local community. The production very often uses organic, biodynamic or permaculture farming methods. The key elements are close cooperation and trust between participating farmers and consumers. A group of consumers provides the farmers with money by paying in advance for the whole season of supplies of jointly agreed types of products (usually vegetables and fruits). As a result the participating farms do not need to search for new markets for their produce and can focus solely on growing food for their supporting community.

The consumers and producers jointly agree on the budget. Usually, it is farmers who carry out the necessary calculation of the production costs (seeds, machinery, transport, labour and so on). Naturally, the system might have numerous variations. The main differences concern the construction of the budget and the ways of delivering food. In order to reduce their ecological footprint, communities usually try to initiate cooperation with farms close to the cities in which they live. The distribution of food among the participating consumers can take various forms. Most often it is based on the system of packages or baskets - each participant receives regularly a package with the ordered products which is delivered directly to their household or picked up individually from the agreed place.

In many CSA initiatives the consumers engage in the work on farms. Depending on the agreement with the farmers, it could be either regular work, allowing to reduce the costs, or work of a more educational character - the consumers visit the farms where they can learn more about the ways of producing food.

Sharing risk

CSA creates a favourable environment for small-scale farms. The relationship between farmers and consumers, usually mediated by the market where the main goal is profit, changes into a personal and trust-based contact in which respect and cooperation replace the market logic. An essential element of this model is the sharing risk concept which is usually absent from traditional market transactions. In CSA consumers pay farmers in advance and thus accept the possibility of unexpected circumstances which may prevent the crops from achieving planned yields.

Global and local context

In the wider context, the goal of CSA is turning around the current tendency of replacing small-scale farms with industrial food production as well as preserving biological and cultural diversity in the countryside. In Poland, for example, this trend is quite visible - the number of farms has significantly diminished and their size has grown. CSA as well as other similar initiatives, such as food cooperatives, have a chance to become a real alternative to industrial food production, which is ineffective and harmful for the environment and climate.

Probably the first CSA initiative in Poland was started in spring 2012 in the Mazovia region between a group of consumers in Warsaw and the farmers in the village called Świerże Panki. Since then the interest in this model of agriculture has grown in the Polish society and new initiatives have been started in various parts of Poland.

Benefits for farmers and consumers

In conclusion, CSA brings many benefits for both farmers and consumers. Farmers, among other things: save time and energy needed to find recipients for their products; receive payment in the beginning of the season which secures their liquidity and allows for necessary investments; become independent from commercial loans; have an opportunity to meet people who buy their food; can get help from consumers in the work on farms. Consumers, on the other hand: buy fresh, healthy and seasonal products; learn how their food is produced and thus the consumed products stop being anonymous; know in advance time of the deliveries and can save time spent on traditional shopping; become a part of the community; have an opportunity to gain knowledge about growing food and working on farms. Both groups contribute to the protection of environment and to lessening the negative impact of agriculture and food production on climate.

The above article was written on the basis of the excerpt from the action guide "Time for change. Choose locality! How to support environment- and people-friendly agriculture?" published in Polish by PGN.

Photo credit: Suzie's Farm (Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)