In the era of Trump

More than a year has passed since I last wrote here. What a year, professionally and in terms of global politics.

Cardinia Food Circles, courtesy of Kirsty Moegerlein

Professional milestones

  • 21 January 2016: Sustain: The Australian Food Network becomes incorporated as a company limited by guarantee
  • March 2016: Sustain secures funding from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation for three years, effectively covering my role as Executive Director for 2 days a week
  • April 2016: Sustain secures funding from the Myer Foundation for capacity building, supporting a) the establishment of an Australian Food Systems Directory b) the holding of an inaugural Urban Agriculture Forum c) the holding of the 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy d) the recruitment of a part-time comms officer and e) governance training for our Board and myself
  • May 2016: We complete the Food Hub Feasibility Study for Wangaratta, the second such study after the 2015 Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility Study
  • June 2016: Study trip to Canada to attend the Canadian Food Hubs Conference and meet with food organisations in Quebec
  • June-July 2016: Preparation for the inaugural Australian Community Food Hubs conference and tour
  • August 8-18 2016: Community Food Hubs conference and tour successfully conducted with 170 attending the two-day Bendigo event and a further 800+ attending events around the country
  • September 2016: Planning begins for the national Urban Agriculture Forum and the Symposium of Australian Gastronomy
  • October 2016: Contract signed for a multi-year food system re-design project: Cardinia Food Circles.  The first and most ambitious project of its type attempted so far as we know.
  • November 2016: The Urban Agriculture Forum takes place in Melbourne with 150 attendees, followed by events in Bendigo, Adelaide and Sydney. Cardinia Food Circles project gets underway
  • December 2016: 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy takes place in Melbourne, with 140 attendees, over four days of debates and feasting. The background mapping of the Cardinia Food System takes place
  • January 2017: We pause a little for breath…Discussions begin for the Alphington Community Food Hub
  • February 2017: The Australian Food Systems Directory is launched. The Bendigo Local Food Economy pilot report is launched.
  • March 2017: The Sustain / VLGA food governance position paper is finalised, articulating  the role of local government across health and wellbeing, planning, and economic development
  • April 2017: The Cardinia Food Systems profiling workshops are held in Koo Wee Rup, Pakenham and Gembrook, generating debate and passion about the current state and future possibilities of Cardinia’s food system. The Food Hub Feasibility Study for the Wyndham Food Hub is finalised and delivered to the City of Wyndham
Koo Wee Rup food system profile, courtesy of Kirsty Moegerlein

And so much more still to come! Not mentioned above of course is the launch in 2016 of Australia’s first Bachelor of Food Studies at William Angliss Institute, and in 2017 of the first Master of Food Systems and Gastronomy at the same place.

Global politics

The geopolitical tremor came first in June with the Brexit vote, with a slim majority of UK voters taking the historic decision to leave the EU. This rising tide of nationalism crested in November 2016 with the previously unthinkable election of the ultra-narcissist Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, on an openly racist platform of America-first nationalism and xenophobia directed against Muslims, Mexicans, Chinese and non-Americans in general.

Trump’s first 100 days in office have been characterised by gaffes, mis-steps, broken promises and in recent weeks increasingly brazen saber-rattling and uber-militarism. In early April, a volley of cruise missiles was fired at Syria in supposed retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly perpetrated by Bashar Al-Assad against civilians in a rebel-held zone. A week later the US military command in Afghanistan decided to drop the MOAB – Mother of All Bombs – the largest non-nuclear device ever exploded.

MOAB Bomb dropped on Afghanistan, 14 April 2017

At the same time Trump has effectively put the North Korean regime on notice that it’s next, and can expect a pre-emptive strike in the near future. North Korea has responded by threatening the US with annihilation. I can only imagine what it must be like for the residents of Seoul at this time, who will be first in the firing line should Trump carry through with his threats.

Meanwhile the rhetoric against Russia and Iran has ramped up considerably, and the US has them in its sights also. France is on the brink of electing the openly fascist National Front, as the forces of fear, xenophobia, racism and nationalism seem to be in the ascendancy.

The danger of war – and hugely destructive, nuclear war – feels very great indeed. I retain my optimism and belief that we are also on the cusp of some wonderful, transformative changes, but there are days when my optimism is sorely tested.

Still, this is the sort of thing that keeps me feeling hopeful: