Routledge Handbook of Food as a Commons

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* Book: The Routledge Handbook of Food as a Commons. Edited by Jose Luis Vivero-Pol, Tomaso Ferrando, Olivier De Schutter, Ugo Mattei. Routledge, 2019



“This Handbook provides the first comprehensive review and synthesis of knowledge and new thinking on how food and food systems can be thought, interpreted and practiced around the old/new paradigms of commons and commoning. The overall aim is to investigate the multiple constraints that occur within and sustain the dominant food and nutrition regime and to explore how it can change when different elements of the current food systems are explored and re-imagined from a commons perspective.”


Hans van Willenwaard:

"To mark this era of ‘a new understanding of food systems’ the Routledge Handbook of Food as a Commons was published in 2018. Earlier, Right Livelihood Laureate Dr. Vandana Shiva from India had emphasized the importance of ‘seed freedom’. Seeds of course are the utmost foundation of our food sovereignty, biodiversity and the variety of our diets.

Among the editorial team of the Food as a Commons book are Olivier de Schutter, the former UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and Ugo Mattei, an Italian Professor of Law who received the Elinor Ostrom Award in 2017.

Food as a Commons contains 22 articles by a variety of authors, and declares it is:

- A reaction to the massive abuses visited upon nature and community by the imperatives of reproduction of the dominant structure of power that the commons have re-emerged. This notion has the ambition to ground a counter-narrative and a political and institutional organization capable of shifting our pattern of development from an extractive and individual into a generative and collective mode.

Shifts needed to realize this counter-narrative are many: from food treated as a commodity to food as a commons; a change of perception from a profit-seeking ‘food supply chain’ to multi-stakeholder collaboration as ‘food citizens’; the transition from agribusiness practices considerably contributing to climate crisis, toward regenerative agriculture as a participatory environmental healing force in the framework of ecosystem restoration. As well as a transformation of the economy from a system which allows the well-off to buy the best, with a majority dependent on less healthy food or chemically contaminated bulk food, to an economy of common care with access to ‘affordable healthy food for all’ in a circular system where unavoidable food waste is turned into fertile compost.

Above all, what is required for this “OntoShift” in the words of Bollier and Helfrich[2] is “freedom-in-connectedness – a social space in which we can rediscover and remake ourselves as whole human beings and enjoy some serious measure of self-determination”. Bollier and Helfrich articulate this as a process of “commoning”."


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