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Foodscapes and Alternate Ways of Knowing: Tactile Space, Embodiment and Embeddedness

The study of the sensuality of food is beginning to serve a function both theoretically and, to a lesser extent, empirically/ethnographically to move researchers further beyond the Cartesian duality of structuralist separations and dualism of symbolism and materialism (Sutton, 2010). The following section explains one approach to understanding nonrepresentational ways of knowing. This link is summarized by Hayden and Buck (2012, p. 334) as follows:

Active engagement in sensuous tactile space over time can reduce the epistemic distance wrought by modernity’s over-emphasis on representational knowledge, thereby enabling holistic understandings that foster social and environmental commitments that in turn encourage sustainable lifestyles.

Carolan (2007) has developed the concept of tactile space with a goal of understanding attitudinal change and ‘new intelligibilities’ focused on care for others and the environment. The concept of tactile space is not necessarily intended as an authentic space but instead is explained as having both a participatory/embedded component and a phys- ical/embodied component. Carolan’s research found that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives intentionally sought to ‘nurture’ non-representational ways of knowing, and that the knowledge accumulated in the farm spaces was both socially embedded and sensuously embodied. His earlier research recognizes that the creation of tactile spaces can be challenging, specifically with the scale and complexity of climate change (Carolan, 2006). However, he sees the value of tactile space to be in the deliberative process and that ‘attempts must be made to ground such problems in the lived worlds of citizens’ (2007, p. 1265).

The physical bodily act of growing food, gardening, farming or simply digging in soil while volunteering in a CSA scheme is an embodied engagement with nature and place. These engagements can promote deeper connections to the food system, seasonal eating and an understanding of food miles. Turner (2011, p. 518) extrapolates that this is not obscure knowledge but rather ‘intimately linked to the health of the body’. At the same time, research shows that households sensitive to environmental and local social issues are more likely to participate in CSA schemes. Yet, even with these ‘previously converted’ groups, it has been documented that they continue to learn and develop consciousness about where food comes from and the growing, transporting and process impacts. CSAs are seen as a social movement with the ability to ‘gradually forage a new understanding of what it means to eat’ (Bougherara et al., 2009, p. 114).

Interesting explorations in the field of landscape architecture present notions of spaces that support the Western societal need for a reduction in speed and stress (Ostrom, 2007) while encouraging opportunities for contemplation. This connects the ‘nexus between geographical terrains and terrains of consciousness’ (Nicholls, 2013, p. 36). Contemplative spaces can involve natural features that ‘capture one’s fascination, withdrawing consciousness from one’s everyday world that can lead to an introspective frame of mind’ (Moura, 2009, p. 90). Moura’s (2009) study of contemplation spaces also demonstrates an ‘overwhelming affinity for vegetation and nature in contemplation spaces’ (p. 105). Tourism to natural areas and the theory of restorative environments associated with the positive notions of ‘being away’ are explained in relation to environmental psychology (Moura, 2009, p. 105).

There is a gap in the literature regarding the role that farms, specifically diversified polycrop sites, can play in supporting contemplation of climate consciousness (Cavaliere, 2016). However, the relationship between the nature-culture divide and the disconnection to our food production, specifically in urban areas, is documented (Kler, 2009). Turner (2011, p. 518) further elaborates that through the actual slow embodied engagement with nature there is an ‘enchanted, contemplative space outside of the frantic neoliberal order that defines much of life in industrialised nations’. The material essence of food and its role in connecting people to the natural world and how they relate to the environment has been examined through collecting stories. This has been done in order to try to determine embedded understandings of the human/food/environment relationships.

The notion of the role of the feeling of trust is also a strong component to desires for direct interaction with food producers. ‘People valued the opportunity this close connection (producer/consumer) gave of restoring links and ties with the local community, feeling part of one’s surrounds and making a contribution to supporting local life, including production’ (Kneafsey et al., 2008, p. 124).

The basis of this chapter is succinctly summarized through the work of Friese et al. (2011) in the five principles below (Table 4.1). The interrelationship between biocultural and gastronomic restoration to climate change mitigation is critical.

Table 4.1. Eating and growing food in ways that counter climate change. (Adapted from Friese et al., 2011.)

Principle One: Diversity

Now, more than ever before, we need a diversity of food crop varieties in our fields and orchards in order to be able to adapt to change and to keep our food system healthy, resilient and delicious. Explore, celebrate and consume what diversity can be found locally

Principle Two:

Farmer’s knowledge

Farmer’s knowledge and problem-solving skills are key assets for coping with and adapting to climate change, assets that have not yet been sufficiently honoured, understood and drawn upon by the scientific community

Principle Three: Consumer action

Eaters or chefs and consumers, if you will, need to vote with their wallets in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems, reducing their carbon foodprints by whatever means they have available to them. But they also need to vote at the ballot for more climate-friendly food policies

Principle Four: Climate complexity

Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors disrupting agricultural, ecological and human health and not as an environmental impact apart from all others

Principle Five:

Local empowerment

We need to empower local food communities, ones that link farmers, foragers, fishers and ranchers with chefs, consumers and educators to be ‘co-designers’ of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities for adoption, refinement or rejection

 
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