On Saturday the 29th of April 2017, I was invited to the yearly conference of the International Association of Students in Agriculture and related Sciences (or in short: IAAS).
There’s a lot of beautiful things I can tell about this event, BUT there’s one thing specifically that stuck with me and it had something to do with The Big Why.
For the afternoon group discussions of the IAAS-conference, all the participants split up into groups of their interest and one of them, of course, was about urban farming, to which I was assigned expert.
After an hour into the discussion, there was one person who asked the following interesting question that is the cause of this blog post:
You know, we’ve been talking about urban and vertical farming and I get that it’s nice and that it has many benefits. But, I’m still missing The Big Why. Why should we be doing urban and vertical farming?
I love a question like this and I was eager to answer it.
But, as I wanted everyone to think for themselves – rather than giving an answer before they could do so – I held back and deflected the question to the crowd. And it had the desired effect. Many students in the group answered and many interesting points were stated:
- Urban Farming Brings people together.
- It brings people into contact with their food
- There are less foodmiles and a lower Carbon Footprint
- It has higher yields per surface area
- Urban farming projects can re-use waste
- and so on…
I loved it.
Yet, even after a dozen people gave many reasons on why urban and vertical farming is needed, the two people still remained unconvinced about “The Big Why“. The dozen students had indeed brought up many valid points on “why” we should be doing urban and vertical farming, yet to be honest, I wasn’t satisfied either.
So, when the 2 unconvinced students turned back to me with a gaze of hope mixed with desperation, I cleared my throat, took one last deep breath and let the true Zjef reveal The Big WHY via a loud and confident voice:
I can not tell you why you should do something. I can only tell you why I do what I do.
I do what I do because I see a very destructive human society. We are destroying nature. We are destroying people. We are destroying life. And thus….we are destroying ourselves.
This cannot go on and I want to be part of the needed change, rather than remain part of the structural problem.
Does this mean I think vertical Farming is the answer to all our prayers? Hell NO! Vertical farming is just what it is: a technology. It’s not inherently good or bad. It is defined by how we, humans, use it.
What I do believe is that vertical farming is a powerful tool for change because it touches the foundations of our human society.
Vertical farming touches our basic human needs: food, water, energy & Shelter. Hence, if we can do vertical farming in a creative, constructive and ecosystem-manner, we can transform the foundations of our society and spiral our species into a new era of beauty and magnificence.
Is this the big why? Did I go into vertical farming because of this rational reason? Well, partly, it helped me to form a strategy.
The real reason why I chose vertical Farming as my battlefield for societal transformation is very, very, very simple and much more down to earth. It is because, when I first learned about vertical farming and Dickson Despommier’s vision in an article in Scientific American (somewhere during 2010), my thoughts and feelings just screamed:
This is fucking awesome!
And that, my friends, is the essence of the big why!
Knowing and feeling why to do something, comes from no other place than within!
Ps: So, If my first Blog post ever didn’t make that much sense to you, it should now.
Ps2: And just check all the images below, so AWESOME!