Zane's World


food, not zombies


By: Zane Fischer 10/28/2008


Santa Fe Reporter staff writer Dave Maass' zombie scenario may seem like an unlikely lark to most readers, but my ongoing fascination with the fetishy subculture of survivalism and disaster preparedness indicates a worldview wherein one is either ready for anything and everything, or is just one of the "sheeple" who will be thrown to the wolves when the SHTF and TEOTWAWKI is upon us.

I recently read the Church of the Latter Day Saints' "Preparedness Manual," which the Mormon Church distributes to its members. The manual is a detailed and thoughtful plan on how to stockpile food and supplies, and develop the necessary skills to survive the_______(fill in the blank: zombie apocalypse, economic collapse, assault of the New World Order, nuclear holocaust, peak oil crisis, electro-magnetic pulse terrorist attack, etc.).

The Mormon community isn't proposing to live out a video game- and movie-fueled juvenile fantasy, nor does it promote the stereotypical survivalist, an assault weapon-hoarding loner in full tactical battle gear. Instead, it puts forth a method for prospering in a world that has proven to be volatile and unpredictable, and where prosperity is a fickle friend to comfortable nations. But the methods are still a bit, um, insular and extremist.

Assuming an actual zombie invasion is low on the probability scale, but fuel and/or food shortages—such as those that have recently rocked regions around the world, including the southern US—are potential situations over which it is worth hedging some bets, how do communities like Santa Fe best secure themselves? The key issue is food. In the winter of 2006/2007, more than 20 inches of snow fell on parts of Santa Fe proper, effectively shutting down the city for almost two days. Because grocery stores stock approximately three days worth of food for a community's needs, it's apparent any significant disruption in the timing of supplies will pinch.

Michael Pollan wrote in the Oct. 12 issue of the New York Times Magazine that the next president will have to deal with food policy on a level not experienced for decades. Pollan points out that rising food costs are going to force food to the forefront of economic policy along with energy and national security. Pollan's article, "Farmer In Chief: What the next president can and should do to remake the way we grow and eat our food," reminded me of the Sustainable Santa Fe Plan assembled by the city's Green Team.

Katherine Mortimer, supervising planner for the City of Santa Fe, worked with the city's energy specialist, Nick Schiavo, and project specialist, Maria Vigil, to coordinate the volunteer Sustainable Santa Fe Commission to draft the plan. They will take it before the City Council on Oct. 29 to seek "official adoption of the strategy," Mortimer says.  The ambitious effort sets a framework for adopting policies that look at the overlapping areas of environmental stewardship, economic health and social justice. There are nearly a dozen focus areas in the plan, including one described as "food systems."

More than 15 action items are proposed in the food system, many under the rubric of developing and promoting a regional "food shed." That means working with Santa Fe County, Rio Arriba County and other neighbors to maximize local-food production and work together to encourage small farms and to maintain water rights for responsible, conservation-minded agricultural use. Within the city limits, sites (potentially including public parks) for community gardens and community green houses are encouraged and incentives put in place for those willing to provide land for hosting such projects.

"Urban harvest" programs—such as those described by the Canadian radio show, Deconstructing Dinner, in its series "Farming in the City"—which minimize the transportation costs associated with food and ensure frequently wasted foods (such as fruit from unharvested trees) are delivered to restaurants, markets, shelters and whoever is able to use them.

Mortimer says there is some desire on the part of the City Council to have firm agreements in place with the county and other partners before approving the plan, but she thinks it will go forward regardless. "We've communicated with the county all along about cooperating on a number of issues that are really regional in nature and they are certainly amenable to that," she says. "I think they will take our plan as a model, once we've adopted it, and put something very similar in place as their own policy."

The county has frequently demonstrated progressive leadership—especially in terms of sustainable practice—without waiting around to see if the city is on board, so hopefully the City Council will do the same by approving the Sustainable Santa Fe Plan. More importantly, the Council needs to support implementation of the plan, through funding, streamlined permitting and approving any necessary zoning amendments.

"I know people who are buying stacks of rice and beans, and stuff just in case," Mortimer says. "That may not be a bad idea, but I don't know how sustainable it is on a community-wide basis."