ASEED’s reading groups are a social, communicative, creative way of learning, exchanging ideas and thoughts, raising awareness and coming together.
The reading group has been focused on promoting anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-capitalist and de-colonial approaches, and this year in 2023, we narrow in on our current Fossil Free Agriculture campaign with the four topics “Gas and industrial agriculture”, “Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and big agrochemical companies”, “Soil health”, and “Agroecology”. I this way we move through some of the key issues in our current industrial food systems before turning our attention to the solutions.
The reading group is organised and facilitated by members of ASEED who choose a variety of resources, such as articles, podcasts, videos, zines, etc., to accommodate different capacities and learning styles. We want to foster a curious co-learning environment, where we can grow together, reflect, and knowledge share on the given topic. The reading group us open to everyone to join, listen, contribute and learn.
We currently have one reading group session left this year in April – please send an email to email@example.com to sign up and receive the suggested materials or read the reports of past years’ sessions here!
You can learn more about this year’s previous topics below:
1. The role of gas in industrial agriculture
How many fossil fuels actually go into producing our food? How does this industry continue to grow under the radar? Together we investigated how fossil fuels, and increasingly gas, are deeply engrained in the current food system.
– Zine by the Gastivists: “Guide to Gas” , which provides an interactive introduction to the gas industry and, most importantly, why we need to get rid of it.
– Stop motion video by the Gastivists: “Stopping a Fossil Fuel Lock-In”, which explains the dangers of gas dependency and role of EU policy in the industry. This site also has many other resources on gas in general, which are very accessible and informative.
– Article by GRAIN: “Getting out of the food-energy-climate crisis”, which ties together the crises of gas dependence, rapidly rising food prices, and greenhouse gas emissions.
– Article by OpenDemocracy titled “Why Africa signed up for eight new fossil fuel projects at COP27”. This article describes the colonial relations that result from Europe’s hunger for gas, as it details how new deals at COP27 to extract African gas can leave locals deeply indebted.
2. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers & big agrochemical companies
What does synthetic fertilizer do to the soil and our food? How is it produced? What are big agribusinesses doing to keep themselves relevant during a climate crisis? Who is Yara? How is this company connected to the consumption of fossil gas and neocolonial practices – and is it really necessary to ‘feed the world’? Together we looked at how synthetic fertilizers deplete our soils and food of nutrients, and how agribusinesses do their very best to hinder food autonomy.
– Short video: This video describes why plants need nitrogen, and what synthetic nitrogen fertilizers do to the soil and crops.
– Corporate website of YARA: Why is fertilizer important for feeding the world? (Please be critical of this website!)
– Article by GRAIN: “A fertiliser cartel holds the global food system hostage”, explains how synthetic fertilizer companies are capitalising on current crises, as well as how exploitative, colonial fertilizer investments in Africa are spreading like wildfire.
3. Soil health & legumes
For this session, we focus on soil health – with a special look at the role of legumes. What does healthy soil look like? How is this important for the climate and biodiversity? How can we contribute to improving soil health in our everyday lives? What do legumes contribute to the soil, and why are they important in the fight against industrial agriculture? How much carbon can we actually store “naturally” beneath our feet?
– Vandana Shiva’s (seed and soil scholar and activist) organization has a page titled “What is soil”, where she shares her wisdom. (Unfortunately the wisdom is missing some letters in the text now and again, but if you can disregard that, it gives a good introduction to the topic!)
– This podcast episode from Soil Matters gives a good insight into local, radical gardening around Amsterdam, where tricks and methods to turn polluted city soil into food and community spaces are shared.
-Of this episode of the Farmerama podcast, we recommend the first 23 minutes, where you can hear about improving soil health with compost, soil health vs carbon sequestration, and a very passionate call to farm.
– The Legume Manifesto from the Global Bean Project shortly outlines the wonder of legumes and how they can enrich our soils, diets and biodiversity, instead of remaining dependent on harmful synthetic fertilizers.
– This article titled “Can soil help combat climate change?” runs through the possibilities and problems with looking to carbon sequestration in the soil as a means to decrease carbon in the atmosphere.
4. Agroecology & Guerilla gardening
At our fourth and last Reading Group we dove more into the final topic of our Fossil Free Agriculture campaign – agroecology.
As the weather was warm, we met outside at the ”Mahatma Gandhi” garden, where we enjoyed the last hours of sun while gardening, making new friends and drinking mint tea that grew at the herb bed next to us. We discussed about how agroecology poses an alternative to industrial agriculture, how it benefits both local communities and environments, and most importantly, how people can get involved here in Amsterdam!
To help us create an interesting discussion and learn about these topics together, we always invite a guest with particular knowledge on the given topic. This time, our friend David joined us, who is a permaculture specialist on food forests. He prepared a demonstration in order to explain better to us how different plants and ways of farming can retain water, nutrients and life in the soil (click here to see more)!
Watch: “Agroecology: Voices From Social Movements” by Coventry University, La Via Campesina and International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty. This 20 minute documentary shows different parts of the agroecology movement around the world, centered around the Nyéléni Forum for Agroecology in Mali, 2015.
Listen: “Short: Vandana Shiva” by Farmerama. This 20 minute podcast episode includes Vandana Shiva’s (agroecology/soil scholar and activist) arguments for why agroecology is necessary to break away from large-scale industrial farming.
Read: “Peasant Agroecology according to ECVC” by European Coordination Via Campesina. This pdf runs through the essential components of agroecology and features eight different case studies of agroecological farming. Read through the ones you find the most inspiring!
“Junk Agroecology” by the Transnational Institute. This article explains the watered down versions of “agroecology” that corporations are pushing to greenwash their business and remain in power.
Explore: For information on how to get involved with or source your food from agroecological practices, have a look at the Dutch Agroecology Network, the Community Supported Agriculture Network, and an overview of alternative food options in Amsterdam on the ASEED website.