Recently in Living Things Category

08.05.05 garden table, hedge & nest In the garden in early May last year, a broken piece of ivy jutting out from the hedge caught our attention.
Then a thrush darted into the greenery, and we realised this was in all probability the site of a nest - as indeed it turned out to be, a neatly solid little structure with three beautiful blue eggs in it.
Waiting patiently, carefully positioning the camera well away and using a zoom lens, this is what we then saw emerging, almost at our back door....

08.05.05 thrush blue eggs & nest hidden in hedge

08.05.05  thrush blue eggs hatching & nest

08.05.05 thrush blue eggs, newly-hatched chick & nest

The other eggs hatched later, and we saw the adult birds going about their parental duties for several days thereafter, flying to and fro with titbits for their young. And perhaps the process is being repeated again this year, now the gap in the hedge has covered over, for the garden thrushes seem to be very active once more.

Read more articles about Living Things, Nature & The Seasons and The Philospohy Of Hedges, and see more photographs at Calendar & Camera.

For more information on thrushes, their nests and eggs, click here.

derelict site What’s the reality of low carbon communities? You can have your say about the future of zero carbon development for two weeks from today. The Homes and Communities Agency Academy is hosting an open, on-line debate about creating low carbon communities, addressing issues like the carbon implications of the credit crunch and lessons from the international experience. Contributors include podcasts from high profile speakers such as David Lock and Paul King So now have your say....

Sustainability As If People Mattered
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Academy, for which I am a tutor, has existed only since 1 December 2008, when it arose from the previous Academy for Sustainable Communities; but already it is reaching out to engage people in debate about critically important issues.

The first of these open-access debates begins today, Friday 23 January 2009 (until 6 February), on the new HCAA Debate Place portal.

The question under discussion is how we can rise to the low carbon challenge?

The weblink to this national debate can be found here.

Creating low carbon communities
The HCA Academy will be asking:

What is the reality of creating low carbon communities and what can we learn from International experience?

The debate will be facilitated and you can post comments, ask questions and watch video clips on climate, connectivity and community issues.

The on-line discussion will probe issues such as:

- Will the Code for Sustainable Homes be affected by the credit crunch?
- How do we reduce the carbon footprint of new homes in the UK?

Low carbon case studies
The debate will be supported by a series of on-line films from high-profile speakers, including David Lock from David Lock Associates and Paul King, CEO of UK Green Building Council.

Research published by the HCA Academy which examines lessons learned from international case studies will provide further insight into the latest issues and skills implications of low carbon developments.

Continuing the debate
Following the debate, a short summary report will be published on-line.

'Debate Place' will also host links to resources such as the website Demystifying Climate Change, a resource designed to help practitioners navigate the low carbon debate and work out relevance for their own work.

We hope you can contribute to this high profile and important debate, and that you will encourage others to do the same. To join the debate please click here.

Read more about Sustainability As If People Mattered and about Carbon Neutral Villages.

Athens Lykavitos (Lycabettus) Hill, Chapel of Agios Georgios at sunset Tonight is the full moon in Athens, Greece, when by tradition everyone attends free events till late on the archeological sites; and this year there's also a partial lunar eclipse over the city. But for this feral kitten, silently padding the very highest point of Athens in search of scraps from restaurant diners atop Lycabettus Hill, it will be business as usual.

Athens Feral kitten stalks the wall around St George's Chapel and the restaurant at the top of Lycabettus Hill

Every year since 1953, the August Moon Festival in Athens on the night of the full moon - believed to be the most beautiful such event of the year - has been a celebration open to everyone, with free performances of opera, traditional dance and classical music on the Acropolis and Roman Agora, as well as events located in other unique and incomparable historic sites of Athens such as the Odeion of Herodus Attikus .

This is truly an occasion, if you are in Athens at the right time, not to be missed! (And if you're somewhere else in Greece, you may still be lucky anyway - consult the Greek Ministry of Culture for possible events in other locations.)

See more of Hilary's photographs: Camera & Calendar
and read more about Travel & Tourism and Athens Music

More info on Athens, the August Moon Festival and
Mount Lycabettus / Lycavitos Hill, the Lycavitos Restaurant, St George's / Agios Georgios Chapel and access via the Funicular/ Cablecar
; and read more about Athens Beyond the Acropolis.

08.04.02 place laid for dinner 140x78 010a.jpg Food is rising rapidly up the agenda. Allotments, biofuels, calories, customs, eating disorders, famine, farming, fats, fibre, foodmiles, GM, health, organic, packaging, processing, salt, seasonal, security, sell-by, sustainability, vitamins, water.... Where do we begin with what to eat and drink?

Modern society has moved from food as nutrition and survival to food as an element of our leisure experience. Until recently it's been seen by many as an issue to be left to dieters or even ‘health freaks’.

But now people are beginning to ask what food's about. The immediate answer to this question could be, it’s all very confusing. There are 'facts' and there are, it seems, 'food factoids'; and there are some consequences for action, when we think things through....

Here are some general headings and questions about food which may help:

Nutrition (Should we eat it?)
Strange as it may seem, for most adults there is still more concern about calorific value and ‘losing weight’ than there is about the nutritional value of what we eat. Almost everyone wants to be slim; yet despite concerns in many parts of the world about obesity and health relatively few people actually eat their fruit and veg ‘Five A Day'.

We as consumers still don’t fully appreciate nutritional information or understand the significance for our health and well-being of salt and other minerals and vitamins, various sorts of fats, fibre, ‘additives’, sugar, glycaemic index, units of alcohol and so on; and in some respects nor, completely, do the experts.

The healthy eating message is beginning to sink in, but questions around nutritional labelling and how to project the public health message continue to loom large.

Children eat too (Is food for kids especially important?)
Even (especially) for children, the health impact of being overweight, along with issues around longer-term well-being and educational outcomes, are now major concerns, as Jamie Oliver and his School Dinners campaign keep reminding us.

It is not altogether clear however that poor children necessarily have ‘worse’ diets than better off ones – possibly because even wealthier children eat ‘the wrong things’, albeit from choice (kids of all sorts it seems won’t eat their greens). But perhaps some groups consume ‘nicer’ food than others, even though the direct nutritional value - or not - of food consumed by children may (sometimes) vary independently of income.

So what more if anything needs to be done about family eating patterns, or advertising food to children, on the television and elsewhere? How much value should we put on meals together as a way to promote family well-being and cohesion?

And how important, as a good start, is breast-feeding? Should we as a society do more to encourage it?

Or should we emphasise exercise more than nutrition, to protect children's physical and mental health?

Organic? GM? Nano? Sell-by date? (Is it wholesome?)
Confusion reigns when we look at the science behind modern food production.

Is organicWho says so, and why is it so pricey?) What about free-range? What's a superfood? And do superfoods really exist?

Has the product we're about to eat, or an antecedent of it, been genetically modified? Is that good or bad? – and for whom? consumers, farmers or other people in the developing world? Also, how has it changed the food?

What of new techniques? Are any food nanotechnologies involved? Whatever would they be for? Are they good or dangerous?

Who decides ‘sell-by’ dates? And by what criteria?

Can we trust the Food Standards Agency, the government and European legislation and everybody else involved in food regulation and statutory labelling? What about the consumer organisations and the supermarkets? Who knows best?

Presenting, preserving and not wasting our food (Is tinned OK and who needs packaging?)
How can we tell whether tinned food is as good as frozen or fresh? How much packaging is required for hygiene and how much is, for instance, simply there to make food look good?

What's the relative energy and resource cost of different ways of preserving food?

And, crucially, how can we ensure that food we buy is not wasted? At present one third of food purchased - in restaurants, shops or wherever - in the UK alone is simply thrown away: hence the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Perhaps even with today's relatively higher prices we are more careful about food if we're locavors, when we know locally who grew or prepared it, and where, than when we don't?

Food miles (Does it cost the earth?)
Food travels the world in strange ways. We (in the UK) get tomatoes and lamb from the other side of the globe, yet we also grow them ourselves.

How to tell people usefully about the food mile cost of what they eat may be a moot point. It’s not just how many miles, or even carbon footprint: it takes some eight units of grain to produce one unit of beef; but some people still reckon that good value - including, no doubt, growing numbers of consumers in China and India, who have a preference for an affluent Western diet.

So sometimes the real cost or value can only be calculated by comparing what would happen if foods of equivalent nutritional or other sort of value were produced in a different way. And how would you put that on a label?

Biofuels (Is growing 'food for cars' acceptable?)
We all know that we're using too much oil, charging around in cars and planes when often we don't need to.

Biofuels seemed for a while to be the perfect way out of this - grow crops to substitute for more usual oils. But now, as the UK's Chief Scientist has said, we know there are costs too; some biofuels are neither sustainable, nor ethical.

And on top of this we must acknowledge that biofuels, like food for people, takes up valuable land space. The question is, what's the 'right' balance - if there is such a thing?

Water used (Will it increase global tensions?)
There is an emerging awareness that food is mainly water, and that water is the also the most precious (and sometimes wasted) commodity in its production.

If the beef-to-grain carbon ratio is high, the equivalent water ratio is many times more so. (Let us pass on the comlex issues around food for domestic animals and pets - there is an important balance to acknowledge here between these animals' functions as sources of security and comfort for people, and their costs to the environment - but who has looked at this balance?)

There are those who believe that water, not oil, will trigger the next global disputes; but as yet few of us have thought how to approach the global issues of water scarcity and food.

Food prices (Can we afford it?)
The cost of food against income has fallen for most of us in the first world over recent years. Now it’s beginning to increase again to more traditional levels – though it will probably stabilise - as global issues such as draught, climate change and biofuels impact on the market.

Food habits have changed from agrarian times, but often seem nonetheless to lag behind the reality of what's available, and may say more about cultural expectations or how a person ate when they were young, than about what's now regarded as 'best' for them (or, indeed, with modern advertising the converse may also be true on occasion).

Perhaps people need to know about less expensive and more nutritious alternative foods, if the ones they’re used to become more expensive, or may now be known to be less 'healthy'? But who can best tell them?

Commercial advantage and competition (Do supermarkets cause ‘food deserts?)
Allied to this is now a fear that supermarkets placed in disadvantaged or poor areas will result in so-called food deserts, where poor people can no longer afford to buy even the basics of a decent diet.

But some observers say that food deserts are really different types of access, or actually an urban myth or 'factoid'. Evidence for these food deserts is to date far inconclusive – indeed, some research indicates that when supermarkets come to poorer areas, both the economy and local people’s diets may improve.

So how can we indicate economic ‘value’ and nutritional benefit in the contexts of where people live, what they expect to eat and how they get access to their food?

Customs, symbols and traditions (What sort of foods for whom?)
Shared food has always been a way of bonding - we cut cakes and 'raise a glass', offer potlatch, drink tea and conduct many other ceremonies across the world to denote belief, position or togetherness.

Then there's the fascinating question of why different people in different places and at different times eat different sorts of food. Sometimes it's easy to explain - 'luxury' and difficult to obtain foods are reserved in almost all cultures and communities for conspicuous consumption on special occasions, for instance - but often there are other styles and patterns to eating too.

And what do we know about 'healthy' diets across the world? Why do people in some places live longer and fitter lives than others? What traditions and customs help us keep our communities intact? And is any of what we might learn about customs and habits of food consumption transposable from one community or culture to another?

Seasonal, allotments and home grown (Should we grow it ourselves?)
Locally produced foodin season' is the new mantra, but it can’t be the whole story. There are many localities which can’t provide the full spectrum of nutritional need. Varied diets often require varied sources.

Nonetheless, an appreciation of the cycles of nature helps us to understand how our food is produced and what makes it special. ‘Seasonal’ recipes draw attention to the possibility of ingredients with a low carbon footprint, just as allotments, smallholdings and local market gardens offer the possibility of learning about how what we eat grows.

Producing and sourcing food locally may not resolve all our problems, but they certainly have their place in the spectrum of things we as consumers can enjoy and need to know. How about allotments for everyone who wants one (there are long waiting lists in some places), and special efforts to grow – and eat - vegetables and fruit in schools and other community locations?

The food economy (How does all this fit into UK plc?)
There are many things to think about here; just ask the politicians, farmers and market gardeners. And that's before we get to talk about European subsidies and farming compensation packages...

That however is not the whole story. Slowly, we are grasping the interconnections between the economic impacts and needs of farmers and growers, and how official policies affect the welfare of the wider rural and urban economies. Never again, hopefully, will problems like foot and mouth be addressed without understanding the fragile complexities of the rural economy as such; and hopefully too in future the wider public will perceive the business and scientific complexities of matters such as animal vaccination.

But let’s understand that not all food needs to be produced in rural areas. There’s plenty of scope also for townspeople to develop opportunities and skills via commercial companies and social enterprises around food, as is evident from the popularity of city-based organic foodstores, local vegetable deliveries and farmers’ markets... not to mention the universal interest in restaurants and cafes in modern day society!

Food, farms and famine (What about the developing world?)
If opportunities for stabilising the food economy remain to be developed efficiently, effectively and well in Western economies, how much more so is this true for those parts of the globe where even the grain supply is critically under-resourced, and where water and food are in desperately short supply. These were the sorts of concerns of the Downing Street Food Summit in early 2008.

Many people would like reassurance that the food they purchase is ethically sourced and gives a fair return to the farmers who produced it. And we need to understand much more about the food supply chain, as Professor Tim Lang of the Centre for Food Policy has been saying for years.

Movements such as Fairtrade are gaining wider recognition – plus a greater share of commercial shelf-space - and are critical to our understanding of food as a global issue.

Sustainability and ‘food security’ (Will there be enough food for everyone?)
There are those who fear we are sleepwalking into a global food disaster. We need to find ways of adjusting our eating habits (and other consumption) without delay.

Currently it’s said that humankind acts a though we had three planets-worth of resources at our disposal, not just one. And that's before we start to look at how population is increasing (in the UK as well as almost everywhere else).

It is also suggested that, in contrast to the current situation, the UK (and doubtless numbers of other nations) could with ease be self-sufficient for food if everyone were vegetarian - even though our lifestyle in the Western world is many times as water and carbon intensive as that of people in developing countries. Veganism, of course, is even more effective as a way of feeding everyone. Becoming 'selfsufficient-ish' (and largely vegetarian-ish?) can be achieved in most, except perhaps the most extreme, locations.

These last few observations offer a rather pointed context for all the other matters discussed above.

Read more about Food
and about Sustainability As If People Mattered.

What questions and views do you have about food?

The New Harvest Festival

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Seasonal vegetables harvest festival pumpkins 2520 (88x103).jpg This is the time of year when churches urban and rural across the nation urge us to attend their services for Harvest Festival. For many of us however this annual celebration is now marked more secularly, observed at one remove, via our newspapers, rather than physically in our communities. Media celebration of seasonal food is the order of the day.

The Guardian, like other similar publications, is hot on seasonal food. A story in that newspaper today gives a flavour of that theme: 'Green' shopping possible on a budget, watchdog says.

What then follows is that irresistible combination of knocking the supermarkets (fair enough if they're not up to scratch), going rustic with references to in-season fruit and veg. (why not, it really is good for you), and angst about affordability and carbon footprint (fair enough again).

Contemporary perspectives
So here is the contemporary version of We plough the fields and scatter...

Way back over the centuries people have known about crop rotation and storage and the seasons, and have celebrated all this with Harvest Festivals of one sort or another. Now we know about food miles, sustainability and ethical buying.

Appreciating our sustenance
This is the better informed (or at least more techno) version of the wisdom of the ages, translated for those of us who hope for the future but have no bedrock of faith on which to base an annual thanksgiving.

Perhaps it doesn't matter how we demarcate the changing seasons and the beneficence they offer. What does matter is that at least we notice.

Grebe CIMG7739.JPG Yesterday we saw the grebes on Sefton Park lake in Liverpool. There were the two adults who caused such excitement when they arrived some three years ago, plus two quite large chicks, all bobbing up and down happily in the centre of the lake. Then, a little further on we saw swans, a pair with four cygnets this year.

Like the grebe chicks, the cygnets are now almost full-size, but just a bit more fluffy and woolly coloured than their parents.

The grebes
This is the first time we've actually ever seen the grebes' family; perhaps the young ones lurk near the island at the top end of the lake until they're large enough to survive in more open water - though even today we saw the parents feeding their young straight from a catch of minnows.

Cygnets and swans
The swans, however, are less shy and their young have been 'on show' for several months. Perhaps their size is adequate protection without further caution. This year four out of an original five cygnets have survived, which seems to be about par for their annual breeding activity.

So how many cygnets must this pair of swans have produced over the years? And where do they all go?

Read more articles on Liverpool's Great Parks & Open Spaces: Sefton Park

Liverpool's Sefton Park, Swans, Herons And Grebes

Sefton Park, Liverpool: Winter Solstice 2006

Cherry Blossom For May Day In Sefton Park, Liverpool

Friends Of Sefton Park

Steam & grass (small) 80x106.jpg World Water Day, today, is a little-remarked event but concerns an absolutely vital aspect of life. Wherever we live, and whatever we do, we can't be without water. This is an opportunity to pause and take a check (should we say, a 'raincheck'?) on how we view this most critical commodity, and on what we can do to help.

Coping With Water Scarcity is the theme of World Water Day 2007. There can be few themes as important as this.

World Water Day as an initiative grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro.

Marking the day
One interesting idea about how to mark WWD 2007 has been to send an e-card, with a choice of pictures and stamps. This helps to spread the word that we all need to think carefully about water and what it means for everyone. Other years have seen initiatives such as the Celebrating Water for Life booklet, published on the internet in 2005.

Central and critical
To those of us in Western Europe and North America water is a commodity which seems to amount to a right. We know there are issues about water and sustainability, but we never really doubt it will be there for us.

In other parts of the world there is neither enough water for health and hygiene, nor any acceptable way to get access to it; I was shocked recently to read that in some parts of the world the fetching and carrying of water is a task undertaken by young girls, daily walking many miles, who thereby miss out on huge chunks of their schooling.

Take action to help
I have mentioned before that WaterAid is a charity set up simply to get clean water to people who desperately need it. Supporting this focused and straightforward objective [here] is something we can do any day, not just on World Water Day.

See also: Water, Water...

Evidence Strategy (small) 75x59.jpg Avian influenza ('bird flu') has again made us aware of the scientific research which underpins government policy. Some have great faith in this science, others have none. Our growing understandings of how scientific research and public policy inter-relate can however help inform both science itself, and how political / policy decisions might be taken in real life.

Avian influenza has provoked quite a debate in The Guardian about how science and politics inter-relate.

Recent contributors to this debate include Erik Millstone and Simon Jenkins, who are right to raise the issue of scientific advice to the Government in respect of avian influenza – just as Ministers are right to take this advice seriously.

But in reality there is no such thing as ‘pure’ scientific research. All research, whether ‘natural’ or ‘social’, is predicated on often taken-for-granted understandings of context.

However inadvertently, therefore, the gap between scientific advice and policy / politic, whether in the case of avian influenza or any other issue, is wide not as Prof Millstone and Mr Jenkins might in different ways seem to suggest.

The questions underpin the research
Scientific advice arises from scientific research questions, and scientific research tends to be structured largely around ‘received’ understandings of the issues involved - including, inevitably, contexts of those issues.

In other words, natural scientists, as non-experts in matters socio-economic, will tend, if unchallenged, towards uncritical acceptance of the status quo or predominant contextual view of the situation in the same way as any other ‘person in the street’.

It is not surprising therefore that science, in selecting which techno-scientific issues to address, has in the past often focused on the interests of the most collectively powerful and visible operators.

Socio-economic impact and policy
This is now changing as questions about socio-economic impact are, rightly, articulated more loudly.

It is encouraging that Government politicians and policy-makers are beginning to recognise the critical importance of framing scientific research, from its inception, around contextual as well as ‘purely’ scientific questions.

Articulating these wider understandings better from the inception of any piece of research is the way to ensure that scientific advice can best inform political decision-making. And doing this certainly does not diminish the robustness of scientific endeavour; rather the converse.

Scientific and poltical responsibility shared
The selection of ways forward in policy is ultimately a political responsibility; but making sure that ‘scientific’ questions acknowledge the whole spectrum of contextual interests is a responsibility which, thankfully, scientists advising decision-makers are themselves increasingly aware that they must share.

A version of this posting was published on The Guardian letters page of 17 February 2007.

Further commentary follows the e-bookshop.

Dry big road (small).jpg People who care about the environment do not always have the same priorities. For some the emphasis is on maintaining the habitat of 'natural' flora and fauna. For others the most important objective is sustaining an environment in which human beings can flourish now.
Who is right, and can these two objectives both be achieved?

There is a story going the rounds of a fairly recent environmental conference in southern Europe. The issue under debate was whether or not a large road should be built across the Iberian peninsula, to reduce the economic disadvantage of those who live at the 'far end' of it.

The problem however is that this region is a very significant natural habitat for rare species of animals and other living things - including the endangered Iberian lynx. Many conservationists therefore strongly oppose the idea of economic regeneration in the areas where the lynx is still minimally present. "How do I choose?", demanded one policy maker.

Conflicting priorities
Here is an example of where 'normal' politics - regeneration and increased economic advantage for people with relatively very little in the way of the claimed benefits of modern living - seems to clash fairly directly with the concerns of the environmental conservationists.

Obviously, there is an argument that, without environmental conservation and attention to natural diversity, there is likely to be no life of any kind on earth. But this may be a less immediate or pressing concern for those who have little material advantage, than for those more economically blessed. So what should the politicians and policy makers do?

What's the way forward?
Can these two concerns be brought together in the context of real-time politics?

Would you go for the road or the lynx?

Loganberries (small)  06.7.30 008.jpg Over the past century our connection with basic food production has largely been lost. But now there are urgent environmental as well as direct health reasons to ensure everyone understands how food is produced. People as consumers (in both senses) need to know about food miles, short produce supply chains, nutritional value and the annual cycle of food production through the changing seasons.
One obvious starting point for this crucial 'sustainability' message is schools; and another is allotments.

Apples 06.7.30 011.jpg The way that people find out about food seems to vary from generation to generation. This wasn't always the case. For millennia you ate what you could grow and, if you were lucky, also what you could swap of your surfeit for someone else's surfeit.

Then came the developing trade routes, some ancient and exotic (the Silk Road, also a route for spices and much else) and others, far more mundane to our modern minds, such as Salters Lane, the mediaeval travellers' way which appears in British towns and villages as widely spread as Hastings, Redditch, Tamworth, Chester and Stockton-on-Tees, along with other similar reminders of trade in by-gone eras.

Also within Europe, for instance, were the horrors of such deprivation as the Irish potato famine of 1845-9 and more recently, for some within living memory, informal and formal food rationing (the World Wars of 1914-19 and 1939-45) - a deprivation it is now often considered was more of the palate than of essential nutritional substance.

Different expectations, the same basic understanding
In all these cases, however, fabulous or tragic, ancient or contemporary, people understood something about the genesis of their food. It was either from plants or from animals, nurtured intentionally or garnered whence it appeared. If you wanted to eat, you had to engage in some way in the production or location of your meal.

This, it could be argued, is what is different in times past from how things are today. It can certainly be said that although people must still find their food somewhere, it tends to come pre-prepared, in labelled packets, frozen or perhaps in tins, but not self-evidently from plants and animals.

In much of the western or 'first' world the conscious link with what is rather romantically referred to as 'the soil' has quite largely been lost. Most people now expect to be able to eat anything they can afford and that they take a liking to, any time they choose.

The downside of choice
Nobody would disagree with the general idea that variety in our diets is a good thing. But in practice it doesn't seem to be like Strawberry pot 06.7.30 010.jpg that. Our food arrives on the shop shelves (the only place now where most of us hunt and gather) processed and packaged, and often laden with things we don't need as well as those we think we want....

For every interesting flavour and texture there are frequently too many empty calories, too much refined sugar and the 'wrong sort' of fats, if not always too few vitamins and minerals. (Contrary to popular belief, frozen and tinned food can, we are told, be as nutritious in these respects as the 'real thing'. Indeed, given that frozen and tinned foods are usually very fresh when they are processed, they may well have more nutritional value than the produce lying 'fresh' in the market.)

And herein lies the rub. There is a confusion in perceptions between 'fresh' and 'well-preserved' foods, between 'produce' and 'ready meals'. And most people have only the vaguest of ideas about the essential differences between, say, strawberries or carrots flown in 'fresh' from California or South Africa, and those grown in glasshouses close to the point where they are sold.... which in turn means we cannot fully appreciate concerns around 'food miles', local / short supply chains or, to return to our original theme, nutritional value-for-money.

Allotments (sheds & netting, Sudley) 06.7.15 003.jpgClose to the land, close to the retailer
At last some retailers (including some of the biggest) are beginning to acknowledge some of these issues. They boast that they have short supply chains, that their produce are prepared immediately after cropping, that they are willing to promote sustainable 'seasonal' products; and they even sometimes offer nutritious recipes to cook from basic (and less basic) ingredients which are fresh and wholesome.

Now it is up to everyone to make sure they understand what is meant by all this.

For not the first time in this debate, much of the answer has to lie in education, in encouraging children to nurture living things; in making sure children know that food does not grow on supermarket shelves, and that they understand how the seasons can be harnessed to ensure a supply a healthy and varied diet.

The other obvious approach is helping people, wherever they live, sustain their own communities, to visit farmers' markets, and grow at least some of their own food, in allotments or by sharing back garden space, or even just in pots.

From little acorns do great oak trees grow, just as from modest ideas about strawberry pots or rows of peas and potatoes can the notion of seasonal food once again take its place in our understanding of a sustainable world.

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