What is inclusive responsibility?
Inclusive responsibility is an ethical framework that can be used to guide our transformation of the world’s food and agriculture system from where it is now – unsustainable and unjust – to a model that benefits humans, non-human animals, and the planet alike.
An urgent need to rethink our food and agriculture system
On the surface, today’s globalised food system seems to give us a greater choice of food than ever before, at any time of the year. But look just a little bit deeper and you quickly learn that choice comes at a price.
Hardship and injustice are rife.
Across the globe, huge multi-national corporations have control of seeds, land, water and markets. This means that farmers have little to no say in how food is grown or distributed.
Agriculture is now the leading cause of wildlife extinction. Pesticides and herbicides are damaging our health and that of the planet.
Corporations are taking seeds out of farmers’ control and causing a loss of seed diversity, which has many negative impacts including on the climate and on biodiversity as well as on the resilience and of farmers. There is also huge inequality in land distribution. The largest 1% of the world’s 608 million farms (of over 50ha) operate 70% of farmland while the smallest 70% of farms (of less than 1ha) operate just 7% of farmland. And while poor peasant farmers produce most of the world’s food, most of them are going hungry.
These are just a few of the issues related to our food system. The reality is that our current global food and agriculture system is unsustainable and unethical. Across the world, we are facing multiple health, climate, ecological, hunger and poverty crises, all of which are interconnected.
Animals are suffering in their billions, species are being exterminated, food is not evenly distributed, communities are suffering, the planet’s resources are being plundered and increasingly heading to a point of no return.
We must find a different way. One that benefits, or at the very least minimises harm to, the planet and every human and nonhuman sentient being living on it. We can no longer stay on our current destructive path.
Ultimately, we need a healthy, functioning food system to be able to live.
A crisis of ethics and values
While so many of the interconnected crises we’re facing are being driven by our global food system and the economic system driving it, these crises represent an underlying crisis of ethics and values.
Currently, the world’s economic, political, food and agriculture systems – to name just a few examples – are based around competition, exploitation, accumulation, exclusion, mass consumerism, infinite growth and more.
Racism, patriarchy, inequality and exploitation are all at the heart of the current systems driving the world. Humans, other animals, and the earth are being divided up and packaged as commodities.
While the powerful few prosper under the current system – at least on a short-term, individual or corporate level – it comes at a catastrophic cost to the vast majority.
We need to build alternatives to the current systems.
The six core values
Inclusive responsibility offers an alternative ethical framework of responsibility for our planet that is aligned with universal human values, such as love, compassion, empathy, integrity, diversity, collaboration, non-violence, participation, sustainability, and justice for all (human and non-human).
If we don’t transition to systems based on these values, the reality is that any new systems will create exactly the same problems that we are facing across the globe right now.
Inclusive responsibility is based on six core values:
Inclusive responsibility aims to include the rights of all participants in the food system, from farmers and their communities to civil society groups and ‘consumers’. In addition, it recognises the needs of humans, other animals, and nature.
This concept recognises that humans, other animals, nature and the very planet we live on are interdependent. Everything within the food system has a ripple effect, for good or bad.
Inclusive responsibility represents a system in which humans, non-humans and nature can co-exist and develop voluntary relationships based on reciprocity.
Through inclusive responsibility, we can create a food and agriculture system that is fair, just and genuinely respects the rights of humans, other animals and the planet. Justice gives communities food sovereignty and systems are transparent and trustworthy.
In a system based on inclusive responsibility, everyone – human and non-human alike – has fair and equal rights. The paradigm encourages us to collaborate, connect, participate and share.
Finally, inclusive responsibility is built on values of empathy, compassion, love, peace, and nonviolence.
A holistic and flexible approach
Essentially, inclusive responsibility is a holistic and flexible model that recognises we have to work together across all levels of the food and agriculture system to affect positive change.
We need to reflect and apply these core values locally and globally, as individuals and as communities, from production through to consumption.
The values invite us to stop seeing humans as separate from and superior to each other, our animal kin and nature.
Inclusive responsibility means understanding how nature, the planet and other animals are deeply interconnected. If one suffers, we all suffer.
We need a shift towards a food system that promotes health and well-being; that protects the rights of farmers, consumers and other stakeholders, as well as non-human animals and the natural world.
What does inclusive responsibility look like?
If we think about inclusive responsibility in terms of a model for food and agriculture, it would be:
Ecologically sustainable and multifunctional
Able to meet an increasing need for sustainable, nutritious and healthy whole food, plant-based diets
Relevant for smallholders, their innovation and development strategies
Integrated into wider social movements seeking to decentralise power in the food system
Respectful and protective of the rights of all sentient beings, both human and nonhuman, enabling them to live free from human oppression, exploitation, and harm.
Recognising and enacting a duty of care towards the planet.
As we can see, inclusive responsibility is about producing and distributing food that is good for human and planetary health, while respecting and protecting the rights of humans, other animals and nature and staying within planetary boundaries.
It seeks to move power away from the corporate food regime and back into the hands of local communities.
Using inclusive responsibility as a model, we can support the people who grow the food. We can also ensure that agriculture is ecologically sustainable, finding local solutions rather than exploiting or stripping ecosystems of resources for people on the other side of the globe.
It is a model for sustainability and justice for all that will be crucial to the health of our planet.
Want to know more?
Amir Kassam and Ethical Globe co-founder Laila Kassam recently co-edited a new book, Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward. Published in October 2020, it takes an in-depth look at the global food and agriculture system and reimagines it based on the concept of inclusive responsibility.
To find out more, visit the Inclusive Responsibility website.
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