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News from the farm   |   Environment & ethics

Hope in a collective world

Despite leaving Europe, the ravages of Covid-19, and watching thousands of purple sprouting broccoli heads disintegrate after hard new year frosts, I feel a fragile but irrepressible hope rising in my heart.

An extra 20 minutes before sunset every day is already quickening my horticultural pulse, but my hope grows from a rising sense of collectivity; a sense that the 40-year curse of rampant, self-serving individualism, supported by market fundamentalism, may finally be passing.

Why now? A quieter, more modest and caring US president; Mark Carney’s (the former governor of the Bank of England) chillingly dull Reith Lectures decrying the failures of the market to value our values; the belated but rapidly rising acknowledgement from politicians and businesses of the need to act on climate; Greta Thunberg wanting a replacement light for her bicycle for her 18th birthday (of course, she also asked for action on climate catastrophe); but mostly, it is a sense that out of these crises, we are taking stock of what is truly important, and concluding that so much of it is what we share rather than what we can own individually.

The idea that we are all out for ourselves, and value our achievements solely through the accumulation of money, power or celebrity is being questioned, as is the unbridled mediation of the marketplace as the allocator of value.

A quiet rebellion is growing against the depressing assumption that we are as emotionally and morally stunted as so many business and political leaders; that we live to earn and consume; that our achievements can all be numerically measured and rewarded, and our behaviours manipulated by the crudest monetary levers.

Humanity is so much more complex than the economist Milton Friedman and his generation of acolytes would have us believe. We have evolved to compete at times, but much more frequently to cooperate and share. We are a social species, and so much of our success is collective.

My hope is that 2021 will mark the start of the decline of the cult of individual wealth and fame, along with all the waste and loneliness that go with it. Of course, there have always been many who had the confidence to happily live modest lives, guided by their own values without the approbation of others’ envy, but they have done it quietly; let this be the year that their voice instils some balance and humility in the dogmatic maniacs who lead us.


Clare Shepherd

1 Week 6 Days

Oh I do hope that this idea has come into its own and Guy's thoughts will come to fruition this year.

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Ron Harper

1 Week 6 Days

A modest life can be very exciting; 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour...'

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1 Week 6 Days

did you miss out the word "believe" as in so many politicians & businessmen believe that we live to earn and consume etc
Milton Friedman (or as I like to say ...the anti Christ) .
A hopeful message indeed
May i ask if we are at all in danger of believing that all politicians live to nurture the desire to earn and consume without conscience - should we be careful not to attack those who may well prove to be our friends but who perhaps have clearer insight on how things work?

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1 Week 5 Days

Couldn't agree more about Milton Friedman!
But other than subscribing to this newsletter what the collective mechanism to press for change to the prevailing economic ideology?

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1 Week 6 Days

I share your hope Guy and I believe we are in such a shift, where sharing is the word. Thank you for your words, so much in them, will read them to friends and family. May they bring inspiration to many. Thank you!

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1 Week 6 Days

Thanks for publishing the report, which makes for interesting reading. But I didn't find Mark Carney's Reith Lectures disappointing. On the contrary I think he's sincere and pragmatic in how we might change our behaviours, address climate change, and feed ourselves and the planet more sustainably.

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Richard Hobson

1 Week 6 Days

Mark Carney's Reith lectures couldn't be classed as exciting and gripping entertainment but what he had to say as the ex-governor of the Bank of England was quite remarkable. Could this be the end of the era when success is judged by how much you have managed to accumulate? I would love to think so but fear that wealth will continue to be used to create more wealth, money to create more money, and greed will lead to even more greed. We need a government with a different outlook on the World. Sadly in the past 3 years or so we have twice failed to grasp the opportunity to have such a government.

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1 Week 5 Days

Hear hear!

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1 Week 3 Days

Great newsletter but 20 minutes extra daylight each day was a typo - it's more like 2 minutes!

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Guy Singh-Watson

Self-confessed veg nerd, Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 55,000 customers a week. Guy is an opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about. In June 2018, Guy handed over the reins of Riverford to its staff, choosing employee ownership as the model that will protect Riverford's ethical values forever and ensure the security of its employees.

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