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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

8 Months 1 Week

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

8 Months 1 Week

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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8 Months 1 Week

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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8 Months 1 Week

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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8 Months 1 Week

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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8 Months 1 Week

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

8 Months 1 Week

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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8 Months 1 Week

Hear hear!

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8 Months

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

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Julia Griffin

1 Month

I think your hope for 2021 is something I would like to believe in, but think we have a little way to go before we have a fairer and more equal world that values truth and openness and community living, as well as graciousness in our communications. I would suggest that our financial structure is not long for this world given what is happening with the pandemic and climate change, and some of us would perhaps not mind about this, except for the fact that there would be a period of chaos and fear with such a change and people would have to adapt quite dramatically. The root of all of this, I believe, is an imbalance within people's minds which needs to change to bring back the right conditions for our world to thrive. Perhaps politics will be irrelevant in the future as we all try to adapt to these changes, and I would think outcomes will be the better for this. I applaud your work and endeavours to help bring about a new mindset in looking at nature and our World and how people should be coming together and sharing in its widest sense. Thank you.

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Guy Singh-Watson

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 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people 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.

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