2017 & 2018
Sustainable Meal Hackathon
This is a continually developing project (or perhaps process) for groups to use in exploring the meaning of "sustainability". The goal is to enlist participants in a thoughtful, playful analysis of the concept that focuses on how components of specific meals are more or less sustainable. Groups put forward ideas for meal planning in specific contexts, and are then encouraged to explore new angles by which the question can be taken up. Variously conceived as a "hackathon", a simulation game, or a collaborative research jam, these activities reveal sustainability to be not a static target but a set of values, or even an ongoing social process, connected to a web or personal, social, economic, environmental, and political decisions and structures.
In collaboration with critical transitions researcher Juan Carlos Rocha, we prototyped the Sustainable Meal process at the PECSII conference in Oaxaca. We reached the entire conference through a lunchtime intervention, setting the outdoor tables with placemats asking a string of questions about sustainability and soliciting responses. In a long workshop session, 3 groups of participants each worked to outline a sustainable meal for a specific context. One group choose "lunch in Italy", home of the Slow Food movement, and quickly discovered that even "local" and "slow" foods are connected to complex webs of resources. Another re-imagined an airline meal on the flight that brought some of them to the conference from Africa, and became enmeshed in the intense logistics of feeding on a plane and the impacts of food as well as flying. A third group, which included a number of indigenous attendees, evaluated a meal in a small village in Bolivia, considering all of the sustainable systems already in place along with challenges to this food system such as urbanization and transport costs.