Community Supported Agriculture & the Future of Farm Livelihoods

By Mark Paul, Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and researcher with E3 Network’s Future Economy Initiative. Mark’s current research focuses on the link between sustainable agriculture and development. 

I certainly don’t earn a fair wage, but it’s farming. It’s labor of love

– CSA Farmer

CSAboxesCSA farms are expanding at a rapid pace, with operations in every state and a six-fold increase in farms since 2001, but it is questionable whether this innovative farming model is delivering the goods. Proponents claim CSA are an active process of re-embedding market exchanges in social relations, with benefits to the local food economy that include the availability of healthy fresh local produce, sustainable agriculture production, increase in biodiversity, regional economic development through sustainable supply chains, and a vibrant community space that promotes the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and leisure. But is the CSA delivering on these promises? Continue reading…

Costs of Inaction: Not Only a Problem For the Poor

This is another in a series of entries focused on the costs of inaction – what we will pay if climate change continues unchecked

In a recent article in Newsweek, Nobel laureate economist Thomas Schelling argues that one of the greatest obstacles to addressing climate change is persuading the non-poor in the developed world to take the problem seriously. As he states:

Estimates of lost world product due to climate change are moderate because the poor have so little to lose. More than a billion people, maybe 2 billion, are estimated to live on less than the equivalent of $2 per day. If a billion of those poorest people lost half their income, it would be an overwhelming tragedy, a true catastrophe, worse than all the earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, landslides, and fires of the past decade happening every year. But those billion people together would lose only $365 billion per year. That is less than 1 percent of world income! They have so little to begin with that what they can lose doesn’t amount to much of a statistic. But they can lose tragically. (Schelling, Newsweek)

Schelling’s quote is a telling example of why GDP is a flawed metric for communicating the risks of climate change. In a world characterized by gross income disparities, treating a dollar’s worth of impact in a poor country the same as a dollar’s worth of impact in a rich country is a surefire way to mask the real impacts of climate change. Yet, this is what almost all economic models of climate change do, and many economists think it is necessary to avoid value-laden comparisons. Attaching greater weight to impacts in poor countries would cause global estimates of the economic damages of climate change to rise substantially.  Continue reading…