Practices, Flows and Networks: Towards Understanding Sustainable Global Food Provision

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:39
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Peter OOSTERVEER, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Food provision involves important environmental challenges, including a large contribution to climate change and severe impacts on biodiversity. Addressing these challenges needs engagement with the complex dynamics of contemporary, global as well as local, food production and trade in conjunction with the multiple, locally diverse, ways and forms of consuming food. Conceptually the challenge is to understand global versus local dynamics, small versus large scale and material versus social dynamics in multiple modes of food provision. Different elements for building such a conceptual framework are available, such as global environmental networks and flows and social practices. This paper intends to contribute to theoretical innovation within environmental sociology by analysing the possibilities to integrate these two conceptual frameworks.

Environmental networks and flows build on material flows studied in environmental sciences but combines this with notions of non-material flows and social networks from sociology. This framework has already been applied to study global food flows but does not include consumption. Social practices, on the other hand, constitute a framework to study routinized activities such as consumption and by taking material aspects and dynamics into consideration this approach may generate a better understanding of environmental issues in everyday behaviour. Social practices are however rather time and place-bounded concepts.

On the basis of existing literature this paper analyses the conceptual frameworks and ways to integrate them to assess possibilities for analysing environmentally relevant global and local dynamics in contemporary food provision. This conceptual framework is illustrated with case-studies on palm oil and seafood.