How It All Connects

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Something I am now continually reminding myself about is the importance of context, and questioning how it all fits together. When you’re trying to determine whether something belongs in a system, you cannot simply think about it as a singular object. Rather, one must consider everything that connects—what flows in and out, how are different parts linked? Why are they linked in that way? Who is left out? Who could stand to benefit? For these past two lessons, we looked at how this “big picture” thinking applies in food systems, water systems, and commodity chains.

Commodity chains are extraordinary. They’re an amazing achievement for humankind, but also carry hidden agendas that might not emerge until closer inspection. Who controls them? Why do they operate in this way? We have all seen charts of how companies are distributed amongst only a few corporate owners; big webs with several seemingly disparate products made under the same corporate umbrella. Some of them are so large that even the people involved within them might not know what the next “step” is in the chain. Take, for example, cacao farmers from the Ivory Coast. Many of them hadn’t seen chocolate before, and didn’t even know what it was.

I now try to look at food-based commodities in my life and be mindful of where they came from, who worked hard to ensure I could have it, and how things got to be that way. Usually, I have no idea where something came from without a lot of research! Should I turn to farmers’ markets for a more direct commodity chain? Or should I simply be more aware of what I consume and how it affects those who have worked hard so I could have it?

vprometropolis. “First taste of chocolate in Ivory Coast – vpro Metropolis.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Feb. 2014,

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