Rethinking Food
(and Consciousness)

Further sat down with Rory Spowers and Peachy Keane of Ibiza’s pioneering Amorevore festival to talk about the state of the food industry, the future of agriculture, and the surprising, far-reaching consequences of how we eat.

Text: Frankie Wechsler
Photography: Strange Company
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How did Amorevore become what it is today?

Rory Spowers: Amorevore was originally a food festival and then it became more of a food, farming, and consciousness festival. What's unique is the fact that it's brought together everything from regenerative farming to the microbiome in the gut to the topsoil to the food on your plate. I think the public conscience is waking up to the importance of nutrition and that connection between our health and the food we eat. Now we need to establish the connection back to the soil and how food is produced—or in the case of livestock, how it's being managed and bred—because all of these issues are so fundamentally intertwined.

People are beginning to look more holistically at these topics, but can you elaborate on why you’ve drawn a connection between food and consciousness?

RS: Culture incorporates consciousness and is the overarching principle within which all of this functions. We can regenerate our health, our culture and communities through our food system by localizing food economies and regenerating soil. I think one of the great evolutions in our thinking in the last half century is systems thinking. It’s in opposition to this notion where we treat nature like a machine and believe that we can understand how nature works by reducing it to its basic components. We need to look at how all of these different components relate to each other within the system. We’ve got ourselves into so much trouble because our economics only reflect a simple, quantitative model.

It would seem that with the current turmoil and the collapse of the growth economic model, it would be a good time to revisit all of this.

RS: Exactly. I think people feel disempowered because we've divested all of our control overall of these things to the state. But if we bring basic human needs back within community control, whether it's a wind park cooperative or a community supported agriculture scheme, systemic benefits arise. It’s not just about the topsoil; it's improving human relationships, health, neighborhood security.

“I think the public conscience is waking up to the importance of nutrition and that connection between our health and the food we eat.”

– Rory Spowers

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Why is Ibiza the right place for a project like Amorevore?

Peachy Keane: It’s such a small island, and there are a lot of communities plugging away and exchanging information. That makes it uniquely exciting to be here, because you feel that you can effect change. 

RS: Yeah, this is the perfect scale for Amorevore and for this regenerative farming movement to take hold. There is this incredible history of [Ibiza] being a self-reliant crucible exemplar for so long. Interestingly, Ibiza was the only non-feudal place in Europe. This was always a network of small- to medium-sized farms, no massive landowners. So that’s exciting to me, the possibility of regenerating that structure here, with small- and medium-scale, diversified farms, integrating as many different components as possible, with 300 plus days of sunshine a year plus some insane winds, but at the same time some quite good noises at a political level, trying to make the Balearic Sea entirely carbon-neutral by 2040. 

PK:  Here in Ibiza, wind power and renewable energy are lacking at the moment, but rather than criticizing you look at how to integrate it. It feels like a very positive place.

 “Sustainability isn't about getting it right immediately. It's about looking to the future and taking steps to make it better.”

– Peachy Keane

This leads to an inevitable question. It’s amazing to have these kinds of models on an island like Ibiza, but how can these movements be replicated in communities of different sizes?

RS: I think when we are looking at massive urban systems these days, of course different rules apply. But they are absolutely the cutting edge of regenerative urban design now. When we look at what's going on on rooftops in New York, with biomimetic buildings and living structures, the degree to which we can integrate food-producing systems within urban areas is staggering. China used to have an incredible urban agricultural system until relatively recently, but also a centrical sewage system where all the urban sewage was taken to the outskirts of the city and composted properly to feed the market gardens. In rural areas it's more about bioregionalism, and that is why this one-size-fits-all approach is so inappropriate. What's appropriate in Cornwallis not appropriate in the Midlands or the northeast of Scotland. 

Each bioregion in the country should be decentralized and making its own decisions about which energy industry is applicable there, whether it’s a combination of geothermal, tidal, wind or wave or solar or whatever it may be. We need to take basic systems back within community control, within human-scaled control, everything from energy production and food production to commerce. And if our economics was adjusted, so the price of the product reflected its real cost, it would then de facto lead to that occurring, because it would no longer be economical to make a product that goes to the other side of the world to be tweaked and brought back to be sold next to where it was built in the first place. Decentralized bioregional economies focused on local food production and local energy sources are the ones that are going to come out of this mess the strongest and sew the seeds of the new model.

Can you talk about how some of the people and projects you're bringing to Amorevore are exemplifying these kinds of new models?

PK: It's a combination of farmers, chefs, and people from the community in Ibiza but also bringing in people from around the world to join us.

RS: We had Justin Horn, a UK chef, whose restaurant Sativa in King's Cross in London is the world's first circular economy restaurant. It incorporates everything from vertically integrated farming systems on the site, growing produce for the restaurant itself, capturing waste from the kitchens and recycling that back into the restaurant’s energy system. Also pioneers of the natural foods movement in the UK came—brothers Craig and Greg Sams who started Green & Black’s, the first product to be organic and fair trade. We also had Eve Kalinik, a top nutritionist, and Valentine Warner, a chef with a strong emphasis on local, regional, traditional cuisine. 

PK: I found Patrick Holford’s talk particularly interesting. He’s been relating gut health and mental health together for the last 30 years. And he's talking about how your addiction to additives in foods stimulate the food industry and about taking responsibility for your own health. So with this increase in mental health issues, you know, how much of it actually derives from poor nutrition? And how much does the increase in attention disorders in children derive from nutrition? There were a lot of awakening moments.

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He was saying that your mental functioning is affected by your gut health?

RS: Yes. Serotonin is produced in your stomach. DMT is produced in your stomach too. There are as many reactions going on in the microbiome as there are braincells. There are 90 billion neurons, and there are 90 billion reactions going on your gut and in the microbiome. Another interesting thing about global warming: Because of the change in the composition of the atmosphere, all of our crops are 60-70% nutrient deficient compared to 100 years ago.

There are all these unexplained epidemics right now. I wonder how many of them come down to nutrition and environmental factors.

RS: Right. There’s all of this accumulated toxic residue. I had hair analysis done for myself and one of my sons recently. It was unbelievable to see that the levels of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes in his hair are far greater than mine because of his generation being exposed to much higher levels—in the same way that when you eat fish at the top of the food chain, they’ve accumulated mercury and dioxins.

So it's impacted the DNA?

RS: These toxins go up through the food chain. It will get absorbed by plankton and by the time it's in the tissue of a shark—this is called bio-accumulation—the toxic load is compounded by something like 10 to 250 million times.

How is that analogous to your son having higher levels of toxins than you?

RS: So my sperm and his mother's egg would have had concentration of heavy metals…

That’s insane! It's crazy how little we are investigating these things. I’d like to know, what are the first steps that people can start taking in their everyday lives?

RS: Getting educated and making the most informed lifestyle choices on every single level—from the products you're buying to the holidays you're taking and how often do you use the car. 

PK: From a food standpoint: local and seasonal. That message can't be repeated often enough. I moved to Ibiza 10 years ago from a very busy lifestyle in London where I was constantly sick and eating badly. Here, I’ve been to the doctor twice. I don’t get sick. You just change your lifestyle. I’m really conscious about what I eat. 

RS: The next level after individual lifestyle changes is how to get together with other people. I love this analogy about how in the evolution of this planet, we were just single-celled bacteria for millions and millions of years, competing over resources in a hostile, aggressive way. But then in a blink of evolutionary time, the bacteria learned to cooperate with each other and formed complex cooperative communities, which basically kick-started multicellular life as we know it. The next thing you know, you have mammals. It could be said that we’re as a species in a similar position now, and the way out—the quantum leap—is informed minorities coming together to form complex cooperative communities that will become the life base when this whole thing collapses. There are all of these unforeseen benefits that arise when two or more people come together around a particular issue. A new dynamism arises and your ability to affect change is amplified.