Social Ecologist Profile: Erin Lingo of Prescott, Arizona USA




Please introduce yourself (What kind of work you do, Where you live, etc.)

I live in Prescott, AZ, and am the coordinator of the Prescott College CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and the Prescott Farmers Market. My passion is food and all things related: nutrition, cooking, food justice, sustainable agriculture, farmworker rights, and local food systems. I am a graduate student in the Prescott College/ISE program with an emphasis in Community Food Systems.

How did you become introduced to the ideas of social ecology? How do yo define social ecology when asked about it?

I became interested in Social Ecology because I wanted to continue my education with a study that addresses the relationship between society and nature, particularly how it relates to food. I already lived in Prescott and worked for Prescott College, so the PC/ISE program resonated with me.

My favorite question to answer is “what is Social Ecology?” because it elicits such interesting responses from those who have asked. My elevator speech goes something like this: “Social Ecology addresses the relationship between humans and nature. It says that humanity and nature are so disjointed and the relationship so dysfunctional because of the hierarchical nature of our society. Social Ecology offers an action-based solution in which environmental, social, and political problems are addressed simultaneously, knowing that a truly ecological society would promote equality across the spectrum, respect for each other and for nature, problem solving by direct democracy, and ecological solutions.”

How does social ecology and/or your experience with the Institute for Social Ecology influence your current work?

Social Ecology provides a theoretical lens through which to view food systems. One of the most obvious ways that people experience and relate to nature is through growing food and our food choices. And an important part of an ecological society is one in which local food systems are strengthened and respected, where eaters have a direct relationship with their food and those who grew it, and fresh and healthy food is acknowledged as a human right rather than as a commodity.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities and greatest challenges for achieving a sustainable relationship between humanity and the wider world?

There is a multitude of crises facing our and our children’s generations, yet they are the very things that make this time so rich with opportunity. Changing our relationship to each and the natural world, and adapting to a post-carbon society, will require the participation of everyone, so the single greatest challenge is the mobilization of so many people. That said, we have an amazing opportunity for more bridges to be built between seemingly different social, environmental and political movements, as more people realize that what we all fight for is really the same goal: an egalitarian society in which we treat each other and natural world with respect, our technology and infrastructure is no longer reliant upon damaging non-renewable resources, and health care, healthy food, education and public transportation are viewed as basic human rights.

What do you see as the biggest positives and negatives associated with the “foodie” movements?

The growing interest in food and where it comes from is incredibly beneficial to farmers and eaters, because it helps farmers make a living wage, keeps more land agricultural (rather than developed), helps eaters make more informed choices, and encourages farmers to use sustainable growing methods due to the demand of the informed customer. The downside to this, of course, is that the cost of healthy food has still not been adequately addressed, and “organic” and “local” food remains a niche market. My hope is that the “foodie” movement will continue in a direction toward justice, teaching and empowering people to grow their own gardens and join community gardens, gaining governmental funds to help people afford fresh food (rather than the current subsidies system), and that prices will decrease as the movement grows and the price of all food reflects its “true cost”.

Can you describe what it is like to be a resident, student and activist in Arizona at the moment?

Arizona, needless to say, is a difficult and disturbing state to live in right now. Sometimes it feels like every day brings some new political absurdity or horrible violence. My justification is that Arizona needs good and motivated people who will continue to do good, to fight against the governor’s short-sighted and racist policies, to continue to talk to others about immigration and education. But as tends to happen around controversial subjects, people here are also very attached to what they believe, and an unfortunate culture of intimidation and violence exists that silences many people. I struggle daily with whether I could do more good in a “friendlier” state (and maybe one that actually gets rain!)

Any great stories about being around the ISE?

How about our late night viewing of Red Dawn, the amazingly long saga in which a high school football team faces off Cuban and Soviet troops in an ironic WWIII apocalypse…dancing with Bea Bookchin…open mic night with Dan Chodorkoff’s incredibly talented daughter…hot-tub madness…walking past Wall Street on our way to study alternatives to capitalism…