The food solutions to climate change

drawdownWow. Who would have thought that there are so many ways that we can reverse climate change. The Drawdown project, led by Paul Hawken is a game changer.  His project team details 80 ways we can take carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere. Drawdown is the point where globally we start to reduce atmospheric CO2.

The project groups the 80 interventions into 7 clusters, and the cluster that can generate the highest reduction – 31%, is FOOD! Between 2020 and 2050, food initiatives that are already underway can reduce CO2 by 321.9 gigatonnes.

Drawdown sectors

The graph indicates where the reductions can come. Food leads at 31%, followed by energy at 23%.

Surprisingly, efficiencies in refrigeration management is the single biggest item in the top ten CO2 reducers. Reduced food waste comes in at number three, contributing a 70.5 gig tonne reduction, with a plant-rich diet coming in fourth with a 66.1 gigatonne reduction. And I thought effective action was all about renewable energy and electric cars! But as Paul Hawken states, we all of these actions will make the difference.

Here is the full list of food interventions.

Food interventions 2

You can find more detail of there at the Drawdown website under the solutions menu and buy the book.

Science and advocacy with heart

For those that feel like climate change is too big for them to have impact, this food list and the other interventions provides lots of options for action. That is encouraging! What is also encouraging is the optimistic tone of the book. Paul Hawken writes:

If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us – an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do – we begin to live in a different world. We take 100 percent responsibility and stop blaming others. We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is a human agenda.

At number six and seven on the list is “educating girls” and “family planning”. At number 62 is women smallholders. These are emancipating aspirations. According to Drawdown women feed many more people than the industrial food system:

On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops in poorer parts of the world. Often unpaid or low-paid laborers, they cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens. Most of them are part of the 475 million smallholder families who operate on less than 5 acres of land. more>>

Here’s Paul Hawken. Its a long video, but well worth the watch!

 

 

Thinking Resilience

In this intro, Richard Heinberg explains the ground covered in the short, online, Think Resilience course. It is a very affordable course and several of us in the Whangarei Transition Towns have done it. We are keen to get together with others to discuss the course material and its implications for our community. Please let me know if you are interested.

No more agrochemicals please

I’ve stopped using glyphosate on our land a couple of years ago – and I think that Papatuanuku likes that I am not pouring poison on her anymore. I only sprayed paved surfaces and now my efforts at weed control are more labour intensive – but its worth it. I know when I harvest food from our land it has not been poisoned. And I know that I am not supporting the companies that make these poisons.

This post touches on three agrochemicals that we should not be using.

Glyphosate

Take glyphosate for example. According to this heavily referenced study published by the Green Party, it is probably carcinogenic, genotoxic, is a endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin  – and much more. The Greens are asking that it is not used in parks where our children play. In this video Dr Seneff discusses some of the issues with glyphosate including autism.

Organophosphates

An extensive European Union study estimated the cost of organophosphate exposure due to reduced children’s IQ levels at 125 billion euros. This Harvard article identifies chlorpyrifos and glyphosate as neurotoxins, claiming they erode intelligence. Organophosphates are damaging to the brain and to the developing foetus.

Organophosphates, such as chlorpyrifos are used widely in New Zealand. Dr. Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Group Aotearoa want chlorpyrifos reassessed here as it is bioaccumulative. Here is Dr Watts presenting on pesticides. Sadly the rate of pesticide use is still on the rise.

Neonicotinoids

If you plant corn seeds, they may have been treated with a neonicotinoid dressing (the pink stuff). If you watched Dr Watt’s presentation she explains the impact of these nasty chemicals on bees. A June 2017 New Scientist magazine article reports a mountain of evidence that neonicotinoids kill bees. A 2015 estimate of the values of bees to the global economy as 265 billion euros.

The value of ecosystem services (including pollination) is about the same total global GDP, but we erode the value of bees, soil biota and aquatic life with our continued use of poisons. We also create detrimental health impacts for people and communities. Why do we do it? Follow the money.

Localising food, climate change and the implications for food security in eastern Northland

By John Clarke
The 2016 Climate Change Projections for NZ  predict that the eastern half of Northland will experience hotter, drier summers with less winter rain and frosts. Droughts will become more common, as will extreme weather events. Relative humidity will decrease and evapotranspiration will increase. I believe that planning our landscapes to meet these changes will increase our chances of successfully localising our food supply.
Recently there has been interest in developing a tropical fruit industry in Northland. I suggest that by adopting mixed plantings of alley crops on contour with appropriate soil building techniques (such as the Yeoman’s plough on contour), water harvesting techniques (such as swales and vetiver grass), and minimisation of soil cultivation through direct reseeding, I believe that we can reduce risks while maximising production, minimising input costs, maximising soil water absorption, minimising evapotranspiration, and reduce stress on aquifers (from pollution and overuse).
For instance, monoculture banana plantations are decimated by extreme weather events. The world’s main banana crop, the Cavendish, is under threat from the Panama disease fungus which already exists in Australia and there is no known treatment. Therefore, developing a banana monoculture industry would seem high risk. An alternative would be to form landscapes that maximise water collection at swales and on-farm dams (whenever we resort to aquifers for irrigating, we engage in an ultimately unsustainable agriculture). Landscape resilience could be increased by alley cropping a mixture of bananas on contour with an Alan Savory style livestock grazing system and further refine that with multi-species grazing. This would build soil organic matter rapidly and even more so with annual use of a Yeoman’s plough. Nutrient, microbe and water holding capacity of the soil could be enhanced by the addition of biochar and avoidance of soil cultivation.
To increase the protection of the banana crops to strong winds and evapotranspiration, alternate alleys could be planted with trees crops, and banana alleys could be interspersed with nitrogen fixing trees such as honey locust. The bananas (which would ideally be planted in the damper ground below swales) could be planted with taro, and probably within 5 years, with ginger and turmeric.
A mixed cropping landscape would increase food security by better enabling a yield in years of extreme weather.
The photograph of Mike Shepherd’s New Forest Farm below, is an example of the way a farm can be designed to withstand climate change and extreme weather while providing a wide range of yields.
newforestfarm

The nutritional value of local bananas

Professor Barbara Burlingame provided a compelling case study about the nutrient content of local bananas at our February conference. Before returning to New Zealand she spent 16 years with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation including the last four as Deputy Director of the Nutrition Division as was closely involved with the research referred to here.

Professor Burlingame related the story of Pohnpei, a Micronesian Island north of the equator. Over time the people their drifted away from their indigenous diet to consuming increasing quantities of imported food. There were consequences.

The change in food habits from fresh traditional foods to processed imported foods has been accompanied by high prevalence of overweight, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer among the adult population, while micronutrient deficiencies, such as of vitamin A, are prevalent among children[1].

Well intentioned interventions

Starting in the 1960s, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated supplementary feeding programmes to Pohnpei, using surplus commodities such as rice and tinned foods. These food aid programmes, including a school lunch programme, “introduced rice and processed foods to many children and adults in Pohnpei, establishing new food habits, attitudes and food tastes that persist today”[2].

In a story similar to that of other indigenous communities transitioning from the food systems they controlled to Western diets, the unintended consequences, especially the vitamin A deficiency, sparked further inteventions. Vitamin A supplements, including injections, were provided for children.

Karat banana

The Karat banana, often the first sold food for Pohnpei’s babies. (Photo from Web Ecoist)

Researchers, led by the late Dr Lois Englberger, turned their attention to local foods. Pohnpei has 26 banana cultivars. One of these, Karat, has deep yellow/orange flesh indicating the presence of provitamin A carotenoids.

When analysed for its nutrient profile, the Karat cultivar provided up to 2230 units of carotenes. Another cultivar, Utin Lap has up to 8508 units of carotenes. By contrast, Cavendish, the variety found in supermarkets around the world has less than five units of carotenes. The answer to the debilitating vitamin A deficiency was close by all that time. Consequently the government of the Federated States of Micronesia championed the local food movement and when Dr Englberger died in 2011, they held a memorial service in her honour.

Nutrition of Northland bananas

The health of our food can be evaluated by the nutrients it provides and the impact of artificial chemicals used in its growing, processing, transportation and storage and impacted by the way we cook it.

This website provides detailed coverage of bananas’ food value.

Fruits and vegetables with orange or red flesh are rich in carotenes, so we can anticipate that our locally grown bananas will be closer to the levels found in Cavendish bananas. However, it will be interesting to have the analysis done. Perhaps we could crowdsource funding for this to support the development of the local banana industry.


[1] Let’s go local! Pohnpei promotes local food production and nutrition for health in Indigenous people’s food systems & well-being (2013) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, page 195). http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3144e/i3144e00.htm

[2] ibid, page 194

 

A successful conference!

Our inaugural conference was a great success… so far. We believe it was the first Northland event to bring together people from diverse interests in food production, distribution, consumption, diet and health, hospitality and education specifically to focus on the move towards more sustainable food systems.

powhiri

The opening powhiri at Te Punu o te Mātauranga and welcome from our Mayor, Sheryl Mai, set the scene. We have the great bounty of presentations from visiting experts – Anne Palmer from Johns Hopkins University and Professor Barbara Burlingame from Massey University.

The benefits of connecting with other people that share aspirations towards a stronger local food economy was a common focus of feedback of those attending. Since the conference, there has been a continuation of discussions in Loomio and further connections made. Channel North is in the process of creating a range of videos about the conference and these will be available here soon.

A feature of the conference was the superb food, mostly sourced locally and beautifully cooked and presented by Ian Sturt and his team.

For the conference to be judged a success, we will need to be able to look back at the end of the year and see significant progress on the goals currently being formulated.

Thanks to our sponsors, enabling us to keep the cost of the conference affordable. NorthTec provided the venue and great support, Northland Inc supported our planning and organised for Channel North to film the event. Thanks to the Far North District Council and Te Tai Tokerau PHO for support through the Kai Ora Fund. And thanks to all of the cafes, restaurants and food sellers that supported with food. Please support the business that support local food – there logos are below.

conference-sponsors

The local motive

Thanks to all of those who attended our conference. It was all about supporting the shift to sustainable food systems, characterised by strong integration of health systems and primary production systems.

We drew on the experience of those in the state of Vermont in the U.S. While it has a colder climate than ours, and a shorter growing season, there are strong similarities. Vermonters have produced a series of videos, The Local Motive, outlining the challenges and successes in moving toward a sustainable food system. The first is Production. It addresses the challenge of supporting those who aspire to establish new farms or gardens or growing existing enterprises. What is evident is a rich network of support for those that grow food.

Here is a link to the video and others in the series.

the-local-motive