Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity and predictions by some (e.g. Steph Hawking) are dire, even questioning our ability to survive as a species. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) tell us “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”.
This temperature data from NASA illustrates the industrial age origins of the problem.
Here is a link to our climate change policy matrix.
A solutions focus
The messages about climate change from the prophets of doom induce a hopelessness and paralysis of will that can only increase the likelihood of their predictions eventuating. I choose to believe that, with a unified response, fuelled by hope, we can ameliorate the worst impact of climate change and, at the same time transform our global culture so the world manifests environmental, social and economic justice. These are indelibly interwoven. Paul Hawken, leader of the Drawdown project positions climate change as an opportunity for transformation.
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.
From a food systems and Northland perspective three lines of action are climate advocacy, food and land use and wood waste. These three are presented below. I use the Drawdown Project as the context for action. It is explained in more depth in this post.
We have two challenges, one is the material dynamics of climate change, and the second is the human response. There have been very deliberate and effective campaigns with the Koch brothers’ foundations funnelling over $100 million to 84 climate denial groups. Vested interest influences people’s thinking and buys political influence.
In the past people responded to evident threats such as war. But with climate change misinformation abounds and people have grown accustomed to the material wealth delivered by the industrialisation, the threat remains “over the horizon”. Inaction is understandable.
A false dichotomy that inhibits change is the choice between maintaining a comfortable lifestyle on the one hand, and taking climate action on the other. Perhaps we can do both? Many of the climate change solutions we can implement, as outlined in the Drawdown project, can also support new economic models.
Another obstacle to change in this country (New Zealand) is the narrative from some that we are too small to make a difference. That’s sad, given our proud record of pioneering social policy. We were to first country to give women the vote for example.
In our personal lives, our homes, our workplaces and communities we can rethink the way way we live our lives to minimise our carbon footprint and join in action with others to work towards drawdown.
Food and land use
The Drawdown project identifies over 80 solutions that together can take over 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon equivalents out of the atmosphere from 2020 to 2050. Almost half of this amount is in the food system (31%) and our land use (14%).
For example, reducing food waste has potential to remove 70.53 gigatonnes. This is something we can all do.
Land use and food production are inextricably linked. For example catchments include land used for food production, recreation, conservation and habitation. Food production impacts on land use. Tropical forests are know as the lungs of the earth, but our temperate forests can play an important role in sequestering carbon.
Animals have an important role in ecosystems. A major challenge for Northland is how we integrate animals into production systems in ways optimise soil health and clean water.
Globally, we waste one third of food produced. The good news is that we produce enough to feed everybody already. This graphic from the Love Food Hate Waste website reveals over one trillion dollars of food waste, most of it from the degradation of nature.
In New Zealand, the average family throws away $563 worth of uneaten food per year. Bread is at the top of our waste list – we throw out 12,856 tonnes of bread. Click here for a larger image.
Reducing our waste is a win-win. In the Northland context, we know that there are many children going to school hungry. Food for Life is doing a great job in Whangarei, but they are only able to operate in a handful of schools. Hungery school children don’t learn very well.
In addition to providing better food access, there are many environmental benefits from reducing food waste.
Sources for food recovery are diverse. In a recent post we featured Free Fish Heads, a website designed to connect those who have fish heads and normally dispose of them, and those who eat them. In Whangarei, Food for Life, operating across the road from the Whangarei Growers Market, gathers unsold food from generous stallholders and turns it into meals for school children.
The challenge is to identify all the potential sources of food and get it to those who are most needy.
Policy initiatives around these three lines of action are explored in the climate change policy matrix.