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!

 

 

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Building momentum towards a sustainable food system

Every project I’m involved with aspiring to move from an industrial food system to a sustainable food system reinforces the critical importance of connecting people. In Northland we have a lot of organisations aspiring to improve our food system. They range from environmental groups and landowners working to improve waterways, health workers, farmers and growers, marae-based groups, co-operatives, educationalists and researchers to name a few. The problem is, we are barely aware of what each other are doing.

Collectively, I am sure that there are a lot of us. But we fail to leverage our collective voice.

The development this year of the Northland Food Policy Network encourages me. Its a group of volunteers of similar diversity expressed above advocating to influence policy. Our success will be proportional to our ability to connect with others of like mind to generate momentum for change.

The industrial food system has super-tanker momentum! It has slick and seductive marketing, economies of scale, sophisticated supply chains and political influence. And perhaps most insidiously, it is the normal – the orthodox, with mostly unquestioned legitimacy.

This Guardian article identifies a similar dynamics for those advocating for climate change. Advocates for change are often left to work on individual efforts while the neo-liberal agenda actively seeks to shore up the status quo and feed our oil addiction.

Duncan Green, author of How Change Happens (get if free here) outlines the power gradient that is fundamental to change in this video:

  • power within (when the individual finds ways to change)
  • power with (when connections are made with likeminded others)
  • power to (the capability to decide actions and carry them out)
  • power over ( the power to effect and embed change).

Those of us focussed on food system change have taken steps to make connections and are developing the capability for collective action. Our ability to influence will be determined by our ability to make ongoing connections.

Another useful idea from this video is Duncan Green’s power analysis adapted below. Those with high concern about issues, but low influence have to find their collective voice, translate it into action and engage and influence those who have influence but are not engaged to change. We need to reach out to landowners and supermarkets for example.

influence and concern

Follow this link for more on change, based on Duncan Green’s thinking.

A way forward

Two projects that Local Food Northland are working on are supporting the change dynamics. We are supporting the Northland Food Policy Network and Clive McKegg is leading a project to develop a database of individuals and organisations with common aspirations. We are fully aware that a data base is only part of the engagement equation. We need to engage kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face).

What can you do?

If you want to see a food system that serves people by supporting our health, building our economy and sustaining our environment, one practical step is to help us connect with organisations that you are aware of that want these outcomes too. Please contact us or leave a comment below.

Child obesity – another damning report

Hot on the heels of the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Council released a policy brief on a sugary drink tax comes the University of Auckland’s Health Food Environment Policy Index. Professor Boyd Swinburn claims the Government lacks the political will to stand up to the food industry and push the necessary policies through.

Professor Swinburn would like to see more community action to see this elevated in the governments perception from a problem to an urgent problem. Action on food quality in schools is a “no brainer” according to Professor Swinburn.

Here is his Radio New Zealand interview.

The industrial agriculture “feed the world” myth

A video from Friends of the Earth International has some startling claims about how the need for industrial agriculture is overstated. This sounds plausible, but the problem is, I can’t find this video anywhere other than Facebook – so it is difficult to find data that supports the numbers. And my attempts to link to the video – apart from a Facebook link have failed.

The Friends of the Earth video claims that industrial farming feeds only 20% of the world’s population and the other 80% is produced on family farms. This video from Anna Lappé  and Food Myth Busters claims 70% – and provides compelling narrative to support the movement to sustainable food systems.

The landmark 2016 report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (iPES-Food) provides more detailed analysis that asserts the efficiency of agroecological farming. The report identifies “feed the world” narratives, parodied at the beginning of the Anna Lappé video as one of the “lock-ins” that help to prop up a failed system (see page 56 of the report).

My city, Whangarei has plenty of green space and most houses are on sections that would provide adequate space for food production that integrates into the landscape. In an ideal world, we would have very little need for industrial farming. Exporters need not fear, as the world will continue to have a large appetite for what we can grow here in the  short and medium term. The challenge for our commercial growers and exporters is how to farm sustainably.

Writing this post has reinforced for me the need for sustainable food system advocates to    back up claims made in video with hard data somehow. The material is great, but gets picked up and shared on places like Facebook with no way of fact-checking in this era of fake news.

Sugary drink tax

The New Zealand Beverage Guidance Council released a policy brief on a sugary drink tax. In New Zealand sugary drinks contribute to 26% of the sugar intake of children, exposing our children to a range non-communicable diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gout and dental caries. The policy brief also reports a link between a high sugary drink intake and cancer and impaired cognitive development.

Given the heinous risks we are exposing our children and mokos to, the $1.00 per litre tax they are suggesting (alongside the option of a 50 cents a litre tax) seems like a great idea. Suggestions for spending the resulting $65 to $100 revenue seem appropriate:

  • Provision of better infrastructure to support availability of sugar free alternatives such as water fountains in which kids/adults work, learn, live and play
  • Facilitate initiatives to work with schools in challenged areas to enhance better nutrition at school
  • Promote more sports in schools, displace beverage and food industry sponsorship agreements in youth sporting ventures (in both school and club settings)
  • Fund a national roll-out of Healthy Families New Zealand. Note current cost is $10 million per year for a quarter of the NZ population. A further $30 million per year is needed to grow this initiative allowing national coverage.
  • Ensure funds are used to support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as identified by the United Nations.

 From slavery to obesity – the history of sugar

sugar james WalvinKathryn Ryans interview of Professor James Walvin on the history of sugar emphasised its impact on history over the last five centuries. The majority of the millions of African slaves shipped across the Atlantic worked to produce sugar so Westerners could sweeten their drinks. The sugar story is also about the rise of activism to change public opinion as covered elsewhere on this website.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, courageous and visionary people advocated for the abolition of slavery. One of their weapons was a sugar boycott. We can emulate their spirit and conviction and give our children a better chance of growing up healthy.

You can access Kathryn Ryan’s interview here.

 

 

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.