Many have watched with interest the swell of climate activism this fall. Young spokespeople like Greta Thunberg and other young leaders across the globe have inspired people to bring more visibility to the growing concerns being raised by climate science in a series of climate strikes. Young Canadians are even taking the Canadian Government to court to drive home the need for action.
Often overlooked in climate conversations is the role that our food plays. Growing and distributing food globally is estimated to contribute to over one third of human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points to agriculture as being responsible for 40 per cent of the Methane released into the atmosphere. This is important because as far as GHG’s go, Methane is a major bad ass gas, being 21 times more impactful than Co2 in its action to absorb energy in the atmosphere and cause temperature rise.
Since the 1800s, there has been a significant shift to industrial agriculture production systems. Over this period, a mere 200 years, in part due to increases in food supply, the earth’s population has grown from just over 1 billion to 7 billion. That is a lot of humans to feed. We are learning the impacts of the global food system on our resources are vast.
The UN IPCC’s report published in August of this year digs deep into the science of what is happening and provides some important strategies that could be put in place immediately to work to turn things around. The report also determines that “People currently use one quarter to one third of land’s potential net primary production for food, feed, fiber, timber and energy.” That is all for us. It does not include meeting the needs of the other 8 million species on the planet.
As a citizen the choices we make about what we eat are complex. Choices are associated with our income, culture, mobility, health, our food skills and other factors.
Climate Connection in Manitoba provides some helpful guidelines they call the Rule of Five Ns.
1. Nearby: Buy food produced by farmers that live close by, to greatly reduce the pollution created from transporting food all around the world. We also know that farmers here are required to abide by a certain amount of environmental regulations that may not be present in other regions.
2. Naked: Choose food that doesn’t have a lot of packaging.
3. Nutritious: Put your dollars into food that is highly nutritious.
4. New now: Eat fruits and veggies at the time of year they grow or grow your own.
5. Natural: try to eat whole foods when you can and with less chemicals
These strategies are the tip of the iceberg in helping to navigate climate friendly foods.
There is a lot we can do both individually but also as businesses and governments. The District of Saanich is taking climate change seriously with goals to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. Through working with the District and the OnePlanet Saanich initiative, participants are also looking at regional food systems and what can be done to reach the 2030 targets (oneplanetsaanich.org).
To learn more about climate change and food systems you can attend the Climate Panel at the regional Good Food Summit held this November, more info at www.goodfoodnetwork.info/the-good-food-summit
Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at email@example.com.