15 Inspiring Quotes and Questions to Guide the Food System Forward
By Danielle Nierenberg
Since the first episode of Food Talk Live aired on March 19, our twice-daily live conversation series has featured nearly 150 food system experts, advocates, scientists, chefs and more.
This means that, over the past four months, I've probably asked more than 1,000 questions to these folks about the future of the food system. There has been a lot of news to unpack this week alone, between funding food waste reduction, addressing community food insecurity, and understanding the influence of the food industry on nutrition policy. And during my live conversations, every question I ask raises even more.
This week, Food Tank is highlighting 15 quotes that address thorny, world-changing questions about building a more sustainable and equitable food system.
How do we rectify racial inequities in land ownership?
"As a result of colonial genocide, land grabbing, USDA discrimination, state-level nativism, lynching, and expulsion, over 98% of the farmland in this county is owned by white Americans today. Ralph Paige of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives put it simply, "Land is the only real wealth in this country and if we don't own any we'll be out of the picture." We need a nationwide commitment to share the land back, so that all communities can have the means of production for food security."
— Leah Penniman, founder and director of Soul Fire Farm. Read more here.
How impactful can collective agricultural labor unions be to protect farm workers?
"In 2019, through our collective bargaining procedures, we resolved cases on wage issues amounting to over US$800,000 dollars. If they were non-union, that money would have been lost to the worker's pocket. If this is what we recoup for workers in the union setting, imagine what must be happening in non-union settings."
— Baldemar Velásquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. Listen to more here.
What does it mean to support local, regional, and sustainable food by engaging in good food purchasing?
"This is a time I think of as a great reckoning. Seeing the public interest in food and how important food is as a public service is how procurement works — it aligns the purchasing power of government institutions with what the values of the public are. I think an important next step would be to have city or municipal leaders set aggregate purchasing targets and invite, encourage, persuade all large food service institutions to participate in setting these aggregate targets. And then you can really start making accelerated change in the local food economy, which is something we know we need to build back right now. The idea of good food purchasing is to support equity and to support creating economic opportunity for those who have not had that economic opportunity."
— Paula Daniels, co-founder, chair of the board, and chief of what's next at the Center for Good Food Purchasing. Listen to more here.
What is the importance of “middle-man” food processors in supporting local farm-based food systems?
"Can we imagine how to circle out of this in a way that is better than what we had before? I want to shine an uncomfortable light on the farm-to-table movement. It turns out to have a very weak link. I don't know that the answer is to return to that moment, because what this shows is that it wasn't as strong in conception of feeding people and a food system moving forward as we would've imagined."
— Dan Barber, executive chef and co-founder of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Listen to more here.
What can we do to make regenerative farming not only the norm, but affordable?
"We need to realize that economic justice and the growth of organic and regenerative food and farming and land use go together. We can't have one without the other. That's what's so beautiful about this Green New Deal."
— Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association. Listen to more here.
How can traditional resource-management techniques lay the foundation for food sovereignty?
"Tagal is a traditional fisheries management practice in [the Malaysian state of] Sabah, in which communities swear oaths to nurture wild fisheries until they teem with river carp, and then open them, by agreement, for communal consumption at special times. During COVID-19 the power of tagal has therefore also become a key topic: how communities who have reinvigorated their culture of river stewardship have been able to access their own protein resources in their places."
— Cynthia Ong & Kenneth Wilson of Forever Sabah in Sabah, Malaysia. Read more here.
What role can mutual aid and distributive food systems play in feeding our communities?
"Resilience and regeneration are not a given, they need to be purposefully nurtured. We therefore need to invest and facilitate the creation of distributive food systems based on local needs and capacities that assure a fair redistribution of value, knowledge and power across actors and territories to deliver sustainable food for all."
— Ana Moragues-Faus, professor of economics and business, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Read more here.
How can greater public funding drive food innovation in Latin America and the Global South?
"One of the forgotten links in all these food systems, connections between agriculture, nutrition, and health, is that you need knowledge. You need to do some research, and then you need to innovate. … If we can put trillions and trillions of dollars into good research on safeguarding the economy, we should also be putting in quite a bit of funding for health and food systems."
— Ruben Echeverria, senior research fellow at International Food Policy Research Institute and research associate at the Latin American Center for Rural Development. Listen to more here.
What role can entrepreneurs play in building a better food system?
"We have this really beautiful rich, diverse country where we can produce and we can create so much wealth for all of us, and it's now about zooming in and resourcing these gaps that we know exist."
— Caesaré Assad, CEO of accelerator Food System 6. Listen to more here.
How do we build a new European community-based sustainable food system that doesn’t replicate the past?
"My vision is for a new food economy with more and more of us growing a percentage of our own food, and preferentially purchasing in season and local food from local and sustainable farmers. This future food system will not be identical to those that I remember from my childhood in the '50s and '60s, since the world has changed since then. The internet and other related digital innovations including on-line marketing, and the emergence of farmers markets and community supported agriculture, are all expressions of the boundless innovation of humanity. So, let us hope that the farming community will prosper and come to play a more central role in our future food systems. Let the new food revolution flourish and thrive!"
— Patrick Holden, British farmer and founder of Sustainable Food Trust. Read more here.
How can we understand and prepare for the connections between COVID-19 and diet health?
"Because [the pandemic of diet-related disease] has happened over 30 to 40 years, we've ignored that equivalent or even larger pandemic. And now they're coming together, and we're seeing that we set up an environment of people with poor metabolic health who are predisposed to COVID. … We have not invested in the science that we should have invested in up until this point, to have answers to these questions. People are talking about stocking personal protective equipment and stocking ventilators and stocking vaccines — but what about stocking science on food and health and nutrition? That would've been incredibly important."
—Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Listen to more here.
How is localized, diverse seed security vital to our food security and national security?
"As the world slowly rebuilds and recovers, we all have a fresh opportunity to regenerate and share a greater diversity of seeds—and to honor and return benefits to traditional seed keepers from many cultures. We would be remiss not to sow true, place-based seed sovereignty in every region and among every culture on this planet, well before a future crisis could uproot us again."
— Gary Paul Nabhan, ethnobotanist and co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH. Read more here.
How has the COVID-19 crisis played into forces of industrialization threatening Iranian smallholder farmers?
"There is an irony in expecting governments to kick into action in an emergency to support people and production systems that they actively undermine in the best of times. This shows that COVID-19 is not impacting food systems in a vacuum, but is in fact a shock to an ongoing struggle for power and survival. Like many smallholder producers worldwide who make a massive contribution to food security, pastoralists struggle against forces that seek to upend their way of life in favor of industrial food systems."
— Maryam Rahmanian & Nahid Naghizadeh of the Centre for Sustainable Development in Tehran, Iran. Read more here.
How do we encourage young Africans to stay on farms and improve agriculture on the continent?
"I would argue that what is missing in the [agricultural] sector is those young people who have access to productive resources and have the knowledge and the skillset that can help improve productivity. … If we want young people to stay in agriculture, then we have to make agriculture profitable for those young people. And for agriculture to be profitable, it has to be productive. Giving them access to those productive resources that will allow them to increase the productivity of agriculture will be critical."
— Felix Kwame Yeboah, social science researcher and professor of international development at Michigan State University. Listen to more here.
Finally, what will it take to help us use suffering as a springboard into liberation?
"We're all suffering. But at the end of the day, folks, what makes us strong is our belief in one another, that we will come together to help one another get back on our feet. … This is our time, this is our moment to not go back to politics and Wall Street, but to move forward. It's more about people than profits. This is our time to move forward and change the system."
— Karen Washington, farmer and founder of Rise and Root Farm. Watch more here
- The Solution Under Our Feet: How Regenerative Organic ... ›
- How Can the Biden Administration Fix America’s Broken Food System? - EcoWatch ›
- Seeds Must Be Publicly Owned, Food System Activists Urge - EcoWatch ›
New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.
- Groundbreaking Fossil Shows Prehistoric 15-Foot Reptile Tried to ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Giant 'Toothed' Birds Flew Over Antarctica 40 Million Years Ago ... ›
- World's Second-Largest Egg Found in Antarctica Probably Hatched ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Pruitt Guts the Clean Power Plan: How Weak Will the New EPA ... ›
- It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan ... ›
- 'Deadly' Clean Power Plan Replacement ›
By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.
- Gorillas in San Diego Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Wildlife Rehabilitators Are Overwhelmed During the Pandemic. In ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Utah Mink Becomes First Wild Animal to Test Positive for Coronavirus ›
By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
By John R. Platt
The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
- How Biden and Kerry Can Rebuild America's Climate Leadership ... ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- How Joe Biden's Climate Plan Compares to the Green New Deal ... ›