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Pope Francis Condemns Multinational Corporations for Choosing Profit Over People

Food

Ever the planetary steward, Pope Francis stressed the importance of food security, good nutrition and reducing food waste at the 39th United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference at the Vatican yesterday.

Pope Francis with delegates of the 39th FAO Conference at the Vatican. Photo Credit: FAO

“Statistics on waste are very concerning: a third of food products end up under this heading,” the Pope said in front of representatives from more than 120 countries, citing FAO data showing the magnitude of edible food produced on the planet that is lost or wasted.

The Pontiff also voiced concerns over large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land by multinational companies and governments.

Climate change rightly worries us, but we cannot forget financial speculation,” he continued, explaining how both global warming drives world hunger, as well as speculators who drive up market prices of basic foods such as grains, rice and soybeans purely for their own economic gain.

“It is unsettling to know that a good portion of agricultural products end up used for other purposes, maybe good, but that are not immediate needs of the hungry,” he said.

He emphasized that access to basic foods as "a right of all people."

Food "must be valued as the fruit of the daily toil of individuals, families, communities, farmers," Francis said.

According to a FAO press release, Pope Francis held a separate meeting with the organization's Director-General José Graziano da Silva, where the Pontiff stressed the importance of FAO's ongoing efforts to decentralize. He asked that FAO member nations work together to protect land and water resources, especially from multinational companies.

"If all Member states work for one another, consensus for action by FAO will not be late in arriving, and moreover, FAO's original role will be rediscovered—fiat panis, 'let there be bread,'" he said, in reference to the Latin phrase that appears on the FAO's logo.

He also urged that all consumers should "decisively commit" to modifying our lifestyles and using natural resources more sustainably.

"We must begin with our daily lives if we want to change lifestyles, aware that our small gestures can guarantee sustainability and the future of the human family," he said.

He concluded, "The Church with its institutions and its initiatives, walks with you, knowing that the Earth's resources are limited and their sustainable use is an urgent need for agricultural development and food security."

Your move, Rick Santorum.

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By Genevieve Belmaker

Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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