How we in Crickhowell can respond to the climate crisis through how we eat
Changing how we eat is a key part of every plan to tackle climate change.
The impact of non-local food on global warming can be illustrated by a simple example: extremely cheap milk sold in supermarkets (in plastic bottles, of course). Supermarkets have the power to drive down prices paid to farmers. By driving the price of milk down inexorably, small milk producers go out of business and only the huge ones survive, locked into industrial scale production and processing. Factory scale farms must import feed for dairy cattle. This feed is grown on land elsewhere. This is driving a massive expansion of soy production which, in turn, is driving massive deforestation, cutting down the trees which absorb carbon dioxide and so increasing global warming. Only during the summer of 2019 did the constant forest fires in the Amazon come to global attention – they are driven by our desire for unsustainable foods.
This means that the pursuit of cheap milk in supermarkets is a key driver of the climate crisis. The same is true of cheap eggs – you can cram millions of chickens into a small space, but vast amounts of land are needed to grow their food, and where do you put the industrial quantities of chicken manure? You can’t reduce the amount of land it takes to create a pint of milk or an egg, all you can do is use land elsewhere on the planet, and that’s useless for climate change.
Every strategy to reduce climate change puts changing how we produce and consume food at its heart. During the summer of 2019 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published its report, Climate Change and Land. This is the most important report ever written in human history on food and agriculture – the future of humanity rests on us implementing the recommendations.
- The global food system contributes between 21% and 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity. This problem is set to grow with population growth, income growth and changes in consumption. [A.3]
- Currently 25-30% of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. [A.1.4]
- Agriculture is part of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also be a part of the solution, acting as a carbon sink. [A.1.2]
- In the future we will see more floods, droughts, fires, disruption of food chains and higher food prices. [A.5]
- One of the solutions is enhancing local and community collective action. [C.2.1] THIS IS HOW OUR FOOD CRICKHOWELL MUST BE PART OF RESPONDING TO THE GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE CRISIS.
The actions in the IPCC report [B.2.1, B.5] that we can do in Crickhowell are:
- Promote food production using improved pasture and livestock management so that carbon emissions are reduced and the organic content in the soil is increased.
- Increase food productivity so that we produce more with less inputs (e.g. fertilisers, fuel, machinery).
- Promote more sustainable diets – more coarse grains, legumes, fruit and veg, nuts and seeds. [B.6.2]
- Reduce food loss and waste [B.6.30] – this means buying more local food and less from supermarkets, which lie at the end of extremely long food chains that generate waste as well as carbon.
- Prepare for “supply chain disruption”, in other words, food shortages. [C.2.2]
- Raise awareness of sustainable food production. [D.1.1]
We should also ask the National Park Authority how they are shaping their plans around the IPCC’s recommendations, for example, improving management of cropland and grazing lands and sustainable forestry management. [B.2.1.]
We should ask local and national authorities to help our work, because the IPCC report specifically recommends support for local and community collective action [C.2.1], including the following particular actions:
- Support local management of natural resources. [C.2.1]
- Enable cooperation between actors, including internationally. [C.2.1]
- Get public services to buy local food (“public procurement”). [C.2.4]
- Coordinate action among businesses, producers, consumers, communities, land managers and policy makers. [C.4.3]
- Involve all relevant stakeholders in identifying land-use pressures and impacts.[C.4.1]
- Invest funds for land restoration. [D.2.2]
Picture: Tim Jones, As You See It Media