It is no secret that we are facing a current pandemic when it comes to climate change. One of the leading factors that play a role in this troubling situation is our food system. Yes, that's right, the very thing that keeps each of us alive could end up being the same thing that eventually destroys us.
So if our food production is a problem then how can we change this system in order to aid in solving climate change and reduce the negative carbon footprint of our species?
Perhaps a better question would be: Can changing our food system be the solution to climate change?
First, as always, we need to know what the problem is before we can address it.
What are the dangers the planet faces?
This is an easy question to answer in short: Humans over-consume and don't pay attention to the consequences.
Evidence shows us that Arctic ice melts are happening at an increasing rate each decade. Rising sea levels and the risk of severe flooding poses a threat to our existence.
The graph below provided by NASA shows how there is a 12.85% decrease in Arctic ice lows every decade.
Beyond rising water levels the planet faces major environmental issues ranging from overconsumption and bad waste management to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
In Europe, Asia, India, and Africa, populations suffer from water shortages that affect food supply.
This has created a prescient and dire need to change our way of producing food.
It’s not enough to just plant trees (although it’s a good way to capture carbon) or purchase eco-friendly products.
The consequences of how we manage our food and resources are just as, if not more significant.
How is our food system a danger to the planet?
The way we produce and consume food and deal with land use is equally as important as reducing fossil fuel emissions.
Land use and food production is a major deciding factor in whether or not the climate stays below the so-called global tipping points.
Why does our food industry matter to the environment?
Meat and dairy production contribute greatly to the devolution of our resource infrastructure because of their extremely high carbon emissions.
Not only do these industries emit high amounts of greenhouse gasses but agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation.
As you may know, the Amazon jungle is known a the lungs of the planet. These green zones filter the air that we need to breathe.
The cattle industry is responsible for 2.71 million hectares of tropical forest loss each year in Latin America.
This number only represents grazing areas and does not take into account food that is grown for the livestock.
A further 480,000 hectares are deforested for soy each year, which is primarily used to feed livestock and humans involved in the industry.
It should also be noted that not only is deforestation and global warming negatively effected by our current farming practices, but so is our most important resource - freshwater.
Agriculture is responsible for 70% of the world"s freshwater that is drawn from lakes, dams, and rivers.
The implications of consuming meat and dairy go farther than climate change and are equally as important.
Human health and the health of our environment are at stake here, and how we eat and treat our earth in the next decade determines the state of things for our children and future generations.
How does our food system affect the population?
The industrial food system that is generating so much climate devolution is also producing poverty, hunger, and disease.
Millions of farmers and others who harvest our food earn the lowest wages, live in poverty, and face serious health issues due to the food industry's abundance of highly processed, unhealthy products.
These massive poverty lines and the current world hunger pandemic do not make much sense as 2.6 trillion US dollars of food is thrown away every year.
An estimated 1.3 billion tones of food is wasted each year - this is one-third of the total food produced for human consumption.
As makers of policies address these issues, it’s crucial to recognize that they come from the same paradigm as food-related climate emissions:
A wasteful, non-productive, and destructive industrial food system is driven by corporate greed and personal convenience over all other values.
In order to halt the destructive patterns of the way we eat, immediate action needs to be taken.
How do we solve the climate crisis through our food system?
Reduce agricultural emissions by changing to alternative sources of energy - wind, solar, hydraulic, hydrogen, biomass - (waste from landfills), geothermal - (extracted from the ground), and more.
Choose regenerative and organic farming that produces more food with less energy and water usage. Experience shows us that organic and regenerative practices, like crop covering, crop rotation, composting, crop diversity (such as companion planting), and better livestock grazing practices can generate biodiversity, soil fertility, and water conservation. These permaculture practices also contribute to higher yields and make diversified organic farming systems more resilient in the face of climate-related weather impacts like drought and floods.
Support and fund organic farmers as they transition to organic growing and resilient practices. As the climate crisis worsens, droughts, extreme heat, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and an increasing amount of pests and disease will likely lead to the collapse of many large-scale industrial food and farming operations.
Switch from toxic agrochemicals to natural, organic forms of pest control, which not only saves our food system but also the population who is exposed to these toxic chemicals.
Expanding organic farming would be an economic and environmental benefit for rural communities across the U.S and many other countries around the globe.
Research has shown that organic agriculture creates more jobs, stimulates farming economies, and improves income for farmers.
Communities that have this climate change integrity and are making a difference, also create a better economy for all concerned.
Sustainability choices in our daily lives are the key to our survival.
The way we eat, farm, and devastate forests contribute in a major way to the dire climate crisis.
Deforestation, agriculture, and other land uses are already responsible for 23 percent of the rise in human-caused greenhouse gases.
Those numbers will grow without changes in land and farming practices — changes like growing forests and improving the carbon capture of soil with more native plants and crops.
Changing our food choices from unsustainable to sustainable alternative sources of meat farming and plant-based diets will have a resounding and fundamental impact on our future.
We have to change how we eat and grow food to fight climate change.
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and opinions on how we can better our environmental situation through our current food system.
About the Author
Sarah Zitin is a sustainability enthusiast and the owner of LEAF'D where she sells eco-friendly items and tries to inspire the world to live a more sustainable life.
Visit the Leaf'D store at www.leafd.com