June 13, 2020

18 June, Sustainable Gastronomy Day: Short Careful Steps for a Greener Future

Many activities contributing to the degradation of Earth seem like they are worlds away.  Mining, deforestation, and trash islands in the ocean are frequently out of sight and therefore out of mind.  Food, however, is right in our face.  As consumers, advocates, and citizens we don’t see the environmental impact of our food choices.  The food we eat creates pollution and degrades Earth and sea through agri- and aqua-cultural practices, shipping, and waste.  For the sake of our common home, we must demand sustainable change through our governments and through our own purchasing power.

Food insecurity, climate change, and the global population are all on the rise.  To keep up with the exponential growth of the world's population we will need to produce 50% more food by the year 2050. [1]  However, growing crops and raising livestock and fish is becoming increasingly difficult.  Already, over 10 million people have abandoned their farms due to climate change induced desertification, drought, or salination.[2]  Pollinators are also at risk because of pollution, pesticides, and climate change.  The bees, birds, bats, and insects we rely on to pollinate all of our produce are weakening and dying off.  Without pollinators, farmers will have no way of producing the food we need.

We are also losing the crucial organisms living in the soil that contribute to nutrient rich farmlands.  These organisms make up 25% of the total biodiversity on our planet.[3]  Protecting biodiversity in soil, crops, and livestock is a key step in facing the oncoming climate change.  Diversity in all areas of agri- and aqua-culture provide a wider base of genetic information.  While the plants and animals we are growing and raising now serve our needs today they may not survive as the climate becomes less hospitable in the near future.  Preserving diversity will enable farmers and scientists to explore new ways of coping with climate change as greenhouse gases continue to build.

Individual consumers can also combat climate change and the degradation of Earth.  Shopping for certified sustainable products will tell businesses we are not willing to compromise our planet and our future for cheap goods.  Choosing different foods also makes an environmental impact.  For example, raising 1kg of beef requires 13000 liters of water compared to growing 1kg of lentils, which uses only 250 liters of water. [4]  Mixing beans, lentils, and legumes into our meals not only provides healthy protein, but actively offsets climate change since these fix nitrogen into the soil while they are growing.

The next step after choosing better foods is not wasting them.  We lose one third of all food to damage or to waste by consumers.  Just a quarter of the wasted food would end world hunger today.[5]  Therefore, we must consider the 821 million undernourished people around the world when we throw food away.[6]  Additional, when we waste food we are wasting the labour, water, soil, and energy that went into growing, transporting, and storing the food- all of which contributes to climate change.

All our everyday actions add up to a great environmental impact.  We must make our contribution to climate change a positive one.  As Catherine McAuley said, “The simplest and most practical lesson I know...is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow. Let us take one day only in hand, at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow, thus we may hope to get on taking short, careful steps, not great strides.”  Just as we did not cause the degradation of Earth overnight, it will take us many years and countless careful steps to correct this injustice.  We must resolve to make the next good choice in the policies we advocate for and in everyday actions, like our next meal.

Messages to: Amanda Carrier rsm - MGA Intern

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[1] “Cherishing the ground we walk on.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. May, 2017. http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1069275/

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] “5 climate actions we can all take for a #ZeroHunger World.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. February, 2019. http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1174739/

[5] “Make #NotWasting food a personal resolution.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. September, 2018. http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1072865/

[6] “Global Issues: Food.” United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/food/index.html

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