Close to Home – February 2021
We’re still in the third lockdown and we’re now halfway through the first week of Fairtrade Fortnight and I’ve been popping in and out of the virtual Festival.
On Monday evening I watched a live event in which a panel discussed the question, “How is the climate crisis impacting the global food supply?”. It was an interesting discussion, watched by over 1400 people and chaired by Lucy Siegle with panellists Marike de Pena, Esther Stanford-Xosei, and Professor Tim Lang. The event was hosted by Fairtrade UK and The Guardian Live.
How is the climate crisis impacting the global food supply?
The answer to the question was answered most concisely by Professor Lang with the words “enormously but slowly”, and that, he said, is the problem. Because it is happening so slowly, the vast majority of us who are not farmers simply aren’t seeing the problems. Our shops continue to be filled to overflowing with foods that have been transported often hundreds of miles so we can consume them at any time of year, even when they are of season. How many of us even know what is in and out of season at any given time? We see the products on the shelves, we buy them. Simple! But should they even be on the shelves?
What’s food got to do with it?
Professor Lang advised us that although the climate crisis is mostly associated with energy and power, it’s really about food. He went on to say that food is the biggest user of land, water, and other resources, and here in the UK we are still eating beyond our means and beyond our health. It was a powerful speech in which we were told we need to “wake up and change our diet“.
Marike de Pena was on the panel to represent farmers in the Dominican Republic. When asked what farmers need to help them adjust to climate change, Ms de Pena told us they need a living income, and informed us that paying below the cost of production is not currently seen as an unfair trading practice. A living income, she suggested, will allow farmers to diversify. As an example, Ms de Pena explained, if a farmer currently grows only bananas they should also consider growing something else, perhaps coconuts, so if one crop fails one year, they will still have an income from the other. She went on to add that increasing biodiversity will not only increase financial stability for the farmers in the relatively shorter term, it will also increase soil health naturally. She said we need to scale fairtrade up and told us a 25-year plan is not the way to do it – we don’t have 25 years. We need to do it now.
Esther Stanford-Xosei also talked about the need to restore eco systems and degraded land and asserted that we need land redistribution, and we need to learn from people around the world who have the experience of growing sustainably. After pointing out the continually increasing average age of farmers, Ms Stanford-Xosei said we need to look at supporting the development of farming at local levels and encourage younger people onto the land.
What can I do?
The take away message of the discussion was that we need to change both how we produce and consume food. In order to address the climate crises we need to eat simpler, and have sustainable diets from sustainable food systems. We need to buy local, in-season produce when we can, and when we have to buy imported foods we should buy fairtrade to ensure overseas farmers are being paid a living wage and supported in their adaption to the changing climate. As Professor Lang put it in his consistently concise manner, we should “have feast day foods only on feast days“.
You can watch the one hour-long discussion on YouTube. You can also find out more about how climate changing is impacting on global food supply by reading Professor Lang’s book Feeding Britain: Our Food Problems and How to Fix Them (Pelican Books).
To find out what else is happening during Fairtrade Fortnight and to get involved, visit the Fairtrade Foundation and choose the world you want.
Last week I talked about peppermint essential oil as my Fragrance of the Month (I’m migraine-free today!….so far). Next week we will somehow be in March. How did that happen? It will be my Product of the Month post and I’ll be sharing something lovely in time for ordering for Mother’s Day.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
All photos courtesy of the Fairtrade Foundation
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