Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Agriculture and Climate Change - Part II

I think that Jaime already captured many of the themes that I was going to include in Part II about agriculture. I already know that there is much to revise for my “Impact of Technology on Diet and Disease” course in the spring based on all that I have learned here.
A few other points to add:
1. Fair trade purchasing groups are discussed a lot and (for Kerri), fair trade chocolate samples are provided at the Bella Center with meal purchases!
2. While there is much emphasis on locally grown foods, Dr. Shiva did acknowledge that because some things like spices, coffee, tea and bananas cannot be grown everywhere and because they are so critical, that certain food items – especially those with long shelf lives – will still need to be transported. I found this a bit contradictory, since if one considers the historical environmental impacts of growing coffee, tea and bananas, the effect has been significant. I know that you can now get shade-grown organic (and fair trade) coffee, but there is a long legacy of damage around the world resulting from coffee plantations. Additionally, if you read about the history of these crops and the lengths that European countries (spices and tea) and the U.S. (especially with bananas) went to in order to control the shipping and production, you may think twice about consumption!
3. I am intrigued by the discussions on the “future of seeds” – in terms of both preserving biodiversity and the heritage of various cultures. Europe has begun a program to protect local varieties (and breeds) and has allowed intellectual property right agreements to be applied for by local communities. To date, there are over 700 registrations and, of these, 596 are at risk of extinction.
4. Europe and the U.S. are still talking about growing plants for the production of biofuels. Many developing nations feel that this is taking away land for growing food and driving food prices higher and out of their reach.
5. School and community gardens are “in” – for health and education reasons primarily, but are considered an important part of the local food movement worldwide. A phrase used by VS was that we need our children to “celebrate soil not concrete” – a view echoed in Jaime’s post and in comments that we heard from Dr. Maathai. In the movie “Taking Root”, she says in the beginning that she is a “child of the soil” and then talks about the great wisdom gained by children and adults who know about the soil and the land. The late Bernadette Cozart who was responsible for the Greening of Harlem project knew the importance of exposing youth to something other than concrete and chain linked fences. The bottom line is that we aren’t likely to care deeply about things that are foreign to us. If you have read Last Child in the Woods, this concept is a predominant theme with respect to the future of the stewardship of our environment if our younger generation has “nature deficit disorder”.
6. One of the positive messages that comes out of the sessions related to agriculture and food security is that there are things that can be done by individuals (changing diets and consumer choices) and by communities (farmers markets, alliances of local farmers, CSAs, etc.) without having to wait for governments to act. And, of course, consumers have purchasing power in the developed nations, so with some education efforts, there could be a meaningful message to the food industry about our concerns about “fake food” practices.
7. The cool foods campaign is an interesting development: http://www.coolfoodscampaign.org/ sponsored by the Center for Food Safety. Debi Barker, International Program Director for the CFS (and member of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture), was a panelist on Sunday. She was also one of the key organizers of the “Battle of Seattle” in 1999 in which practices of the WTO were challenges and concerns raised about the impact of globalization. These same concerns exist at COP15 and have been extended to the World Bank, large corporations, and, of course, key developed nations.
8. Debi’s name appears again as the editor for the “Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food Security" (found at http://www.leisa.info/index.php?url=library-details.tpl&p%5BreadOnly%5D=1&p%5B_id%5D=216235 ). This post is already quite lengthy, so you can look this up on your own. But it is being discussed in various forums here in Copenhagen and will likely be required for my spring course. I think it would be the basis for a great panel discussion on campus.

Debi Barker is next to VS. (These rooms have strange lighting so it is tough to get good pictures.)

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