Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too

From the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published for World Food Day, October 16, 2016.

What can I do?

Climate actions to change our world

Our planet is heating up. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones and floods are becoming more common.  All of these events have two things in common:

1. they have the worst effect on the world’s poorest people, many of whom work as farmers, and make it harder for them to grow food; and

2. they threaten the global goal to end hunger by 2030.

preserve-the-earthThe good news is that we can help. We need to waste less food, save our forests, protect the earth’s precious natural resources like water and land and consume less energy or use energy sources that cause less pollution, among other things.

What can YOU do about it? You can tackle climate change by changing your daily habits and making simple decisions. We challenge you to pick four of the actions below and stick to them.

Tell us about your actions to combat climate change by using the hashtag #WFD2016 on social networks!

The earth provides us with everything we need to grow food and live healthy lives, in the form of natural resources. These resources are land, water, animals and plants. We can’t grow food without water and soil, and we will have a much harder time growing enough healthy and nutritious food if the water we have is polluted and the soil has been stripped of all the rich minerals that make it fertile.  If we want to be able to continue to grow enough safe and nutritious food for everyone on the planet we have to protect our natural resources.

Don’t waste water. Take a short shower rather than a bath. Bathtubs use gallons more water than a 5-10 minute shower. And turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Cleaning your teeth with the tap running uses 6 liters of water, while cleaning them with the tap off uses less than 1 liter of water. If you notice any leaks, fix them! A leaky tap can waste more than 11 thousand liters of water in a year, while a toilet leak can waste around over 700 liters of water a day. If you use a dishwasher, stop rinsing your plates before you run the machine. Fill your washing machine with a full load and hang clothes to dry on a clothes line rather than tumble-drying them. This will save water, electricity and washing powder. You can also water your garden using collected rainwater and ‘gray water’, which is the water you use to wash your hands and/or dirty dishes.

Diversify your diet. Try to eat an all-veggie meal instead of one meat meal a week. More natural resources are used to provide meat than plants or pulses, especially water. Millions of acres of rainforest are also slashed and burned in order to turn the land into grass pastures for livestock including cows.  Discover some recipes for tasty pulse meals and some interesting facts provided especially for the International Year of Pulses.

Keep fish populations afloat. Convince your friends and family to eat fish species that are more abundant, such as mackerel or herring, rather than those that are at risk of being overfished, like cod or tuna. You can also buy fish that has been caught or farmed sustainably, such as eco-labeled or certified fish, and if you order seafood at a restaurant, always ask if it’s sustainable seafood.

Keep soils and water clean. Pick up litter and choose household cleaners, paint and other products that are free from bleach or other strong chemicals. By reducing litter and using eco-friendly products you can limit water contamination and soil degradation.

Buy organic. Organic farming helps our soil to stay healthy and retain its ability to store carbon, which helps reduce climate change. Look out for organic and fair-trade products available in your local supermarkets or farmers’ markets.

Energy efficient is best. Buy energy efficient household appliances or fuel-efficient cars and don’t forget to maintain your car. A well-tuned car will emit fewer toxic fumes. Save energy also by unplugging your TV, stereo or computer, rather than leaving them on standby, and by using energy efficient light bulbs. You could also put on an extra jumper in the winter and turn down your heating, and shade the windows from the sun in summertime.

Use solar panels or other green energy systems. Find out if you can do so at home, school or at work by researching available grants and government incentives.

Just like the carbon footprint we produce every year, through the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (by traveling in cars or planes and using electricity for example), we also produce a foodprint through the hidden emissions of the foods we choose to eat. Unlike a car, you can’t see the release of greenhouse gases from your dinner, but the hidden trail of a meal’s entire trip from the farm to your plate is filled with carbon-emitting processes. In addition to eating more vegetables or pulses and less meat, we can also reduce waste in the following ways:

– Buy only what you need

– Don’t let labels fool you

– Limit your plastic

– Recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminium

– Store food wisely

– Love your leftovers

– Make plant food

More ways to be climate smart

Be rubbish-savvy. Plastic that is irresponsibly discarded can severely damage marine habitats and kill large numbers of marine animals.

Be a conscientious consumer. Do a bit of online research and buy only from companies that you know have sustainable practices and don’t harm the environment.

Be an advocate! If you see an interesting social media post about climate change, share it rather than simply liking it.

Promote eco babies. Buy cloth nappies/diapers for your baby or switch to a new, environmentally responsible disposable brand.