STOCK PHOTO With every passing generation comes different challenges around sustainable food sources, says columnist.

Column: Each generation has a role in food sustainability

We can all make some effort to learn from the dire warnings from experts, says columnist

On Feb. 22 the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world’s biggest agricultural authority, released the first ever report on the interconnection of biodiversity essential for our food.

State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture delivers a harsh warning: “once lost, [the web of life] cannot be recovered.” In a more positive tone, the report suggests that “consumers may be able to opt for sustainably grown products, buy from farmers’ markets, or boycott foods seen as unsustainable” and praises “citizen scientists” who are playing an important role in monitoring biodiversity. Alexandra Morton’s “salmon is sacred” campaign comes to mind.

The EAT/Lancet Commission which recently brought out a diet to save the planet has studied the obstacles to sweeping change and has put together three briefs, one for policy makers, one for farmers and one for everyone else. They are in plain language, not too long and can be downloaded at I urge readers to look at these papers and question all candidates in the coming federal election while personally trying out the advice for everyone.

Some defiant believers in ‘fake news”’ may reject the work of these leading scientists, secretly hoping the devastation will not come in their lifetimes. I prefer to take the advice to act at the personal level and work on the policy makers too.

Boomers, the generation born 1946-64, have been criticized for their wasteful lifestyles. After reading the criticisms, I am pleased to belong to the Silent Generation, born 1925-42, who apparently exhibit much more moderate behaviour. I wish I had asked my father, the second-to-last of 13 children in a remote village, how his family found the money to boost him from the Interbellum Generation (1901-13) to university way ahead of the Boomers. Universities must not have been the rapacious institutions they are today, because I’m pretty sure he did not leave home with the earlier traditional annual sack of oatmeal and I know he lived with international students but he never mentioned having to pay or work.

The later generations start with Generation X (1965-84), who entered an era of mass unemployment under the threat of the Cold War and nuclear annihilation. Generation Y (1982-2004), better known as Millennials, has never known good times but they learned from both the stressful work-life balance of their parents and the technology revolution. Finally, out of the panic of the 9/11 terror attacks comes Generation Zed, the first ‘screenagers.’ To my surprise, they are compared to my Silent Generation as more serious, preferring saving to spending, not very interested in substance abuse, having fewer fights at school and less risky sex.

Whatever cohort everyone comes from, we can all make some effort to learn from the FAO’s dire warning and EAT/Lancet’s briefs. Source, buy, cook and eat healthier. Change what we eat. Learn about alternatives. Eat less industrial meat. Stop over-eating. Vote with every food purchase. Plan ahead. Cook at home. Never throw good food away.

And welcome those serious Gen Zed youngsters, the oldest of them are already 22.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at

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