Food choices reduce stress on planet

Small-scale farming is labour-intensive and maybe that’s just what we need to solve our global problems rather than corporate schemes.

Changing the Global Food Narrative by Jonathan Foley re-frames the story of food as a question of choices.

Conventional wisdom says the world needs more food crops and we must pursue biotechnology to do this.

But if roughly one-third of future food increases will come from population growth and two-thirds from richer diets then clearly there are choices that can dramatically reduce the stress we are placing on the planet.

What are we doing to reduce the 30 per cent to 40 per cent of food wasted globally and to simplify our diets?

In our household of two old people we acquire quite a lot of our food from our garden: potatoes, carrots, leeks, kale, apples, pears, berries.

We get meat and fish from local producers and dairy products from the local store. We eat out now and then but never at fast food places unless you count fish and chips.

We eat sushi (which has been dubbed the 6,000 mile diet) quite often and usually have some home baking around.

So we’re not pure but we’re not wasteful and we’re not tempted by ready-to-eat offerings from stores.

We’re trying to keep our diet simple for the good of the world and future generations as well as our own health.

Why are the choices that will save the world so hard to make? Why has life become so complicated that most people appear either paralysed or defiant about bad choices?

It’s definitely about money. Managing the monetary system has become so complicated that we can’t even rein in the rogues and fools who make decisions about banking and taxation.

But we can’t solve the money problem by everyone getting more of it. And we’ve made a complete mess of taxation by depending on gambling and smoking and drinking to raise revenues.

Money was meant to be a means of exchange, not a commodity. Money is not wealth. Wealth is plants and minerals and labour.

To channel George Carlin without the expletives, if there are too many people then why do economists and the rest of us despise labour-intensive work? Surely if we have an excess of people this is exactly the time to encourage people power instead of power generated from fossil fuels and dams.

I used to admire the Chinese for all they could do without depending on expensive energy sources.

Isn’t it ironic that China became the world’s manufacturing centre and acquired a great deal of money at a time when the world can no longer afford to lay waste the true wealth which is the substance of Earth and the labour of our people?

Foley concludes that instead of ramping up inefficient food systems we’d get a better payoff with “a balanced mix of growing more food (while reducing the environmental impact of agricultural practices) and using the food we already have more effectively.”

Instead of the conventional energy-intensive global food systems that are failing, we need to “make better use of the crops we already grow, making sure they create as much nutritious food as possible.”

Small-scale farming with appropriate technology is labour-intensive and maybe that’s just what we need to solve our global problems rather than corporate schemes to concentrate life-and-death decisions in the hands of fewer and fewer decision-makers whose major accomplishment is collecting money.

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