What Does Food Sovereignty Have to do with Climate Change?

What does Food Sovereignty have to do with Climate Change?

Industrial Agriculture, Climate Change and the Necessity for Food Sovereignty

By Jessie
Rising Tide North America

Before we let the energy companies colonize our agricultural land touting questionably climate friendly solutions like agrofuels, lets look a little at some of the deep seeded issues within our current food system that are not only perpetuating climate change but will be impacted and taxed greatly as the climate changes.

Our current food system relies heavily on fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides, gas guzzling farm machinery, and transporting farm inputs and products over long distances. The average food item bought at a supermarket has traveled on average over 1,500 miles. The modern agricultural system is completely unsustainable as the climate continues to change due to the excessive burning of fossil fuels by humans.

No one knows exactly what will happen as climate change takes shape, but we can predict that climate change will have an affect on how, what, and where we grow food. Many areas will be plagued by drought or floods or both and the acreage of the earth suitable for agriculture will shift, perhaps dramatically.

Industrial agricultural is reliant on very few crops with very little genetic diversity within each crop such as corn, wheat, rice and soybeans. Industrial agriculture also relies on infrastructure that is completely reliant on fossil fuels to transport food from farms, processing plants, supermarkets, and eaters.

One of the simplest things we all can do to reduce our own contribution to climate change and to prepare for the impending climatic changes yet to come is to eat local food. Saving heirloom seeds and diverse varieties of crops will prepare us for growing food in different conditions. One of the reasons that caused the Irish potato famine in the 18th century was growing only one type of potato. There are thousands of varieties of potatoes that have been developed over centuries to withstand different kinds of blights as well as different growing conditions from droughts to flood.

We must also lower the amount of energy we use in preparing and refrigerating our food as 31% of the energy used in the food system is from home refrigeration and cooking. Going back to our roots, literally with learning about how to preserve our food in root cellars and other forms of non-electric food storage such as drying, canning, salting, and fermenting will help us transition to a sustainable food system that will be less vulnerable to changes in climate and global food supply and transport.

We can no longer rely on super highways, airplanes and ocean-liners to bring food to us. We need to grow food in our communities and support small local farmers growing food sustainably. We need to build up our topsoil by using sustainable agricultural practices and composting biomass and food waste. Improving the quality of our soil will help us grow food for generations to come.

Given the severity of climate change we must ask ourselves what is an appropriate response to climate change? In terms of climate change and how we feed ourselves the appropriate response is a complete overhaul of our food system from a centralized fossil-fuel dependent framework to a decentralized local food system where there are many people growing a wide variety of food everywhere, spanning urban and rural areas.

How do we do this??
Currently our food system is controlled by agri-biz giants such as Monsanto and Cargill whose aim is to control all aspects of our food system. Fortunately, this corporate power is countered by a growing resistance of grassroots groups that is emerging as a world-wide social movement demanding food sovereignty. The term “food sovereignty” was coined by the international peasant movement Via Campesina in the mid 1990s to assert the right for people to determine their own food and agricultural policies. This includes the right to grow food, access to land, natural resources, biological diversity and access to local markets. No one should be able to own the air, water or biological diversity of the planet. It is our life support system and it belongs to all life on earth, present and future!!!

Demanding food sovereignty means that we must challenge the large agribusiness who control our food supply. In the shadow if impending climatic doom we must take our food system and agricultural lands back from the grain cartels like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, the seed snatchers like Monsanto and Delta-Pineland, the processed food gluttons like Coca-cola, Kraft and Unilever and the bottle-neck control of retailers like, WalMart and other supermarket chains.

We need more action in solidarity with the global movement for food sovereignty. This can take shape in international days of action, as well as other strategic actions consisting of a wide variety of direct actions, civil disobedience, creative street theater, workshops, education, banner hangs and much more!

So what does food sovereignty looks like??
Food Sovereignty looks different everywhere. Solutions come from indigenous knowledge of how to live and grow food sustainably in a particular bioregion as so many communities have been doing for thousands of years. It looks like seed saving and preserving food for the winter in a variety of ways that are culturally and locally appropriate. It looks like farmer’s markets, farm stands, and direct farmer to eater transactions. It looks like urban gardens and community supported agriculture programs. It’s linking urban and rural communities and it’s shortening the distance of production and consumption.

There are some very challenging obstacles that we need to overcome to actualize food sovereignty. We need more farmers, and more support for new farmers. We need access to more farmland.

Responding to climate change means reacquainting our diet with the seasons, delving into the rich agricultural history that exists everywhere and celebrating the cornucopia of food grown where you are. Every time we bypass the supermarket and shop instead at the farmer’s market, road-side farm-stand or pick up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box we are helping to build a stronger local food economy that is preparing and responding to the burgeoning threat of climate change and we are also connecting to the global movement for food sovereignty. And even better is when we begin to grow our own food and share the surplus with our family, friends, and community.

For more information email jessie@risingtidenorthamerica.org

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