Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Climate and Food

Climate change has certainly been the hot topic at the Club. Just in the past few months, we’ve talked about the Copenhagen summit, weather modification, the greening of the American military and whether your spiritual beliefs coexist with environmentalism. And most recently, the Club featured speakers dedicated to combat climate change by spreading the word on how people can contribute by paying attention to one simple thing: the food we eat.

There’s an unsettling connection between food production and global warming, say mother-daughter team Frances and Anna Lappe, who visited the Club last night. The Lappes, founders of the Small Planet Institute and authors of books dedicated to ecological eating, having been working for decades to spread the gospel of mindful eating, starting with Frances’ 1971 Diet for A Small Planet. Now, updating for the buzz on climate change, Anna has written Diet for a Hot Planet. Both contend that livestock contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined, food shipped across countries and oceans creates significant waste and pollution, and let’s not even get started about all that government subsidized corn.

“If we are serious about the crisis, we’ve got to talk about food,” says Anna, who also has a web site called Take a Bite out of Climate Change that provides up-to-date information and analysis to help understand the connection between industrial food and the climate crisis.

Knowing our food source is almost second nature in the Bay Area, where locavorism – albeit trendy – has started a nationwide shift toward eating food that supports growers in your region, promotes sustainable practices and has become a hallmark of California cuisine. While name-dropping specific farms now has an edge to it that may come off as good old-fashioned San Francisco smugness, that attitude is for a good cause and can work anywhere there is a farmer’s market and local support.

“You don’t have to be a climate scientist to be convinced that the climate crisis is real,” writes Anna on her web site. “All it takes sometimes is just looking out your window.”

Finding information on how to minimize your impact with the food you eat has been made easy in San Francisco, thanks to the efforts of many local farms. The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the manager of the famed Ferry Plaza Marketplace, states that a food system is the inter-relationship of agricultural systems; their economic, social, cultural, and technological support systems; and systems of food distribution and consumption. The center offers workshops and hosts a wealth of information on how to contribute to sustainable methods.

And, to make last night a climate-change two-fer at The Commonwealth Club, in a separate program U.S. Department of Energy consultant Cleo Paskal discussed the security threats brought on by unstable or catastrophic environmental conditions tonight.

--By Heather Mack

For more environmental events, visit our web site here or here. If all this talk about food has just made you hungry, then this is the page you want to visit.


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