Stewarding Nature — a vision piece on future food systems for Greenpeace
In October 2020, a colleague from Greenpeace’s EU Climate Ambition and Fossil Free Future Campaign, whom I had worked with earlier in the year, reached out to see if I would be interested in giving a short input on some topics included in GP’s most recent vision paper.
The idea was to platform decolonial speakers to discuss and explore different system change topics in the format of ‘Greenpeace in conversation with X’. I agreed and joined comrades Guppi Bola, Chihiro Geuzebroek, and Tatiana Garavito in sharing our visions for a more sustainable and equitable future. You can watch each of our short videos here. A transcript of my input is below. I hope you enjoy it.
“When I think of how to organize the stewardship of nature, I think of all the ways we must reimagine our global food system. The world has over 50,000 edible plants, but just three of them — rice, maize and wheat — provide 60% of global caloric diets.
We also use a growing percentage of the world’s arable land to produce crops for biofuel or cheap animal feed. This is no coincidence — it is economic design, and it limits our potential for a thriving, biodiverse planet. European Union subsidies distort the global market and are also higher for “environmentally friendly” agricultural practices. So while countries like Germany dump surplus wheat on the international market, stifling the production of local alternatives, the EU essentially greenwashes itself while allowing monoculture crops to be imported for animal feed, contributing to the destruction of vital ecosystems like the Amazon.
Reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (EU CAP) is currently up for debate, but without understanding how it perpetuates global inequalities, it will continue to disadvantage trade partners and avoid the international collaboration we need for a more equitable food system.
Feeding the world while also regenerating land and increasing biodiversity is possible, but it will require global collaboration rather than economic competition. It involves agricultural practices now known as agroecology and permaculture design — techniques many indigenous civilizations have practiced since before colonialism attempted to strip them of such knowledge.
We must remember that forests and other food-producing ecosystems tend to thrive more when communally-managed rather than under any other conservation method, and barring local, indigenous communities from the land they feed themselves from is never the answer. Agricultural land should be seen as a global common, while also supporting local food producers and regional sovereignty.
EU policies need to be reevaluated to ensure they don’t suppress local production in other countries on the one hand, while simultaneously attempting to boost it through international aid on the other. What would our world be like if countries with the most natural resources were the wealthiest? What if regulations ensured the majority of a product’s value — including added value from processing — stayed in the country of origin?
These shifts in global food production will certainly change what is available in Western markets. Are you ready to give up some of the comforts that capitalism and global extractivism provide you? Our diets and consumption patterns will need to shift, and we will need to support one another along the way.
As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, let’s make it an opportunity to come out of the current global economic and health crisis with a renewed commitment to global environmental and social sustainability. If this year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of health, safety and resilient communities. Strengthening our global food system is one major step toward ensuring those things are accessible.
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