On Sunday, my good friend Kevin and I attended a terrific and very topical panel discussion in Portland. (The image on the left is the famous “Portlandia” statue on the Portland Building, the venue for the discussion. You can watch her dramatic delivery in 1985 through the streets of Portland and get a size of her gigantic-ness in this video).
The subject of the discussion was: Food and the Climate Challenge: What You Can Do About It. The stellar group of panelists included Scott Givot, President, International Association of Culinary Professionals; Chris Schreiner, Executive Director, Oregon Tilth; Allison Hensey, Oregon Environmental Council; Kumar Venkat, President, CleanMetrics, and Anna Lappé, television host and author.
The 90-minute session was both hopeful and challenging. Overall, the panelists emphasized two main points:
- Our personal food choices matter; and
- Our personal food choices are not in themselves enough to bring about the change necessary to solve the climate crisis. Rather, public policy is the largest factor and it is up to citizens to elect officials who are willing to address the intimate connection between food and climate change.
One of the panelists, Anna Lappé, has just written a new book, Diet for a Hot Planet. As she states in her book,
If we are serious about addressing climate change we have to talk about food.
She makes the case that our food system is likely responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet the connection between food/agriculture and climate change is mainly ignored in the popular press. For instance, Johns Hopkins University reports that of four thousand articles on climate change published in sixteen leading U.S. newspapers, only 1 percent had a “substantial focus” on food and agriculture.
Lappé then discusses Seven Principles of a Climate-Friendly Diet:
- Reach for real food
- Put plants on your plate
- Don’t panic, go organic
- Lean toward local
- Finish your peas…the ice caps are melting
- Send packaging packing
- DIY food
As part of her national book tour, Lappé’s sponsors Eat Well Guide and Meatless Monday have put together a terrific reference list of sustainable restaurants and stores in the cities she will be visiting. You can see a map and get the list of Portland places here and the other cities on her tour here.
Food and climate change is an important topic and I am glad to see it beginning to get the attention it deserves.
Have you considered the connection between climate change and food? Have you changed your eating habits in response to recent changes in our climate? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this important topic.