The internationally renowned expert on food systems also told me that when it comes to climate change the burden of responsibility very much lies at the doors of the countries that created the mess. Which means nations, like the G20 countries, that have caused 80% of emissions, are the ones Anna wants to see step up.
My mother and I like to say, we’re not optimists, we’re not pessimists, we’re possibilists.
“Zooming out, we know that the crises we face crosses borders. Greenhouse gas emissions that we emit here in the US affect the world and unfortunately the people who have had the least impact on climate, who have emitted the least greenhouse gas emissions are now being affected the most,” she said. “So the onus of responsibility should be disproportionately on the shoulders of countries like the United States that have had such a big impact.”
A James Beard Leadership Award winner, Anna Lappé is the author of Diet for a Hot Planet and contributing editor to her mother’s, Frances Moore Lappé’s recently released 50th anniversary edition of Diet for a Small Planet – an iconic book Frances spoke to me about on the show last month.
Anna is also the founder and co-founder of three national organisations, including the Small Planet Institute and Real Food Media. And as a funder, has led the grantmaking of the Small Planet Fund for two decades and created and directs the Food Sovereignty Fund of the Panta Rhea Foundation. Throughout, her work shines a light on the many injustices endemic within food systems, including run away pesticide use, while also advocating for the sustainable solutions that can remedy them.
“We have seen an astronomical increase in pesticide use over the past several decades,” she said. “It has been devastating to people, to ecosystems. There was a study that came out last year which, for the first time in 30 years, actually estimated how many people, farmers and farm workers are impacted by pesticides every year. They found that, staggeringly, 44% of all farmers and farm workers in the world have at least one incident of an acute pesticide poisoning experience every year.”
Anna says people see the problems and understand that ‘we need to function as a planet to meet climate targets’ but that that awareness and energy must now be directed towards creating seismic shifts in the food systems responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions and one in 10 of the global population going hungry.
She said: “If we miss the food systems opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; if we just let our industrial food system continue on the course it is on, which is deepening the emissions related to it; if we do nothing about food; if we don’t shift and transform how we grow food, what we’re growing and where we’re growing it – even if we got everything right in every other sector, even if every one of us had solar panels on our homes, and we stop fracking and we stop drilling for new oil; even if we got everything else right, we would still blow our carbon emissions.”
Get it right though, and this possibilist believes a better world will follow.
She added: “We know that we now need to work collectively in order to address the root causes of hunger and to finally end hunger in a world that produces plenty of calories for everyone.”
There is no escaping the magnitude of the food challenge, but as the recent UN Food Systems Summit showed, and changemakers like Anna elucidate, transforming broken food systems is the only way ahead, and I am delighted to have such a great guest on today to point the way.