How Can We Make the Food Industry More Sustainable?
Jan 04, 2021 10:29 AM EST | By Staff Reporter
Society's recent embrace of sustainable living practices is proving to be more than just a passing trend. Perhaps this is because information about the undeniable impact of climate change is becoming more widely available due to advances in international communication and information sharing. Perhaps it is because climate activism has crossed over from a fringe political belief associated with 'hippies' and 'lefties' into a more mainstream space occupied by a far wider range of powerful actors, including typically conservative political parties, massive global corporations and, of course, our beloved actors and musicians. Or perhaps, with unprecedented forest fires in the US and Australia, flooding in South Asia and droughts in East Africa, the tangible danger of global warming can no longer be denied.
The answer lies somewhere between these three patterns.
Various studies have highlighted that the agricultural industry is one of the principal polluting industries in the world, producing a massive chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions each year. Let's face it, food is something we simply cannot live without. So it is a question of reforming the agricultural industry by encouraging green farming rather than replacing it. But this will not be an easy task.
Incentives and Disincentives
Anyone who has come across the basic theory of economics will know about supply and demand. At the minute, the demand for highly energy and water intensive produce like meat and certain exotic fruits like avocados is high, and the market is responding to meet this demand as it grows with sufficient supply. Unfortunately, this is leading to intense deforestation in precious rainforests like the Amazon. And this will only continue unless our politicians act now. They must introduce schemes, both in education and the economy, to disincentivise these polluting products in favour of other, less carbon/water intensive alternatives. Capping imports of such products from countries with a known poor environmental record (such as Brazil) will ensure our supermarket shelves are stacked with goods that have a smaller carbon footprint.
Embrace local produce
Over time, nations from all corners of the world have become increasingly interlinked, trading goods with one another more frequently and on a larger scale than they did a century ago. This process is called globalisation. While globalisation allows us to have all manner of exotic items at our disposal, from pineapples to coffee, this comes at a price to Mother Nature. As well as the aforementioned issues of deforestation to make way for our favourite foods, container ships and planes delivering them to us from across the world is another important cause of global warming. Reducing those food miles is another important change we need to see in the food industry but this partly requires us to buy from our local food producers. Those of us who have the resources to do so should always try and buy homegrown food from local farmers in the supermarket or even the worryingly middle class farmers market to help reduce pollution.
We must switch up old habits and make a conscious effort to help encourage sustainable development in the food industry but we cannot do it through our consumer choices alone. If you care about the environment and how its degradation might affect future generations you must vote for parties who will act meaningfully to save it, even if they are not ideologically aligned with your other beliefs. For there is nothing more important to us than the natural environment that surrounds us.