The climate is changing and “normal” is gone for good. Consumer food choices play a major role, and as individuals, we can make meaningful changes. Current predictions for global food security, including for those of us living in Canada, demonstrate an increase in the cost of food; a less stable and predictable food supply; irreversible damage to land and ecosystems; and a significant decline in the productivity of agricultural land.
These are a sample of many startling points made by Dr. Dianne Saxe at Climate Changes Everything: Food for Thought to over 70 Parry Sound and Muskoka residents on November 21st at the Mary Street Centre in Parry Sound.
The volume of climate research and analysis on everything from ocean temperatures, species extinction and migration, and acidification, to insurance claim rates from weather events is staggering. Dr. Saxe, former Environment Commissioner of Ontario and one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers, highlighted these in the presentation, bringing it all back to what this means for Canadians.
“Food and eating is one thing that we all have in common. There is such an opportunity for us to make positive changes for the planet and ask our decision makers to use climate policy tools to do the same” says Delaina Arnold, volunteer with the Parry Sound & Area Food Collaborative.
A key message of this presentation centres on the power and necessity for action by industry, governments, and individuals. In Ontario, more greenhouse gases are produced by individuals than by industry, by a large margin. This makes every action and consideration for reducing carbon emissions even more important. However, Dr. Saxe stressed that individual action is not nearly enough and that collective problems require collective action. She cited that the job of the government is to price and regulate pollution as well as invest in solutions.
Project Drawdown, a research organization that identifies and analyzes viable solutions to climate change, looked at 100 most cost effective ways to reduce our emissions. Eight of the top 20 solutions relate to everyday food choices. This includes paying close attention to what we eat (e.g. choosing more plant based options), how it is grown and where (e.g. imported tomatoes vs. domestic), and what we throw away. Food waste makes up 1/3 of our landfills and produces a greenhouse gas called methane which is more potent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Dr. Saxe spoke to the importance of recognizing that that food is not garbage. Solutions can be found in each and every household to waste less in general (smarter meal planning and storage options) but also to compost at home to avoid the landfill completely. Even in bear country, composting is a highly recommended practice that can be done safely and effectively.
This event was put on by The Parry Sound & Area Food Collaborative in partnership with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, and the Mary Street Centre. The Food Collaborative is a volunteer group community stakeholders and food champions, working to achieve the vision of a healthy, sustainable food system for the Parry Sound area. A recording of Dr. Saxe’s presentation will be available at www.parrysoundareafood.com.