How Do We Change People (our friends!) for Sustainability?


Feeding a Hungry Planet — Part II

Barton Seaver, Thursday’s speaker, focused on hunger, health, and the environment from a marine perspective.  Seaver has varied experiences and leadership roles.  Currently, he is the Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at Harvard.   He is the author of several cookbooks in which he tells stories through case studies along with recipes and photographs.  He has been the owner and chief chef of upscale and casual seafood restaurants, and he hosts the Cook-Wise web series where he “explores sustainability, community and environmental concerns as they relate to dinner.”

His emphasis echoed Monday’s – the middle class worldwide is increasing and demanding higher-end seafood which they now can afford.  The downside is these better, tastier, more exotic foods are being taken away from their countries of origin which need that food for their own population.

Our problem is to decide the future of our food supply – will we work toward abundance or sustainability?  Organics and recycling continue to be important to our future.  Our recycling has increased exponentially.  He said, “We have forgotten the purpose of refusing to buy something that has to be recycled.  We use them to justify our behaviors.”  This received applause.

He asked, “What are we trying to sustain?”  We are relying on oceans for our protein.  One in ten people worldwide are directly employed by fishing.  Most fish are globally traded.  More fish are farmed than beef.  The demand will triple by 2025.  This threatens to topple our ecological system.  Doctors say to eat more seafood.   He says, “Now is the time to restore the oceans.  We manage human behavior, not the oceans.

95% of our fish consumption is only ten species.  The greatest are – shrimp, tuna, salmon.  We import over 90% of our fish.  We are eating other peoples’ dinner.  For six shrimp, we waste more in overcatch.  We need to eat smartly from the ocean.  We need to eat more vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts.

Focus on how humans affect eco-systems in a story of destruction and decay.  Acting in self-interest, our ruin will solidify our guilt.  Our choices brought sickness and disease to us.  We fail to acknowledge how we are affected by them.  We are trying to sustain ourselves.

Here are significant issues:
·      We have unprecedented diabetes and obesity.  The first generation in history that will have the next generation living shorter lives!
·      Our food supply issue is much bigger than an environmental mental problem.  It is a civilization problem – like will we have one?  We have to stop talking about environment, but about health and food.  How can we sustain the planet we live on?
·      We have plenty of food but 8-9 million can’t get it.  We are going to have 2 billion more people.  4 billion are getting richer.  Now there is a global middle.  4 billion are getting rich by the world’s standards.  They change their diets – more meat and dairy and richer foods.
·      We will need twice as much food by 2050.

3 rules we can follow today:
1.    Eat domestically farmed seafood.  Set an example globally.  Sustain the fishermen.
2.    Eat lower on the food chain – clams, oysters, sardines, mussels, heron – its cheap, more delicious, and healthier.
3.    Go to Wegman’s and buy all the farm raised oysters you can and a 6-pack of beer.  You can’t eat too many oysters.
“Eat together and eat with joy.”

My take-away from this lecture is in the form of a quandary:  how can we alter the behavior of the affluent population to stop buying imported, delicious seafood in favor of eating lower on the food chain?  That is more difficult than teaching the art of recycling!

The final lecturer of the week was Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and soon to become the Presidential Chair of Global Environment and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

The food supply problem is multi-dimensional. About 1 billion people today are malnourished, and that number is not diminishing. His May article in National Geographic, “A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World,” outlines suggestions for feeding the 2050 population of 9 billion. The solution requires collaboration and finding common ground. There is no “silver bullet.”


About 9awalsh

A genealogist and writer who has uncovered legacy stories which must be told. I also write a blog, Deciphering Life, trying to figure out why life becomes so tangled --
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