We’ve all heard that the one thing we should all do (besides switch to energy-efficient lightbulbs) to fight climate change is fly less. What if that wasn’t true? What if what we really need to do is just eat less — or better? Sounds simple, right?
In her new book, Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna Lappé does a fantastic job of showing the disturbing connection between food and climate change, and follows by laying out a vision for a future of sustainable food production that will not only feed the entire planet, but cool it as well. Through careful research she is able to track a third of our carbon emissions back to our current agricultural system! (Seems it’s about time we tackle the issue.)
Lappé is extremely knowledgeable about the global food system and its challenges as well as solutions. Visiting farmers who are doing everything right — healing the earth while making a profit —and telling their stories, she truly makes me believe that it is possible to turn this ship around. There is tremendous potential, we just have to (convince lawmakers to) set in place infrastructure that will facilitate climate-friendly farming. She also offers six principles we can all follow for a climate friendly diet.
First, though, she tells the story of the current food system. It’s not pretty. Like many other problems in this country, we can blame this one largely on big businesses and the lobbyists that accompany them. Misguided subsidies do more harm than good by preserving the status quo of an agricultural system that was built on unlimited and never-ending access to cheap oil. We now know that is not the case, non-renewable resources are very much finite, and cause untold harm to us and the environment. It’s time for us to change and adapt. Lappé also teaches us how to distinguish corporate spin from genuine effort, a very important skill set to possess in this age of greenwashing.
So how can we engage and empower people on these issues? In an interview with Civil Eats‘ Paula Crossfield, Lappé says:
“I think this question of what we can do, it really is about each of us tapping into what gets us most excited. When it comes to changing the food system, what is particularly exciting is that there are so many different entry points. Food is a public health issue, food is a family health issue. As a new mom, when I think about food that is good for the climate I also know that its food that is going to be good for my daughter. Food is also a social issue, its a human rights issue, and people can get engaged with it that way, asking the question why is it that certain communities in this country have no ability to access food that is both good for the climate and good for their bodies? I think that what is exciting to see is that as there has been essentially a stalemate on the international level in terms of binding agreements about how to reduce emissions and how to turn around the climate crisis, what we are seeing is communities and cities stepping up to take real leadership and say, look, we’re not going to wait for something to come down to us from the international level. What can we do right here, right now, in our own communities?”
Lappé’s mother, Frances Moore Lappé, was one of the catalysts of the modern food justice movement and her book Diet for a Small Planet questioned our dependence on resource-intensive meat production and offered alternative solutions and delicious recipes to help us change that course. First published in 1971, the book has sold three million copies worldwide. Together, they wrote Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, a follow-up to Diet for a Small Planet where the Lappés travel across the continents to find the answers to how we can transcend rampant consumerism and capitalism and find paths that each of us can follow to heal our lives as well as the planet. In 2001, they also founded the Small Planet Institute, a non-profit dedicated to furthering the notion of what they refer to as “living democracy.”
Anyone who is interested in sustainability, or the course of their own future for that matter, needs to read this book. Food issues have been neglected in the climate change discussion for too long, and are now stepping into the spotlight, in part thanks to Anna Lappé.