Bookmarks–November 6, 2021

The focus of this week’s bookmarks–coinciding with COP26–is environment and sustainability in food systems and agriculture. Links this week include: an evaluation of COP26 discussions on agriculture, a rethink on the avocado, the dangers of methane, the problem with growing water-intensive nut trees, and why the world needs to listen to Indigenous peoples.

Slow food: COP26 addresses agriculture but focuses on false solutions

Slow Food presents their assessment of the “Nature and Land Use” session of COP26. According to this organization, it is more of the same when it comes to food systems and agriculture, and that means more monoculture, industrial farming, and “techno-fixes”.

We are witnessing the recycling of an old model, which keeps considering food as a series of commodities to be produced on a large scale, with monocultures assisted by futuristic technologies that will make farmers increasingly dependent on large multinational companies and their patents. To shift our global economy to a low carbon model, authorities want to continue following the corporate narrative of high tech, centralised industrialised farming and fake meat.” Slow Food

End of the avocado: why chefs are ditching the unsustainable fruit

I’ve been reading Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman and it makes a large-scale argument the same as the one being made here: we need to be more aware of where our food comes from and its impact on the people growing it and the environment. (Bittman’s book does more than that, but the unsustainability of modern agriculture is one of its central points.) I love a good guacamole, but I would love to try Wahacamole. Fava beans as base? Why not?

Wahaca’s decision to offer an alternative to guacamole is perhaps the clearest indication to date that ‘parts of the food industry are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the issues we face as a result of intensive farming’, says Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City, University of London. Avocados have become a ‘global commodity crop’, he says, the perfect example of what happens when ‘an exotic food becomes normalised with no thinking through of the consequences’. Problems including deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water shortages mean that ‘the communities growing them do not have enough water for washing and hygiene’, adds Lang.” The Guardian

It’s time to freak out about methane

The subject of methane also came up briefly in Animal, Vegetable, Junk. This article discusses the role of methane in climate change, the challenge of identifying the sources, and the need to convince industries to take action. Among the sources mentioned here: agriculture and food waste.

Methane is rising, and there’s plenty we don’t know about it. Even if we pinpointed the worst offenders in oil and gas, its other sources would still require sweeping societal change, like a reduction in the number of cows raised for food. (There’s been some experimentation with feed for cattle to reduce methane, or more wackily, fart-collecting backpacks for cows)...Food waste, which releases methane as it decomposes, is a problem too. Across the world, the richest economies are throwing out half their food. Landfills may be able to capture some of the methane, but that too is an energy-intensive process.” Vox

It’s just nuts: Big Almond and Pistachio will likely make a killing despite the epic drought

Another article that talks about the dangers of “big” agriculture. In this case, it is “Big Nut,” which is centred in California and is looking at record harvests despite a drought.

Big Nut managed largely to escape the impact of the drought, passing its burdens on to the people who make the San Joaquin Valley their home. But something will ultimately have to give. The rapid advance of climate change means that the robust annual snowpack the industry has banked on for decades is probably gone forever. Those aquifers, meanwhile, are a fast–disappearing resource.” Mother Jones

‘Nature is not a commodity’: Can the world learn from indigenous peoples’ food systems, before they are lost?

I’ve shared articles before about valuing and listening to the perspectives and practices of Indigenous peoples when it comes to land stewardship and agriculture. The article below is another; its focus is Indigenous traditions of nurture and regeneration. 

While indigenous people account for just 5% of the global population and occupy less than a quarter of the world’s surface area, their territories are home to about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, according to the World Bank…In contrast, modern food practices are responsible for almost 60% of global biodiversity loss.” CNN

Book image: 141398627 © EnkaParmur |

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