Often there wasn’t enough time to chew in Cancun at the UN climate talks: always another panel discussion to attend (or organize), a bus to board, or a person to catch a few minutes with. “Hambre?” asked a billboard festooned with eatery logos in the main outdoor eating area of the Cancunmesse conference center. “Hungry?” Sure, people were, and there was plenty of food around. But climate-friendly, low-carbon, healthy food? The supply was thin. One cafe had a “vegetarian-friendly” sign, but I saw mostly meat-based entrees, some even spit-roasted on site; slightly higher-end fast food (think fried and large portions); and burgers; plus some welcome tofu soup and vegetable curries at an Asian-themed kiosk. There was no scarcity of packaging, including throwaway chopsticks and those nettlesome single use plastic containers. I didn’t see any mention of any of the food for sale being local, organic, or sustainable, or even fairly traded.
The all-you-can-eat beachfront resort hotels where many conference-goers stayed, me among them, were worse. It was like an inversion of the Ancient Mariner’s screed: food, food everywhere (50 dishes for dinner, I’d estimate, only slightly fewer at breakfast), yet so little healthy or sustainable or without animal products to eat. It was also more than slightly surreal. “You’d have thought,” a colleague observes, “that at a climate conference local, organic and healthy food would be readily available, that it would be important to have it.” Agreed. But food–the eating and production of it–isn’t (yet) on the global climate agenda. That’s likely to change. After all, “hombre” also means hunger, and food security and global warming are deeply connected. All-you-can-eat, greenhouse gas intensive buffets, and food courts, may soon become a thing of the past, at climate conferences and elsewhere. I’m sure I’m not alone in hungering for that.