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The Global Food Systems Summits: Restlessness and Resilience

Brighter Green has been participating in the UN Food Systems Summit, taking place today, online, from UN headquarters in New York City. We’ve also been following and supporting “counter Summit” organizing. Here is a blog published on Medium yesterday with our view on the Summits and the crucial systems change needed in the world’s food and agricultural systems, for human communities, non-human animals, and the planet as a whole.

It’s as if the future we worried about, in which Earth grows hotter and our ability to adapt doesn’t keep up the pace, has arrived. We can’t deny it. We know that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions has to be drastically reduced or the consequences we’re seeing will only worsen. Earlier this month, unprecedented rainfall engulfed New York, the city where I live. The transit system was flooded and shut down. Many people’s homes were filled with several feet of water, and a number of people died. Something similar and tragic happened in Zhengzhou, China in July, and floods, heatwaves, or droughts have become an unjust, recurring reality for millions of people across the global South.

About one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from the world’s food and agricultural systems. And these emissions are rising. A major reason is that the world is producing and consuming more meat and dairy products. The U.S., Brazil, China, and members of the European Union are the biggest livestock-producing countries. Many parts of the world are leaving behind the plant-forward ways of eating and rushing toward beef, chicken, cheese, and pork, sometimes three times a day. How much of this, I wonder, is people’s actual desire or the result of the massive marketing of meat and U.S.-style fast food, along with big agricultural corporations looking for new profit centers?

We’ve seen “big meat” and “big dairy” try to shape the narrative, and actions, that will emerge from the first UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) taking place (all virtually) on September 23rd. They continue to claim that more intensive, industrial production is needed to “feed the world”, even as corporate consolidation in the agricultural sector accelerates, and documentation of the astonishing damage this causes mounts.

The Global People’s Summit on Food Systems is also taking place this week to challenge some of the processes and outcomes of the UNFSS, while also offering visions and examples of just, sustainable, equitable ways of farming and eating. It’s re-imaging, top to bottom, the realities of the seriously broken (and frankly bizarre) global food system. (For context/disclosure, I had a formal role in the UNFSS, as deputy co-lead of workstream one on “food environments”, which was part of Action Track 2 on sustainable consumption. Some good work emerged from this process, although the transparency around who was involved and why wasn’t adequate. I and Brighter Green also supported the Global People’s Summit process and joined some of the sessions.)

A new edition of the Meat Atlas, co-published by Friends of the Earth, found something astonishing. Just 20 meat and dairy corporations emit more greenhouse gas emissions than Germany or the UK do. Food production is also one of the main drivers of the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems — forests, grasslands, and marine environments. And agribusinesses all too often capture the water, land, and climate “space” of independent producers and rural communities, threaten or violate their rights, and then gobble up government resources through billions of dollars in public subsidies.

It isn’t right and it isn’t sustainable, and it poses huge risks for the climate, as well as human rights, food sovereignty, animal welfare and rights, public health, and biodiversity. Scientists, farmers, and activists are warning that we can’t meet the Paris climate agreement’s goals if we don’t cut emissions from food systems, and especially animal agriculture. (more…)

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Recent News

Engaging Academics to Counter the Growth of Factory Farming in Africa


There is overwhelming consensus between environmental scientists, climate-conscious policymakers, and animal rights and welfare NGOs that the scale of our current food system is unsustainable and detrimental to the climate, biodiversity, and farmed animal welfare. Africa has a fast-growing livestock industry that is relying more heavily on the factory farming model as the African population quickly expands. Yet, limited research has been conducted on the impacts of factory farming in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

To address this issue, Brighter Green applied for and received a Fueling Advocates Initiative (FAI) grant from the Tiny Beam Fund. (For further information on this project, including the final report and notes from the May 20th, 2021 webinar, please visit brightergreen.org/africaff.) The FAI grant supports non-profit organizations addressing the negative impacts associated with global industrial animal agriculture, especially concerning low- and middle-income countries. The grant also has a focus on academic research as an important driver for change. With the crucial support of this grant, Brighter Green engaged academics, researchers, and local activists in dialogues to build an evidence-based case against the growth of the industrial livestock model in several sub-Saharan African countries. Brighter Green prioritized the voices of African academics and researchers to assure that their perspectives drive discourse and a forward-looking research agenda.

The project was led by Judy Bankman, Brighter Green Project Manager, based in the United States, and Judy Muriithi, Researcher, based in Kenya. The program kicked off with the 4th Annual Africa Animal Welfare Conference hosted by the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in September 2020. This was a fruitful opportunity to engage academics, advocates, and organizations interested in animal welfare, climate change, and sustainable agricultural practices. Judy Muriithi spoke on a panel hosted by Brighter Green Executive Director, Mia MacDonald, which focused on policy, innovation, research, and developing solutions to counter the growth of factory farming. 

The first phase of this project involved conducting a literature review of existing research on the growth of factory farming in sub-Saharan Africa, reaching out to 40+ academics who provided resources and further contacts, and interviewing 12 experts. We found great interest in the topic by academics, many of whom work in diverse fields. Though we found limited academic research specifically on the impact of factory farming in Africa, we did encounter extensive adjacent research on related issues. These include the effectiveness of methods that may be considered alternatives to factory farming, such as organic agriculture and traditional or pastoral farming, and the use of livestock for poverty reduction and wealth creation.

For the second phase of this project, Brighter Green hosted a two-panel webinar on May 20th, 2021 in partnership with the University of the Western Cape of South Africa. We brought together academics, researchers, and advocates in a dialogue to discuss the impacts of factory farming on livelihoods and animal welfare.

Our research and discussions with panelists confirmed the multifold detrimental impacts of factory farming on animal welfare, the environment, and food security. We were pleased to encounter the high level of interest in this topic among researchers, and especially the critical, intersectional approach to this topic through University of Western Cape scholars.

Two major take-aways of this project were 1) centering African culture, traditional methods, landscape, and climate in order to combat factory farming and create solutions and alternatives is essential, and 2) a global perspective is needed in conjunction with an African-centric approach. This means it is necessary to connect Africas NGOs, policymakers, and academics with a global movement for animal welfare and the environment.

Another major outcome of this project has been the connections we facilitated across disciplines. This project brought together veterinarians, lawyers, academics, and advocates, some of whom were already connected, but many of whom engaged for the first time on a topic of shared interest and importance.

The FAI grant gave Brighter Green the opportunity to center academic research and perspectives in order to inform important advocacy work challenging factory farming, and has provided a foundation for future work on this topic.

To access the final report and notes from the May 20th, 2021 webinar, please visit brightergreen.org/africaff.

September 2, 2021
Celebrating African Women’s Day with Joy Kakenya Barta

In celebration of Africa’s Women’s Day on July 31st, we’re releasing a video with Joy Kakenya Barta, a participant of Brighter Green’s East African Young Women’s Leadership Initiative. Joy speaks about becoming a leader in her community as an advocate for gender equality and environmentalism. She relates her upbringing and involvement with social justice as a youth, and considers how her community projects have helped her define “leadership.” She also describes the experiences with gender inequality that led her to become a mentor for other young women and girls.

Joy is one of five young Maasai women who participated in the program, which is a joint project of Brighter Green and Tribal Link, in partnership with three indigenous non-governmental organizations: Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organization (PAICODEO) in Tanzania, Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO), and the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) in Kenya. Wangari Maathai inspired the program’s creation.

Feel free to share and repost.

July 30, 2021
Brighter Green Joins Work of “Animal Cluster” for the Annual SDG Review

 Friday, July 16th, 13, marked the end of this year’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The annual forum presents an opportunity to review the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Now in its ninth year, the theme of HLPF 2021 was “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.Brighter Green is part of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster (AITC), which works to get animal issues on the SDG agenda. Kwolanne Felix, a Columbia University Navab Fellow with Brighter Green, worked on a virtual exhibit for the HLPF that’s available for viewing here. The exhibit was paired with a July 13th side event entitled, “Harnessing the linkages between human, animal and environmental health and well-being to effectively combat biodiversity loss, prevent future pandemics and achieve sustainable development.” The event, which can be streamed here, featured a panel discussion with several Brighter Green allies, including Philip Lymbery from Compassion in World Farming and Pei Su from ActAsia.

July 19, 2021

A Global Dialogue Across Borders: Best practices – and bold visions – for ensuring sustainable, climate friendly food is equitable and accessible, and the essential role of international cooperation and youth activism in bringing this about

Food and agricultural systems have an enormous impact on human lives, especially in vulnerable communities, the lives of other animals, and the ecosystems and climate on which all species depend.
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Recent Events

Joint Side Event at UNEA-4 in Nairobi, Kenya

The fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) is taking place from March 11-15, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. Learn More

March 6, 2019
Brighter Green at COP24

Brighter Green will be at this year’s Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24 for short). It’s taking place from December 3-14, 2018 in Katowice, Poland. Learn More

December 4, 2018
Affiliate Event – Global Climate Action Summit

Brighter Green will be at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco from September 12-14th. Beforehand, on the 11th, we will be hosting an Affiliate Event. Learn More

September 5, 2018

Our Mission

Brighter Green is a public policy action tank that works to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals, and sustainability. Based in New York, Brighter Green works in the U.S. and internationally with a focus on the countries of the global South and a strong commitment to ensuring and expanding equity and rights.

On its own and in partnership with other organizations and individuals, Brighter Green generates and incubates research and project initiatives that are both visionary and practical. It produces publications, websites, documentary films, and programs to illuminate public debate among policy-makers, activists, communities, influential leaders, and the media, with the goal of social transformation at local and international levels.

The Asia Program

Linking activists and organizations from across Asia and other parts of the world, the Asia Program focuses on the development of sustainable food systems through knowledge exchange and public education. Our work focuses on China, but we are expanding to countries across the continent. We have produced documentaries, published policy papers, organized speaking tours, and hosted conferences to foster critical, collaborative engagement on climate change and food systems across Asia.

Global Factory Farming

Intensive animal agriculture constitutes one of the greatest contributors to climate change. In an effort to expand awareness of the negative effects of factory farming, Brighter Green has produced policy papers, briefs, and short documentary videos that examine the globalization of factory farming through the lens of climate change, with a focus on the Global South.

International Climate Advocacy

Brighter Green collaborates with organizations from all over the world to bring attention to climate change and sustainable development. Through our International Climate Advocacy program, we empower individuals and groups to work together to resist deforestation, cope with erratic rainfall, and foster adaptation and resilience to climate change by creating paths to sustainable development.

Vegan America Project

Combining writing, presentation, and research, the Vegan America Project uses veganism as a lens through which to examine complex issues related to climate change. This project focuses on food security, animal welfare, and social transformation, and considers how the United States might reimagine food systems in the Anthropocene.