As I sat under a tent handing out Romaine lettuce seeds on Saturday for 350.org’s ‘International Day of Climate Action,’ a couple of people who stopped by our table – lured no doubt by Whitney’s eye-catching posters on Climate and Food – mentioned Thursday’s New York Times article on Sweden’s innovative take on climate change and food choices. In an attempt to educate consumers on the climate impact of their eating habits, Sweden’s National Food Administration has started labeling foods, found in both grocery stores and restaurants, with the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during their production.
So, I wondered, is this it? Is the word really out on the connection between climate change and food choices? A quick glance at the COP 15 website, home of the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, suggests no. Systems of agricultural production as sources of green house gas emissions will not be a topic of discussion as world leaders meet to carve out a post-Kyoto climate change agreement. Despite recent findings that as much as 50% of annual green house gas emissions come from the keeping of livestock for meat and dairy alone, climate change and food choices will not be on the agenda.
As discouraging as this may be, we need not sit idly by as our leaders gather around large tables and discuss the latest in clean energy. As Sweden experiments with cutting back its emissions by encouraging its people to buy locally sourced low-carbon foods, we can eat mindfully as well, opting for local and organic and cutting back on, or eliminating altogether, meat and dairy. And if you live in New York City, you can go one step further. Why not pick up the phone and call your City Council representative to urge them to co-sponsor the FoodPrint NYC resolution? This initiative is the first of its kind that makes the connection between food choices and climate change, and calls for greater access to fresh, local and healthy foods for all New Yorkers, especially those in low-income housing and city-run institutions. Learn more at www.foodprintusa.org