A crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in: Transforming our global food system-February 2019


By Clive Lindley-Jones | January 29, 2019 12:40 pm

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
there is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

In my last blog of 2018 I mentioned, in passing, the little thing about, “the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world” that will happen if we do not change so many things in the way we live.

Acknowledging that was a rather dark, depressing, if true, message to end the year on. I promised some good sustainable things, not only for our world, our health, vitality, cities, wilderness, conscience and longevity. So here we are going to focus mainly on some light at the end of our dark tunnel.

If we can but see it, what appears to be totally grim news, and it has to be admitted often is grim in the short term, some good can come out of periods of great disruption, if we can learn and adapt swiftly enough.

We can only hope that rather than digging our imminent demise we are starting to rapidly learn from all our previous mistakes and many unsung heroes are busy, behind the invariably depressing headlines, building a new and sustainable world.

As Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation & Climate (I like the thinking behind the job title) mentioned in her speech last year at the EAT Forum in Stockholm that 60% of the biomass of mammals on this earth was made up of domestic animals, 36% was us humans, but a tiny 4% was now made up from wild animals. These kind of facts should help to remind us of the drastic and unsustainable damage we are making to spaceship earth, where we are not passengers but crew.

At present, globally, we dump the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic waste into the oceans per minute, rather than care for our oceans as part of a sustainable food system.

We all know of the challenges of fossil fuel energy, but how are we going to feed the forecasted expansion to a total 10 billion future inhabitants forecast over the next thirty years for spaceship earth? Are we yet wise enough to take precautionary measures while we can?

So where is the good news in all this you ask?

Well, as a recent tweet said;

“We know enough to make food how it is supposed to be; nurturing, uniting and simply better – for everything. The #eatlancet states it is possible in theory. And together we can make it a reality.” @G_stordalen #EATLancet #foodcanfixit  7:08 am – 17 Jan 2019

For too long there were no authoritative, internationally respected, science-based, guidelines for both health and sustainability. The great news is that now the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health is taking on this challenge. 

Now they are presenting a global planetary health diet that is healthy for both people and planet.

As they say; “Globally, the planetary health diet favours increasing the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy. In parts of the world, this diet involves increasing the access to certain food groups while in other areas, the diet requires a significant reduction in the overconsumption of unhealthier foods”.

They go on to point out that shifting from unhealthy and unsustainable diets to the planetary health diet can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition towards a sustainable global food system in the next thirty years that ensures healthy food for all, within planetary boundaries.

So next time you cook a meal or shop for food, remember this is a highly political act. Feeding all of us potential 10 billion crew on planet earth is possible says the research…on the condition that we transform our food system.

So whatever your present diet, everybody can make a difference by adopting healthier and more plant-based diets, supporting businesses with sustainable practices, and demanding clear and strong environmental and health regulation from policymakers. The greatest challenge is not agriculture, significant though that may be, but behavioural change and the wise and equitable politics to successfully drive it. I know, not project fear… what we need is project hope!

Remember, your new planetary reframe. Smile as you cook supper, you are not just stuck in the kitchen, rather every day with the right purchases, actions, and choices; you are changing the world, one meal at a time!

1 Comment

  1. Nigel Boyle on June 20, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    There is a lot of confusion in the media where people refer to Global Warming, Climate Change, Global Cooling etc which is all about the world climate, little of which man can do to change as it is been evolving, hot and cold, high and low CO2 without man for millennia.

    The confusion is when you have environmentalists that are talking about sustainability, not the climate, yet they have the two merged in their mind.

    The climate will change (many true climate scientists are now proving we are going into a cooling period, glaciers in Greenland and Pakistan are expanding rapidly for example) but what man is doing wrong is stripping the world of its resources both food and energy.

    Oil will never be made again, it was the climate crushing trees and piling mountains on top that created it, there is talk that this was when the magnetic north and south swapped over, extinguishing most life at the time (worryingly magnetic north is moving east as a fair rate at this moment!) So we are going for electric vehicles rather than ICE propulsion. Is this the answers? Two challenges – Firstly the Lithium and Cobalt needed for the batteries and secondly the volume of electricity needed. Solar panels on rooves with battery storage will solve the later, assuming the sun has enough heat as the current cooling is because of a lack of sun spots – flares that pump heat towards the earth. The first? Well both the chemicals are limited in supply and hard to mine, there is not enough to replace all vehicles. Perhaps Hydrogen will come to the fore as it come from the air and exhausts pure water – simple to say, but…..

    Food – Man always has eaten meat, however the West eats too much whilst the developing nations are catching up fast. Fish and Chicken have the lowest FCR (Food Conversation Radio – Kgs of animal feed eaten versus kgs of meat produced) and beef the worst. Plants are not the sole solution for sustainability – there is a company in the USA making mayonnaise from plants, however to replace all the Hellman’s in the world would use all of South America covered in the plants!

    As every in life a compromise is probably the answer less high FCR meats and more plants.

    Thank you Clive. a good thought provoking blog.