Understanding the interconnectedness of our food systems on a holistic level is the most important step in recognizing and attacking the shortcomings of the system. An important skill that I’ve taken away from the Sprint is the ability to better articulate this concept of holism in these complex networks.
A fundamental issue of our modern-day food systems is that it isn’t entirely modern; it is largely built on antiquated structures that present obstacles in the path towards a more sustainable and fair global food system. For example, we may choose to look at agriculture in the UK as one node in the global food network. Although British technology that addresses ecological issues such as unchecked water and energy use on farms may be advancing, the effects of its implementation may be restricted via a different node, perhaps at the cultural or political level, which creates inertia, or resistance to change, in the system as a whole. In this way, it is not a chain reaction of events that challenge our food systems, but a series of actions at various levels that accumulate, giving rise to certain outcomes.
Here lies my call to action for individuals hoping to combat the failures of our current food systems. It may be tempting to defer to the top-down approaches such as technology or policy, over which we have little or no control. However, we must not disregard the effect of small, cumulative actions at the individual level that form the foundation of what we call “progress”. Minimizing food waste in the home, supporting ethical food industries, expanding knowledge of nutrition, and combatting disproportionate effects on minorities are just a few examples of micro-level actions entirely within our reach. It is my hope that with this big-picture thinking we may recognize that both these micro and macro level actions are part of parcel of an effective, long-term shift towards more sustainable food systems.”
And here are some examples of how people can learn more!
- Books: I highly recommend “The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World” by Amanda Little, to bridge the gap of understanding between climate change, anthropology, and our global food systems. Other books to build deeper understanding include “Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World” by Carolyn Steel and “A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism” by Eric Holt Giménez.
- Talks: Amanda Little also recently gave a remote TedTalk entitled “Climate change is becoming a problem you can taste” where she expands on the intersectionality of COVID and food networks.
- Podcasts: I recommend the Food Systems Podcast delivered by The Forum for the Future of Agriculture for short, stimulating pieces on various aspects of food systems.
- Courses: Coursera offers a range of courses related to food systems, nutrition, and policy. For an interdisciplinary overview, check out Johns Hopkins‘ course “Systems Science & Obesity“.