Food: It’s literally and figuratively on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Concern about food sustainability has exploded over the past 10 years, as we come to understand better the impact that food systems have on the planet. We are devastated by the scale of the extinction crisis and grieve that loss of diversity, but we also understand that by undermining the planet’s ecological systems we undermine the life-giving services that our planet provides for free and which allow us to drink and eat and prosper. We are feeling the effects of climate already, with seas rising, floods, droughts, wildfires burning and storms intensifying. We are also, rightly, concerned about how we will feed the 10 billion humans expected to be alive in 2050, when still today, even though real progress have been made, approximately 11% of our global human family is undernourished. It’s clear that food is a node where many pressing environmental, social, political and economic issues intersect. And it’s hard for us as individuals to know where we should focus our efforts to make change.
I’ve been many things over the course of my life so far: a student (a lot!), a waitress, a dairy farmhand, a researcher, a beekeeper, a conservationist, a teacher, a partner and a mother. Now, after 10 years away from academia, I’m back at Dalhousie doing an interdisciplinary PhD in food sustainability. I, like you, want some answers. I want to dig in and envision a future where my little boy and all members of future generations will have a safe and hospitable planet on which to make a good life. I want to be part of the effort of making sure that future is possible.
Because I do sustainability research, people often ask me for advice about changes they can make to live more sustainably. The opinion that I give, which many people find frustrating to hear, is: “Well, it depends. It’s complex. Let’s talk more about your values and your priorities.” I’ve carried out research in biology, agriculture, sustainability and science education contexts. Looking at societal and environmental issues through different disciplinary lenses has conditioned me to consider sustainability questions from a systems perspective, to expose the myriad contradictions, trade-offs and complexities that exist. So simple questions like, “How can I eat more sustainably?” will not have easy answers. Rather, those questions will stimulate longer conversations about values and priorities, our lifestyle and health needs and goals, and our societal and environmental goals.
Sustainability issues are complex, and decision-making is challenging, and it is therefore extremely important that we strive to understand these issues in a deep way, so that decisions are informed by good science and are aligned with our values. Over the course of this year, I will explore food sustainability from a number of different angles, discussing the many intersecting issues to consider when trying to eat sustainability.
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