[MUSIC] Welcome to the lecture on Food System Sustainability and Resilience. My name is Roni Neff, and I'm an assistant professor in environmental health and engineering. And I also direct the Center for a Livable Future's program on these basic topics. And I'm going to talk to you today to give you a broad overview of food system sustainability and resilience. As well as digging in deeper on three areas where I focus, in particular, including climate change, wasted food and urban food system resilience. So the learning objectives are, first, to be able to define the concepts of food system sustainability and resilience. And then I'm going to discuss, in addition to climate change, a broader set of converging crises that are threatening the long-term sustainability of our food systems. And then I'm going to describe the role of wasted food. You're going to be able to discuss responses to advance food system sustainability. So I'm not going to leave you with a Dr. Doom and then walk away. There are a lot of things that could be done, and we're going to describe some of those. And then, in particular, I'll also describe issues of food system resilience and some of what we're doing right now in Baltimore to address it in the urban context. So, essentially, what motivates all of this is that our food production is messing up the environment. And our environment is messing up our food production. And you put those two things together, and that's what we want to pull apart and address. So the first question is what is the difference between sustainability and resilience? Because often people used those terms interchangeably, and they're really actually referring to pretty different concepts. So with sustainability, we want a system that remains in lasting equilibrium. We want to basically enable our food system to keep on going into the future in providing us with food. And so if we want interventions to advance sustainability, we want to have a lower positive impact on the environment. Whereas resilience we're talking about, in the face of unforeseen disruptions or shocks to the system, how do we help the food system to survive, adapt and grow? And so there you want to have a system that's flexible, that has some kind of internal intelligence and that has the capability to respond to extreme events. Resilience is also fostered by duplication or essentially having a plan b. And then just, in general, if you have a strong community or a strong system, then it’s better able to deal with stress. So those are very different concepts. Basically, keeping ongoing versus bouncing on back. So in this section we're going to dig deeper into Sustainable Food Systems. And I have here in parentheses, Says Who? Because the definition of sustainability will differ depending on who you're talking to. And that's really important to understand as we think through what the problem is and what we do about it. Because how you define the problem determines how you're going to respond. But let me start with just giving you a sense of the core unsustainability of our current food system. And this is from an assessment that was done of what they call the Nine Planetary Boundaries. And these are aspects of our world which are, to varying degrees, threatened. So the inner circle there, it's in green if you have color, is the safe operating space. Anything below that boundary is considered safe, the middle circle is increasing risk, and then the red is a high risk zone. The one's that are not colored are one's where we don't yet necessarily have enough information to assess. So take a look at climate change because I think that's really important. When you look at that, we basically only go halfway into that middle circle. And, as we all know, climate change has been thought of, and is described, as one of the major threats that our planet faces. And it's been described as the biggest health threat that exists. And yet that one's only halfway into the yellow, indicating an increasing risk. We have two areas where we're well into that outer circle, and one of them is what they call biogeochemical flows. And that's the flows of phosphorus and nitrogen, much of which is used for fertilization of our plants. We're using so much of it, we've really disrupted a lot of the cycles that keep those elements in balance. And then the second one that's all the way out there is biosphere integrity. And in particular there, they're talking about biodiversity loss. So there's so many species that have become extinct or that are heading towards extinction. That's all the way out there as being basically in this severe, high-risk zone for long-term planetary health. Now, the other thing I want to point out about this is if you see the sections with circles around them, all of those are areas that basically have something to do with food. So ocean acidification, that's our seafood. I mentioned the biogeochemical flows in our fertilizers. There's freshwater use, there's our agriculture, land system change, biosphere integrity and climate change. So that's basically six out of the nine that are very directly related to the sustainability of our food system. And the other three could be said to be also. So as we think about what it takes to keep within the planetary boundaries and to move closer into the center of that circle, there's also the issue of social boundaries. So we essentially want solutions that keep us within the planetary boundaries and within a safe and a just space. So I want to emphasize that when we talk about sustainability, you can't have sustainability without justice. And we have to work to make those connections better. And we have to, in any intervention that we consider, we have to be considering both the social and the planetary boundaries. So we'll need a lot more food. The background to that is that right now we have almost 800 million people who are chronically malnourished. But we have enough food to feed every single person on the planet right now. So when we have hunger today, this is a distribution problem, it's not a food problem. However, by 2050 we're still going to have those same distribution problems. They could even be worse, depending on how inequality goes. But we're also going to have a global population that may exceed 9 billion. And with that, we're going to have rising incomes, we're going to have urbanization. And those increase people's ability to afford the food that they need. And that's a good thing, but it also can mean that there's demand for a lot more food. And the United Nations, for example, has projected that global meat demand could rise by 73%. So you put all of those pieces together and you get this estimate that we could need 60% more food by 2050. And there are debates about whether this is the case, but regardless it's a concern. And there's a vast need to ramp up food production, just as we're facing severe threats to our ability to even keep levels steady. So we've got crop yield increases that may be reaching their limit, little available extra land on the planet, climate change. And depletion and contamination of some of the key resources that we need to produce our food, including soil, water, fossil fuels and phosphorous. And so some of what we want to really think about here is what if we used our resources differently? And what if we focused more on distribution? A sustainable food system delivers food and nutrition security for all in such a way that the economic, social, and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. What I want to point to here is economic, social and environmental. So we often talk about and think about sustainabilities strictly in terms of environmental. But a true sustainable food system in order to continue into the future has to be economically and socially sustainable, as well. I'm going to talk about sustainable agriculture briefly, and that's sometimes referred to as agroecology. It's sustainable, it's ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just. Is also efficient in that it recycles and reuses resources. So just like in a natural system, you're constantly recycling all of your rainfall, your organic matter. That's what a sustainable food system does, as well. It's self-sufficient, so in theory it wouldn't require a lot of inputs beyond what nature is providing. And here's an image of dryland farming, which relies almost exclusively on rain water and soil moisture. Now, this is possible in some areas. In some areas, a sustainable food system means sustainably harvesting inputs that are beyond what nature provides in that area at that time, but doing so in way that doesn't deplete them for future use. It's diverse. Agroecology makes use of many different species of plants and animals on the same farm. And there's a real benefit from their interactions. So, for example, when you have a lot of different crops growing in the same place, each pest may be specialized to a particular crop. So if you have them all together, it doesn't give a lot of the pests the opportunity to take hold in the same way. That's just one example. And it's resilient. And in this section, I'm talking more about sustainability than resilience. But a sustainable food system generally is resilient because it has within it the ability to withstand these shocks. For example, if you have well-nourished soil, then when drought comes along, that soil's able to hold a lot more water. What exactly goes into sustainable agriculture is defined very differently by different groups, as I mentioned. So here's a quote. It says, We believe sustainable agriculture means growing the right amount of food on less land, using resources in an efficient manner that preserves natural ecosystems, addresses water scarcity and climate change, improves farmer livelihoods and benefits society. This approach is often refereed to as sustainable intensification. And with that are a set of bullets of specific types of actions that could be taken to advance the sustainability of a food system. Well, this definition is pasted directly from the Monsanto website. Monsanto, if you don't know, is a major player in international agribusiness. And they are very active in genetic modification. And many of the things that they've done have been quite controversial among advocates that define sustainability differently. So many different groups in many different ways are taking the definitions of sustainability and using it in their own ways for their own ends. So when we hear sustainability, we can't necessarily assume that everybody is using it in the same way. Now, I'll talk in a minute about sustainable intensification and what's meant by that. And here's, again, from their sustainability report, Growing Better Together. If you took out the line there that says Monsanto Sustainability Report, you wouldn't necessarily know what kind of organization is putting this out there. Another group, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, similarly puts out these concepts of sustainability in the work that they're doing. Now, some would see them as promoting a product that has a lot of environmental harms. At the same time, they see themselves as working within their industry to make things as sustainable as possible. So let me come back to this concept of sustainable intensification, and this has been where there's been a lot of debate. So there's four premises to this concept. The first one is that we need to increase food production, as I was saying earlier. And that in order to do that, we have to do that through higher yields, due to the environmental costs of increasing the land area that we have in production. And that food security requires as much attention to environmental sustainability as to raising productivity. So we're balancing productivity and sustainability. And, finally, this concept that so we're going to take a whole diversity of approaches, test them for merits, and that one approach may work in one context, another approach may work in another context. That's sort of a value-neutral description of sustainable intensification. When described like that, I think many people might agree with pretty much all of those four premises. The term has been used both to support efforts that are really trying to increase sustainability. And some would say that it is sometimes also used in cynical ways to support types of production where environmental harms are not as much of a concern as just increasing the amount of production. And I want to turn briefly to social and economic sustainability. And that's not going to be a major focus of this talk, but it's essential. And so what do we mean by social and economic sustainability? First, we're talking a lot about how do we keep our farmers and our food system workers in business? So they need to have good livelihoods, good worker treatment, concern for occupational health and safety. It has to be profitable and affordable enough to stay in business, both in terms of prices, in terms of the affordability of farm land, and in terms of the level of risk that a farmer has to assume to stay in business. We have a situation, as I'm sure you'll hear about later in the class, about the extent to which the farm workforce is aging. So there's a real need to attract young farmers if we want to have a sustainable food production in the United States. A social and economically sustainable food system also has a level playing field where businesses and farms of all kinds have equal access and are treated equally. And where there's not very substantial financial incentives being given to some groups and not others. And, finally, for farmers and food system workers, it's satisfying work, it's not too risk intense, and it preserves their mental health. And part of that is also having thriving rural communities. And from the flip side, from the consumer side, a socially and economically sustainable food system is one in which good food is affordable to all. Because if people can't buy it, then it can't be made. So it's cyclical, it all fits together. So one of the questions that's often asked is how do you know if the food is sustainable? And how do you know if, just because somebody said it was or put a label on it, what does that mean? And so there's a few different ways that sustainability is measured. One is in very quantitative analyses, like life cycle analysis, where you essentially add up the environmental impacts of each piece of production. What's the environmental impact of producing the ingredients that go into the fertilizer? What's the environmental impact of synthesizing, of transporting it, of applying it in the tractors? And sum up every single piece of that and you'll come up with an environmental impact for a food product. Also, modeling using quantitative methods to estimate these things in the absence of data that specifically describes it. There's also benchmarks and audits where there may be firms that are providing oversight that are looking into the sustainability of products and quantifying. And sometimes there are indexes and accounting methods where these are really reported and measured by both the companies themselves and by overseeing organizations. And sometimes that's coupled with certification and certain sustainability labels, which I think you'll be talking about later. But the answer to the how do you know question is often you don't know. So very often we don't get to find out about how sustainable a product is. And if you're shopping in the store, for example, the energy use from seafood that is trapped where they're trawling the bottom of the ocean is very substantially higher than seafood that's harvested in a more sustainable way. But if you go to the store, it's not going to be labeled trawling. There's no way to know, these products don't have good labels on them. So there's a lot more information that's out there that needs to be communicated, but there's also a real need for more transparency.