Should Cities Create Sustainable Food Systems

Though food security tends to be the last thing we pay attention to in our daily lives, we’ve seen it challenged recently, shelves empty for weeks, with warnings from those who deliver our food that they’re struggling to stay safe, or they’re struggling to meet demand. Stacked against an already stressed and disorganized system we have the uncertainties of climate change and the lack of guarantees that comes along with it. The preceding year or so has brought our global food system and it’s weaknesses into the spotlight in the worst ways: drought, flooding, locusts decimating large areas of farm land across regions of Africa and Asia after extended breeding seasons, invasive species of plants and wildlife being forced or transferred from their own environment into places where they have no natural predators to stop the destruction they’re causing, fungal infections chasing our ingenuity faster than we can prepare, setting the stage for what’s to come with a demonstration in decimating global banana production, fires burning entire continents, the Amazon,… So many missteps have led to the breaking of our fragile ecosystem, but we can see, for sure, that it is now broken. The United Nations published the following statement given by Sir Robert Watson, Chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services:

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (see B. below)

Just as 2020 has been wildly unpredictable, we can expect to be caught off-guard by the affects of mass die-offs of species all over the planet (1 million species and growing are at risk). We should expect to be caught off-guard by the effects of decades of destructive farming practices along with urbanization, which have stripped much of the planet of it’s Mycorrhizal networks necessary to connect life in ways we’ve just begun to understand (see study A. below). The stage has been set for an all new natural ordering of life on Earth, and we should expect to be caught off-guard very soon.

So in considering whether or not we should make our cities less susceptible to the ill effects of an unexpected disruption to our food supply, the answer, without question, is yes. As food security does tend to fall off of our radar, mostly taken for granted that it will just be at the store when we go, it’s important to understand that famine has plagued civilizations since they’ve existed. Political unrest and poor growing conditions can easily become the precursor to something we never expected possible in America, but a quick look at history can be a reminder as to just how devastating famine can be to even the most sophisticated societies (see C. below).

A. https://phys.org/news/2019-11-fungi-climate.html

B. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/clintw/14174333134/

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