Food Security Will Require Collaboration (not just a combination of raspberry and chocolate)

bandj un SOS“If it’s melted, it’s ruined”; raising awareness for climate change by raising a cool spoonful of a creamy treat. That’s a tall order for Ben and Jerry’s new flavor of ice cream “Save Our Swirled”, which they revealed at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany in early September.  While admirable, and admittedly every bit of positive publicity helps, it ironically belies one of the most serious consequences of climate change – food insecurity for a vast proportion of the world’s population. Acknowledging the critical nature of nutrition to our survival and our absolute dependence upon climate for food production, the UNFCCC established as its objective under Article 2  to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system …. to ensure that food production is not threatened.”

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But a luscious creamery and the UN Executive Secretary aren’t the only significant combination of interests that are going to need to join forces in order to  satisfy the mandate set forth in The Rio+20 Declaration and Working Group that prepared the Sustainable Development Goals and the outcome document “The Future We Want”. [Note that food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture are particularly addressed in paragraphs 108-118.]    It is the culmination of those efforts that have just been adopted by the UN’s  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  in New York this weekend (September 25-27). It calls for all countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, to  implement this plan in an integrated,  swirled up way; well, the UN officially used the term “indivisible” in paragraph 18.  While Sustainable Development Goal 2.4 links food security to climate change by requiring that by 2030 countries have sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices in place that will strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, the FAO notes well that “issues related to food and agriculture are comprehensively integrated among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”  All the ingredients exist in the various SDGs to discover a success recipe for food security.

“If it’s melted, it’s ruined”. Most often people think about sea level rise or glacial melt when thinking about climate change, but forget about the devastating effects on fisheries. The newly released World Wildlife Fund report indicates that species like tuna, mackerel and bonito may have declined as much as 74% in the last 40 years. Climate change has profound effects on the health of marine food production which can be the mainstay of food security for some populations.  SDG 14 addresses the need to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.  Melting polar ice and sea level rise can also affect coastal and low-lying field arability. For rice paddies, a global staple, this will have devastating effects. The world’s food supply is in dire straits with the poorest countries to be hit hardest and soonest. That is the point underscored by the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. All countries and all peoples have a right to food security in order to achieve their full potential.

Perhaps what Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor teaches us most about climate change and food security is that it will take a mixed balance of many factors to find the proper combination to get the solution right. It wasn’t a straight-forward “vanilla” response from thun 4e ice-cream company[i], and so the response for food insecurity will also have to be a multidimensional one. SDG 2 is a broad call to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, but it will will require contributions from a variety of sectors to achieve that goal.  Perhaps we need to think in terms of “Common but Differentiated Vulnerabilities” with regard to food insecurity. This appears to be the approach taken by the Global Policy Report: “Where Rain Falls: Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Security, and Migration”.  Populations can make “informed, resilience-enhancing decisions” if they are supported by sustainable policies that are adaptable to the local situation. At a time when humanity is facing a migrant / refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions, we cannot allow an exacerbation of the problem due to climate change food insecurity issues. We must address the agricultural adaption strategies where possible to ease the dramatic impacts to attempt to preserve livelihoods.




[i] Indeed it was a Raspberry Ice Cream with Marshmallow & Raspberry Swirls & Dark & White Fudge Ice Cream Cones response! []