There is a new condition now being diagnosed called climate anxiety, an affliction one can easily understand considering the now daily news that we are all doomed to a horrid demise.

To combat this dis-ease we are advised to be online a little less, to get out more and to try to gain perspective and, where possible, to achieve ‘realistic changes’ that can have a positive effect on our little part of the world.

But what if we do those small things all together?

We, the people.

Human activity resulting in the poor cycling of chemical elements has over many decades led to many horrific scenarios.

Here’s just three though they are, in my view, all encompassing:

  1. Global pollution – causing poor water quality, air quality and associated poor health.
  2. Global destruction of biological diversity – species extinction caused by habitat loss from large-scale intensive farming reliant on highly destructive practices.
  3. Massive global wealth inequality – with often the poorest suffering the most from threats to health, with everything from climatic extremes to polluted environments to pandemics.  

But what do we do about all of that?  And who is this ‘we’ everybody keeps talking about?

Author Genevieve Guenther has an interesting take on all of this in the article, ‘Who Is the We in “We Are Causing Climate Change”?’  Subtitle: Everyone is not equally complicit here.

To give a synopsis, there are some companies profiting hugely from a fossil-fuel economy.  And then there’s the rest of us.  They are extremely reluctant to let go of their global power.  We are struggling to keep the roof over our heads.

Working together

We can’t dismiss the fact that unless we work better together, across society here and around the world, then we inevitably cede control of our future to those with interests deeply embedded in what is clearly just destructive business-as-usual.

Which agroecology?

Agroecology is an example where people do come together to build positive change.  If you have not yet read A Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems by 2045 published by the IPES, then I would urge you to do so.

But I believe the big issue we must face is that our success or failure as agro-ecologists will all depend on which agroecology we’re talking about.  If it is the one that is a fig leaf for business-as-usual, then it is not agroecology and it cannot meet our global challenge.

For example;

GMOs that allow greater use of herbicide with associated environmental damage and herbicide resistant weeds,

New GMOs such as ‘gene edited’ crops that are promoted to help with burnt toast because of a link to cancer that Cancer Research UK say is in fact non-existent:

Eating foods high in acrylamide, like toast, charred root vegetables or roast potatoes will not increase your risk of cancer.

These, clearly, are not ecological nor even remotely sensible.

Science that leads to real world solutions.

Scientific research into agroecological systems has been undertaken over many years; I would direct you to the work of Miguel Altieri and Steve Gliessman.

According to Gliessman, “Agroecology is a way of redesigning food systems, from the farm to the table, with a goal of achieving ecological, economic, and social sustainability.”

And there’s the rub, “achieving ecological, economic, and social sustainability”.  I’m emphasising ‘social’ because we surely cannot fix farming if we don’t heal the whole food system and that means where we shop, how we prepare food as much as it does how we grow that food in the first place.

When the people are united.

I’m really looking forward to the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference as I have done each year since we founded this event in 2019.  I enjoy the talks and the presentations.  And I am especially interested in the discussions that happen in the online chat which would have been, when we held the conference in Aberystwyth (pre-covid), over a cuppa or on the way to the next session or over lunch.

Food is culture, it’s all about coming together.  The word ‘company’ comes from the word ‘companion’ and the origin of companion is from the Old French, ‘compaignon’, literally ‘one who breaks bread with another’.

I look forward to some very good company again at the conference this year.

We may not be able to break bread across the table from one another, but we can share crumbs of wisdom and nourish ourselves on true stories of the rise of a real food evolution where we heal, we don’t destroy, where we share, we don’t hoard and where we care rather than being careless.

Steven Jacobs is the business development manager at the UK’s largest certifier of organic land, Organic Farmers & Growers CIC.

Steven is a co-founder of the WRFFC and will be taking part in Thursday’s session at 11.45 – Farming for the Future: Why GMOs aren’t Green.

Picture: From the ‘Our Daily Bread’ session at WRFFC19 in Aberystwyth.  Left to right – Lucy Watson, Anne Parry, Mark Lea, Steven Jacobs          Photo by: Jeremy Moore.