retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a long and fascinating piece about a new study - published in Nature and authored by 23 global experts - concluding that “a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms, including a radical change in dietary habits.”

The story says that the authors “reviewed the many moving parts of the global food system and how they interact with the environment,” and argue that “the current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food aren’t environmentally sustainable and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.

“A core message from the researchers is that efforts to keep climate change at an acceptable level won’t be successful without a huge reduction in meat consumption.” In other words, “Cheeseburgers are out, and fruits and veggies are in.”

The Post writes: “At the core of this research is the argument that Earth has several limits, the ‘planetary boundaries,” that can’t be exceeded without potentially dire consequences. These boundaries - which involve factors such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, atmospheric aerosols (smog), stratospheric ozone depletion and the supply of fresh water - define the ‘safe operating space’ for humanity. Proponents of the hypothesis say that human civilization has thrived in the geological epoch known as the Holocene, covering a period of roughly 11,700 years since the end of the last ice age, but that damage to the environment could put humanity into an existential crisis.”

You can read the whole piece here.
KC's View:
The Post notes that “the report comes on the heels of a warning from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global leaders need to take unprecedented action in the next decade to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.”

I know some folks think this is all hogwash. I got emails to this effect after I mentioned the UN Climate Change report last week. (I didn’t post these emails because, to be honest, I felt this was going to take us down a rabbit hole from which there would be no return, focusing on a subject about which there would be no resolution, at least not here.)

I’m not a scientist. I can only read the various stories and try to make a reasonably intelligent judgement. And I’ve made the decision to believe that the planet is more fragile than some folks would like to believe, and that humanity can be arrogant about its ability to survive everything and anything.

I see no downside in trying to conserve natural resources and being nurturing about the environment rather than invasive and exploitive. I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of economic growth if that means extending the life of the planet, though I’m not sure that’s necessary … I think there is a lot of growth to be found in a more environmentally sound approach to public policy, if only we’re willing to take a long term view. Capitalism and environmentalism can work hand in hand, if only we’re willing to be patient and creative.