There is Every Cause to Panic - Climate Change Thoughts from CEO, Robin Roth
When I first started at Traidcraft three years ago, I talked to several Fairtrade leaders about the need for organic farming to be a part of our mission and I was bemused by their reactions. The most common were, “Organic farming? – There’s no health benefit to consumers.” And “British consumers will never buy that story. Organic food is a middle-class, niche market.”
To say that I was non-plussed is an understatement, but I have slowly come to understand how organic farming, with all of its extraordinary benefits for farmers and planet, has been so wildly misrepresented in the UK that it seemed to exist in the no man’s land between witchcraft and straight out crazy.
And now, three years later, quite suddenly everyone is talking about plastic, pollution, climate crisis, ocean degradation and fossil fuel dependency. And equally, people are also finally talking about biodiversity, organic and bi-dynamic farming, re-forestation and the circular economy as possible antidotes. This debate is hugely overdue, but it can also seem a bit overwhelming. Quite what am I supposed to do as an individual in this sea of sudden information about the climate?
Well, on the one hand there is every cause to panic. As Greta Thurnberg, the remarkable, 16-year-old girl from Sweden, whose solitary school strike has turned into an international movement, said recently when she was visiting the European Parliament;
“I want you to panic….. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. I have said those words before and a lot of people have explained why that is a bad idea.…. A great number of politicians have told me that panic never leads to anything good and I agree. To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground, then that does require some level of panic.”
On the other hand, just panicking doesn’t lead us to a solution, and it is imperative that we all find one.
The science behind climate change is not disputed (99.5% of all research scientists are in alignment) but it is frequently denied. Science denying will get us nowhere, of course, and scaremongering even less. What we need is a clear-eyed understanding of what we can all do as individual and as communities.
At Traidcraft, we are thinking through what it would mean to become a 1.5°C company (1.5 degrees of warming above industrial levels is what we can still achieve without irreparably harming the ecosystems that we depend on for life – we are already at 1.1°C and rising). The answers are all small ones, but taken together they make big differences: eating less meat, eating more vegetables, eating more local food, travelling less by car and plane. These are not huge sacrifices, but they are conscious decisions.
In recent weeks we have been talking a lot about transparency, and you may be wondering why the theme is suddenly all about the climate?
Well, the food industry is fantastically, almost sublimely intransparent. The less you know about where your food comes from, the more corners can be cut, and the more profit can be extracted from the farmers at the start of the chain. It’s time to be honest about the food we eat and what it costs the earth. Global food production is responsible for 30% of all greenhouse gases, and the single major cause of deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution and chemical pollution. A significant element of this is a consequence of mass rearing of livestock (less meat is good for you and the planet) and the use of chemical fertilisers (this topic is huge, and is worth another article in itself).
By supporting small scale organic farmers who recycle their own waste products into healthy compost and who do not spray their land with excessive Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK farming), you are genuinely supporting heroes who are fighting climate change. “A middle class niche?”, “Of no benefit to the consumer?” Or perhaps an essential survival strategy for the planet?
Traidcraft has been working for decades to support small scale, sustainable and organic farming practice. We have even pioneered compostable packaging in the UK in our Eat Your Hat range. We know where our priorities are, we know where our food comes from and we are invested in protecting the precious communities we work with and we acknowledge their (and our) debt to the land.