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Combatting climate change with new ways to do food

Presbyterian Hunger Program staffer promotes alternative options

by Darla Carter| Presbyterian News Service

New Roots is based on the idea that it’s a basic human right to have fresh, organic produce. (Photo by Darla Carter)

LOUISVILLE ­— Could changing the way food is produced in this country and beyond lead to a better, healthier environment and improve a whole host of social problems?

Andrew Kang Bartlett, National Associate for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, raised that possibility during a presentation earlier this week on food sovereignty and climate change.

“I truly believe that changing our food system toward food sovereignty will reduce racism, exploitation, misery and environmental harm overall,” Kang Bartlett said. “The climate movement must incorporate and embrace food, seed and land sovereignty, as well as environmental justice and climate justice, if we are to succeed.”

Presbyterian Hunger Program National Associate Andrew Kang Bartlett (Photo by Rich Copley)

Kang Bartlett made those comments while leading a webinar by Presbyterians for Earth Care and PHP that focused on food sovereignty and climate change.

“Food sovereignty is a systems approach to healing our food and farm system by attending to the ways we produce food and who within the system has the power to make decisions,” Kang Bartlett said. “It is people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. And it increases the power and agency of producers, workers and consumers who are the majority of people on the planet, rather than corporations, which is the current reality.”

Kang Bartlett also talked about the urgency of addressing climate change and explained links between climate change and food.

“Floods, droughts, fires, and extreme weather patterns are messing with food production around the world, and these will only increase,” he said. Also, “food production, especially conventional chemical agriculture, tremendously contributes to climate change. Fortunately, improvements in how we do food and how we use land can make huge contributions to solving our climate crisis.”

Instead of relying so heavily on industrial farming, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, it would be better to turn to more Earth-friendly systems that are less exploitive of Indigenous peoples and other people of color, Kang Bartlett argued.

For the most part, “the people who work the land don’t own it,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of farmland is owned by white people, a lot of this being large, large landholders and corporations, and the workers … are often hungry, scapegoated and harassed.”

What’s a better option?

“In a best-case scenario, the pasture is protected within a community land trust that will remain as farmland permanently,” he said. “The land is cared for and managed by a diverse group of intergenerational farmers, as it is in the Agrarian Commons; that agrarian trust is getting established in 10 states around the country,” he said. “The eggs can then be sold directly to eaters through community supported agriculture, farmers markets or to a nearby community grocery — ideally, a food cooperative which is owned by the co-op members and whose profits circulate within that town, with any surplus going where the member owners decide it should go.”

In the Louisville area, where Kang Bartlett is based, innovative approaches include New Roots, a food justice organization that helps improve access to healthy food through its Fresh Stop Markets, and 5th Element Farms (also known as Apocalyptic Acres) which has turned a vacant lot in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood into a farm.

“We can take heart because solutions abound,” Kang Bartlett said, encouraging everyone to give of their time and talents and work collectively to address issues related to food justice and climate change.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It is supported by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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