This week is an international week of Climate Action, marked by marches, demonstrations and climate strikes held around the world. Youth are leading the way, bringing their outrage and demands for immediate and systemic action on the climate crisis to those in power.
We often talk about climate change and food in relation to the impact of agriculture and the food system on climate change (e.g., fossil fuels and energy in production, processing, distribution, and storage; food waste; loss of biodiversity). The flip side is the effect of global heating on farming and food availability. For example, farmers here in Nova Scotia are already experiencing unpredictable and severe weather, such as killing frosts, floods, droughts, shifts to season start/end dates, and new or more severe crop pests.
While we need to keep climate mitigation in focus, we also need to better understand and act towards climate adaptation, which includes our ability – as individuals and at a community level – to cope with the effects of the climate crisis. In particular, anyone experiencing poverty, seniors, racialized individuals, those with underlying physical and mental health concerns or disabilities, or those at the intersection of these, are being asked to be even more resilient with fewer and fewer resources.
It has been two weeks since Hurricane Dorian destroyed parts of the Bahamas and made landfall in Nova Scotia. The 2019 hurricane season has already caused more than $8.483 billion in damage, making the argument that we can’t afford to act unsupportable. More importantly, extreme weather events cause loss of life and absolute heartbreak as families struggle with the loss of loved ones, homes and memories. The long-term effects of the loss of basic essentials (e.g., shelter, food and medical care) and displacement leaves individuals stressed and vulnerable. As evidenced by Hurricane Florence in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, racialized and visible minorities are disproportionately impacted, benefitting least from preventative measures and supports afterwards.
Many people lost power during Hurricane Dorian, with food in fridges and freezers fit only for the compost bin. With one of the highest provincial rates of food insecurity in Canada, that means nearly 1 in 7 households are not able to easily restock cupboards and fresh food and includes those on income assistance, employment insurance, disability supports, and those working for wages less than a local living wage (e.g., minimum wage).
It’s not just food, but about health. For example, anyone vulnerable to respiratory distress is going to have compromised health during extreme heat events. But, even short-term solutions, such as air conditioners, cost money and getting to cooling centres requires access to transportation, something that is limited by poverty or mobility challenges.
We need to make sure that no one is left behind as we undertake the necessary systems changes to limit the impacts of the climate crisis and adapt. The concept of a just transition emerged to identify new and just pathways for workers in environmentally harmful industries to transition to greener and more sustainable livelihoods. We need to extend the notion of a just transition to a more sustainable society that includes the impacts of the climate crisis on those with less economic and political power.
Overview of the week: https://nsadvocate.org/2019/09/17/psa-strike-for-climate-justice-on-september-27/
Blog written by: Satya Ramen, Senior Coordinator, Our Food Project, Ecology Action Centre.
Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre. Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood