A week from today is Earth Day, a day that reminds us all to tread a little lighter on this here planet and take some time to thank Mother Earth for all that she provides. This month is a great opportunity to think about the daily decisions we make and the impacts that they have on the earth. As Frances Moore Lappé so succinctly said, “the act of putting into your mouth what the earth has grown is perhaps your most direct interaction with the earth.”
So let this week, this month, this year, be the beginning of a new consciousness in which you eat for the earth. With this in mind I sat down with Jonathan Reinbold, Organic Valley’s Sustainability, Research & Grants Manager, to understand just what eating for the earth means to him.
Jonathan sees eating for the earth to mean eating close to the earth. One can eat close to the earth by “eating less processed foods and by being aware and conscious of where food comes from.” Because, as he explained, when we are aware of where our food is coming from we make decisions that are actually better for the earth. This also involves having a relationship with the food we eat and the producers who grow it. Jonathan tries to be aware of where his food is coming from and believes that when we have the choice, the organic or local option is usually preferable.
He also pointed out the interconnectedness between the earth and the people who exist on it. He explains that knowing who produced our food is preferable not “just for the earth, but also for one’s own community which in turn will be good for the earth. […] When one lives within their community in that they know the people there and know their actions impact them and know and experience what goes on in that community one will take better care of it. We must support the earth by supporting the people who take care of it.”
We also discussed this weeks Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that highlights the profound impact climate change is having on ecosystems, the economy, and people’s livelihoods. He explained that our decisions are impacting the earth and “our own capacity to thrive as a species.”
But he also reminded me that “[w]e are still here” and “we can learn from the mistakes we’re making.” In fact, “this is the greatest opportunity to learn and change based on our learnings.”
And as Jonathan expressed, farmers are doing just that. “All across the country farmers are […] seeing how their practices will impact and will be impacted by a changing climate.”
We are seeing that certain production systems are crucial to both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Jonathan finds it pretty interesting “that what our farmers are doing is outperforming what the biotech industry has manufactured to try and do.” He cites results from the Rodale Institute’s 32-year Farming Systems Trial that show that organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, produce less greenhouse gas emissions than their conventional counterparts, and outperform conventional in years of drought.
We have the tools to both adapt and prevent excess destruction. It will take farmers with vision and a willingness to experiment. And it will require consumers to recognize that their food decisions impact not only their health, but also the health of our communities and our planet. So if you plan on continuing to live on this earth, you better start eating for the earth!