Three changes we need to make now -- before we consume our planet

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First aired on Metro Morning (24/04/13)

Food columnist and author Sarah Elton believes we need to change our food culture by 2050, and she lays out her reasoning in her new book, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet. "By 2050, things have to be different from what they are now, because it's just not sustainable," Elton told Metro Morning's Matt Galloway in a recent interview.

Already climate change is forcing people to rethink how we farm, sell and distribute food, she said. But by 2050, our planet's population will most likely have grown to more than nine billion people, which makes finding solutions even more urgent.

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Elton set up her book as a countdown to 2050, outlining three major threats needing to be tackled:

  • Agriculture, with a focus on shifting reliance from fossil fuels and developing sustainable low-impact agriculture
  • Biodiversity, with investment in research and conservation to prevent our agricultural biodiversity from dropping further
  • Culture, with a focus on determining what type of culture we need to support a sustainable food system

"Right now, we have a global food culture, a global industrial food culture that makes us feel comfortable going into a supermarket and choosing processed foods," Elton said. "But we need a food culture that will support something different."

Elton found that researching the culture aspect for her book, which documents her travels around the world and incorporates the stories of people she meets, "was the most fun" in some ways. In her book, she describes a woman she met in India who doubled her income by farming organically and selling locally, rather than sticking with the modern methods of farming, which had put her -- and many others in her community -- into debt. She also writes about the mayor of a region in France who strongly believes in serving children organic, locally grown food for school lunches, and a professor in China who converted one village from sending family members to big-city factories to make money to becoming self-sufficient by farming rice.

These examples give Elton cause for optimism. "All these amazing, little, tiny, great ideas," she said. "If you see them together, you see the shape of this global sustainable food movement that really is the focus of the book."

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