How You Can Take Control and Save the Climate— Even During a Trump Presidency

In these shocking days post-election, many are panicking about the one issue that seems most out of an individual’s control: climate change. Pro choice? You can donate to Planned Parenthood. Worried in general about human rights and immigration? Donate to the ACLU. Want to increase the amount of love and acceptance in this world? Be kind and gracious to one another and teach your kids to think independently and appreciate diversity. Want to keep the planet from surpassing a temperature tipping point from which there is no return? The solution seems entirely hopeless. But, it’s not.

Today, I published a piece on Forbes about the impact of “foodies” on the agriculture supply chain. I write:

Suddenly, the goal for restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs is not to supply food that’s cheap and chock full of sugar, salt, and fat. Instead, they’re challenged to supply customers with organic, fair trade, vegan, gluten-free, and just plain nutritious foods at a price point that’s manageable. And it turns out that’s not what the food supply chain is set up for. Slowly but surely, Millennial demands are putting pressure on an archaic food system set in its ways.

The article outlines the growing demand for organic, traceable, local foods and how food startups—like Dig Inn, Sweetgreen and Blue Apron—are creating their own, new supply chains that allow them to work directly with small farmers, support sustainable farming methods, and deliver organic, nutritious produce to their customers. “Our producers practice crop rotation, polyculture, and integrated pest management,” Dig Inn’s website outlines.

In short, “foodie” demands are acting as a catalyst for a more environmentally sustainable agricultural system. These are your food dollars at work.

Consumer demand is even forcing some of the big guys to re-evaluate how they source their ingredients. Dannon “announced a pledge to its farmers, retail customers and consumers to further improve sustainable agriculture practices for its milk supply, to increase transparency for its portfolio of products and evolve to more natural and fewer ingredients for flagship brands.” Why? Because they realized they had to sell non-GMO yogurt, and the only way to do that was to create their own supply chain and work directly with farmers. This isn’t complicated: Companies want to deliver what consumer are asking for because they need your money. If we ask for things that are better for the environment, it will force the hand of those who control how and what this country farms.

This is not just a big deal because we get more non-GMO yogurt and organic salads. Sustainable agriculture can mitigate climate change. The current supply chain promotes monocultures that degrade our soils, put pesticides into our water and kill ocean life. Sustainable agricultural practices, like crop rotation, takes the excess carbon in our air and return it to the soil, where it’s badly needed.

This year, both General Mills and Kellogg’s have announced soil initiatives. As GreenBiz Group outlines:

By implementing just three management practices — reduced tillage, cover cropping and crop rotations — on half of U.S. farms by 2025, farmers can:
-mitigate 25 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions
-reduce 344 million pounds of nutrient loss to the environment
-eliminate 116 million metric tons of soil erosion
-create 3.6 million acre-feet of available water capacity in cropland soils
… At full adaptation, soil health solutions can address up to $50 billion in social and environmental impacts across the U.S. Even a 1 percent increase in soil organic carbon drastically can increase topsoil’s ability to hold water by up to 12,000 gallons per acre and protect farms from drought, according to the nonprofit Soil Health Institute.

“As a global food company, it’s imperative to protect the natural resources and communities upon which our business depends. In our case, the foundation is soil health,” Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills, is quoted saying. “The goal is to provide a thoughtful strategy, raise awareness about the critical role that soil health plays in environmental sustainability and to encourage transformation in agricultural supply chains. We cannot do this alone. But together, we can get on a path to healthier soil and more sustainable agriculture systems.”

Several months back, I penned a piece for Elettra Wiedemann’s Impatient Foodie blog. There, I wrote about the importance of soil nutrition, but framed it as a diet benefit—plants grown in healthy soil provide better flavor and better nutrition. Today, with a President-elect who has placed a climate change denier in charge of the EPA, that argument seems frivolous.

“A lot of people feel like we’re just fucked, and getting pretty depressed about climate change,” Dan Kitterage, founder of the Bionutrient Food Association, had said to me. “But eating good food is one of the most radical actions we can take that has all of these systemic effects.”

Studies have shown that cover cropping, crop rotation and no-till farming could restore global soil health while significantly decreasing farms’ carbon footprint,” Debbie Barker and Michael Pollan write in The Washington Post.

Soil Solutions to Climate Problems — Narrated by Michael Pollan, Center for Food Safety

As Kitterage plainly puts it “eating good food is one of the most radical actions we can take.”

Your dollars and actions matter. Climate change feels nebulous, out of reach, uncontrollable. But the changes already taking place in agriculture, in response to a trend toward organic and sustainable foods, is profound.

Make a commitment to yourself today to do your part. From what we’ve observed this election season, all shock eventually becomes normalized. We become numb to what was once jarring. And this is human nature—our surging cortisol levels would never subside if we maintained our visceral upset. With this understanding, make a commitment today: Buy more local produce, cook with cover crops, forget meatless Mondays, let’s do meatless Tuesdays and Thursdays as a boycott to “T”s, and the rest of the time, go by the flexitarian mindset. Buy a compost bin, turn off the lights when you leave a room. None of this is difficult! And it can and is already making a change.

We can’t rely on our government to take steps in solving climate change. This is on you. This is on us. Instead, put pressure on those who directly control how we treat this Earth: the food companies, the agricultural companies, and our farmers. And if you ever need an additional kick in the pants, watch this:

Before The Flood on National Geographic Channel