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We’re eating the “world”

As of August 22, we had used all of the Earth’s regenerative biocapacity for 2020, with more than four months still to go.

Sooner or later this year, Overshoot Day has also come.

August 22nd was the day that marked the depletion of the resources that the Earth can regenerate. Our debt to the Planet continues to grow relentlessly.

Also, this year, we can calculate (thanks to the Global Footprint Network) when precisely the whole of humanity has extracted, despite significant differences between countries. We have used all the Earth’s regenerative biocapacity available for this year, thus increasing our “ecological debt.”

In 1961, humanity had used only 73% of the biological resources that the Earth could renew that year. This year, however, humanity uses 160% of what the Earth’s biocapacity can replace this year, which means 60% more than can be renewed.

That is, we act as if we live on 1.6 planets.

The good news, someone writes, is that this day in 2020 came three weeks later than last year as if moving this day forward in the calendar was a victory or a sign that humanity is waking up from this obsession with irresponsible hyper-exploitation.

In reality, the shift forward is due to the pandemic, which has caused the global Ecological Footprint to contract, but this is due to exceptional causes and certainly not to a rediscovery of ecological awareness and the consequent implementation of new and necessary models of sustainable development. The lockdown forced us to stop any activity. And this is undoubtedly not the consolidated solution; we need to change our approach to natural resource consumption radically.

Compared to last year, the reduction in the Ecological Footprint of humanity between January 1 and Earth Overshoot Day was about 9.3%.

The widespread lockdown has generated a sudden change in our behavior and has had a considerable impact on global mobility and our eating habits, forcing entire sectors to reduce or considerably upset established patterns drastically. Where do we eat? What do we eat? How do we eat? Who do we eat with?

The reflection that this data pushes us to do in the food sector is that we can zero in on Overshoot Day one bite at a time, starting from an awareness of the amount of waste of natural resources that “food systems” in every part of the world, every day, generate.

Today the way we produce, transform, distribute, market, and consume food is no longer sustainable. We are indeed witnessing the proliferation of new trends in greener food consumption. However, on a planetary level, we are still lagging behind the standards needed to “adjust” food systems and register a zero impact on the environment. Regenerative” production models and conscious consumption, outside of fads and stereotypes, are still exceptional cases, not standard.

In short, changing how and what we eat is a powerful — but often overlooked — tool for climate action. The reduction of food waste is one of the generally recognized solutions to go in an ecological direction. A sustainable diet is right for human health and the health of the Planet. It is a primary weapon for tackling the climate crisis, as also demonstrated by Project Drawdown, which establishes the impact of diets on the environment as more significant than the approaches more publicized by environmentalists, such as solar panels and electric vehicles.

The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and the Global Footprint Network also assessed the Ecological Footprint of various foods highlighting this overarching pattern: the healthier the food, the lower its ecological impact. A nutritionally balanced, vegetarian diet boasts an Ecological Footprint that is 2.5 times lower than that of one comprised mainly of animal-based proteins. Therefore, food that should make up a more substantial part of our diet also has smaller Footprints. The tasty traditional Mediterranean diet perfectly fits the bill: lots of fresh vegetables, grains, olive oil, and low amounts of animal products.

Because half of Earth’s biocapacity is used to feed us, food is a powerful lever to #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day. If we prevent food loss and food waste, prefer plant-based foods, and choose foods that are grown with agroecological and regenerative practices, we could move Earth Overshoot Day 32 days.

This concept means that those who want to make a difference to trigger the real change must start with the kitchen.

It bodes well for the millennials and the Gen-Z, which together make up more than half the global population — to be more sensitive to the food/climate change link and more receptive to science-based messages about climate- and environmentally friendly nutrition. Words that are decoded and promoted, among other initiatives, by Food for Climate League, a project born in the United States of which Future Food Institute, together with the Food Team at Google, is one of the leading partners. It’s visionary founder, Eve Turow-Paul, said in a recent interview with the Washington Post: “All too often, climate-related initiatives aim to motivate through statistics and fearmongering. Yet, information alone doesn’t change habits — just look at the flat rates of fruit and vegetable consumption in the United States, despite decades of very well-intentioned, creative campaigns focused on education. And tales of an apocalyptic future often trigger difficult emotions that can turn people off instead of sparking action.”

The direction indicated by the Green Deal and the Farm 2 Fork strategy announced by Europe bodes well. We are beginning to outline indicators and reference models for the industry that (with a delayed outbreak) are giving rise to a profound transformation process of production models. But the whole community must work together.

It is essential to start from our daily eating habits to lower the ecological footprint and avoid counting overshoot days closer and closer — except for extraordinary events with devastating effects as experienced with the pandemic-. The messages to be disseminated to transform consumer behavior must find a more impactful language and tools to democratize healthy and sustainable eating and no longer a niche topic.

When it is clear to everyone that sustainable eating habits are also convenient, nutritious, the ideal glue between our local communities and us, an agent of self-realization and linked to human needs essential for safety, community, and purpose. It will be more natural to tend to regenerative food systems and move, this time in a healthy way, the overshoot day further and further until it disappears completely.

We are aware that the necessary revolution is first and foremost cultural and it starts from Education.

Thus, at the Global Climate Summit in 2018, Future Food Institute launched the “Future Food for Climate Change”. #FF4CC is a program that today, together with FAO, educates and trains “Climate Shapers,” experts, chefs, farmers, scientists, managers, and innovators who aim to reverse the negative impact environment starting from “food”.

Changing the world one bite at a time, we can, but we must all do it, fast, and we must do it together.

The Future Food Institute believes climate change is at the end of your fork. By harnessing the power of our global ecosystem of partners, innovators, researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs, FFI aims to sustainably improve life on Earth through transformation of global food systems.

We advocate and initiate positive change initiatives in Food Waste & Circular Systems, Water Safety & Security, Climate & Earth Regeneration, Mediterranean Foodscape, Nutrition & New Foods, and Humana Communitas, all tied in with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Learn more at www.futurefoodinsitute.org, or join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.

Or attend a program through the FutureFood.Academy!




Future Food is an ecosystem of innovators committed to generating a global positive impact by empowering the ever growing community of young entrepreneurs, farmers and food innovators with disruptive ideas, and supporting corps and institutions on their path to open innovation.

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sara roversi

sara roversi

Don’t care to market-care to matter! @ffoodinstitute @foodinpro @youcangroup #FutureFood #Entrepreneurship #Education #SocialImpact #GlobalCitizen #G20YEA #B20

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