World events underscore importance of local food

You likely missed it – because corporate media exhibited little interest in reporting it – but a couple weeks ago the world’s leading climatologists told us climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly and there’s diminishing opportunity to avert the worst consequences.

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal,” Hans-Otto Portner, co-chair of a working group of the International Panel on Climate Change, reportedly said. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.”

You’d think a little thing like that would garner a fair amount of media attention. But you’d be wrong. This news enjoyed a literal 15 minutes of fame – combined – from ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and CNN on the day it was released, according to Media Matters. One major network didn’t cover it at all.

That’s frighteningly scant attention for a dire scientific warning endorsed by 195 governments around the world. The lack of media coverage in this country indicates an unwillingness to even acknowledge the problem, allowing no reason to hope for policy-based solutions.

Ultimately, there can be no meaningful advancement against climate change without full engagement of government and industry. Their abdication leaves few straws to grasp. The fact that municipalities like Northfield are taking the lead against climate inaction is a strong indication that change must arise locally -- and individually.

Data generated for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has been re-interpreted to determine the impact individuals can have in averting climate disaster. According to The Jump – a British organization encouraging grassroots action – the choices of well-off consumers in North America and Europe could provide about 25 percent of the solution for limiting climate change. Individuals can have the biggest impact by moving toward a plant-based diet and eliminating food waste, according to the data.

During the next several months, a project already underway in our area will provide a glimpse of how profound that impact may be.

Food sovereignty is of vital importance to tribal communities looking to reinforce their culture and assert control of their food supply. Nearby, Prairie Island Indian Community has been on this path for years, developing its own buffalo herd, building an experimental greenhouse and finding new ways to help members reconnect with traditional food practices.

Last year, Prairie Island began working with my company, Healthy Share GBC, as a steppingstone toward greater food sovereignty. The first step in that process is to make fresh, healthy food easily accessible in a community without a grocery store. Healthy Share makes weekly deliveries of fresh produce directly to the doors of Prairie Island members, providing the variety of fruit and vegetables recommended for a healthy diet.

Most importantly, Healthy Share achieves this while sourcing nearly 65 percent of its annual food purchases from local farms, eliminating thousands of miles from the food chain and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This project, initially funded by the Bush Foundation, was successful enough in its first months that Prairie Island’s tribal council committed to doubling its reach. Soon, other entities will measure the energy conservation realized by a local food system based on the Healthy Share model.

Climate change is a global issue, but projects like this at Prairie Island provide hope for solutions that arise locally.

Jim Gehrke is a former award-winning journalist turned local food activist. He is the founder and president of Healthy Share GBC, and the Marketing Specialist at Just Food Co-op.