Public Policy for Sustainability: Analysis of Food Systems in Relation to Climate Change




Chuo, Anna

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Many times, the principal solution to environmental challenges is to cut products and services out of our lives. But in reality, the story can’t be so simple, and that’s especially true with food. We will always need to consume it to survive. This simple truth challenges our current solution to the environmental challenges of climate change and pollution. Our current systems of resource distribution are unsustainable, and we must change this instead of refusing to deviate from the norm. There are many creative solutions we could implement to better ours and future generations’ lives. I want to explore how we can do so, namely in our production, distribution, and consumption of food. The food systems I will be analyzing will encapsulate the direct production of food as well as the processes that indirectly contribute. For the purposes of my thesis, I define sustainable as something that can continue long into the future and will propel itself to exist beyond one’s lifetime. Living sustainably also means we are able to replenish the resources we consume. There are concrete ways to improve our current systems to make them more sustainable, though some propositions require some fundamental changes to how we currently live. It does not mean the quality of our lives will decrease. However, if we continue with the status quo, the global standard of living will certainly decrease. Though it sounds melodramatic, studies and research continue to point to this fact. No longer is the question over whether climate change is happening; it now centers around what are we to do about it. My proposed solutions don’t center around individual action, they center around policy changes governments can implement to spur the change needed. Before I introduce my proposed policies, I want to analyze the causes of our current food system and how it came to be as it is today. Beyond the physical reasons, I also want to look into how sociology has exacerbated and fueled unsustainability. Particularly in America, overconsumption is a cornerstone of the culture, as well as the excessive production of waste. To make our society more sustainable means acknowledging this and actively working to change our society’s values. Along with sociological causes, I want to analyze the tangible effects our current food system has on our environment and ourselves. Global warming will be a glaring focal point of this section, as the symptoms of global warming will only exacerbate the other effects of unsustainable food systems. As the overall temperature of the planet continues to rise, the percent of arable land decreases, as well as an increase in instances of extreme weather. While coastal areas will receive more rainfall and hurricanes, landlocked areas (like the breadbasket of America) will have to deal with extreme droughts. Current narratives surrounding sustainability tell the bleak story of a desolate Earth stripped of its resources and a human population fighting for the scarce resources that remain. Recent advances in technology now tell us that this future does not have to be. As it becomes more clear how detrimental our current ways of life are for future generations, I understand how it is at times disheartening and difficult to think about. But through this thesis, I hope to prove otherwise.



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