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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds The Sustainable Development Goals make mention of food. Various of the specific goals talk about sustainable consumption or they talk about food security and so forth. But, in fact, food is relevant to pretty much all the goals. It interweaves through the whole thing, because what we produce, who gets to eat, who’s remunerated for its production and distribution, what it does to our body, the processes of education and empowerment that are associated with the move towards a more sustainable and health- and life-enhancing food system– all those are core to the Sustainable Development Goals. And so, in many ways, food should be seen as a lens through which we can see our objectives and our goals for the future.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds So who’s responsible for change? And of course there is no one single actor who is responsible, but there are many different kinds of actors. Obviously governments and international governance institutions have a huge responsibility. We’ve seen the Paris Agreement– the global agreement to tackle climate change. Now, if we don’t address food’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, then we will not meet our objectives there. So it’s the responsibility of governments globally to ensure that policies are put in place and sufficient climate financing is put in place to enable food systems to play their part in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and, of course, adapting to the consequences of climate change.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 seconds So we have these global governments, and that may also include things like trade agreements or pricing policies that influence not just how food is produced but what kinds of foods are desired and consumed and that regulate the marketing of foods that are bad for health and bad for the environment. So that leads onto the people who do the marketing, of course, which is the food industry. The food industry has enormous power.

Skip to 2 minutes and 38 seconds They are increasingly integrated and consolidated. As our food systems become more globalised, their influence becomes also [global]– what one company does in one part of the world also impacts upon what happens in another part of the world. So they have huge responsibility to address the environmental problems associated with their supply chains, but also help provide food and market food that is both more nutritious and more sustainable. Then there’s civil society. And civil society has been at the forefront of highlighting the environmental problems that are caused by the food system and the inequities embedded in the food system.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds And they need to carry on doing what they’re doing, but also, I think, increasingly recognise that some of the problems that were traditionally developed country problems of excessive consumption, resource depletion, are now increasingly becoming the problems of the industrialised world. The world is not neatly divided into rich countries and poor countries anymore. It’s about the rich in poor countries and the poor in rich countries. So there can be a much greater blurring of the boundaries there.

Skip to 4 minutes and 1 second And then, finally, it’s up to us as– not just as consumers– that’s individuals who make purchasing decisions– but also as citizens, citizens with a vote, as people who can actually demand change from their governments and from the places where they shop at, and who send their children to schools which have certain food provisioning systems. Their voice also has to count.

Food system change: Where does responsibility lie?

In considering options for interventions, we take into account who has the capacity to influence which aspects of food systems. In this video, Dr. Tara Garnett, of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, considers the Sustainable Development Goals and what different actor groups can do to help achieve them.

Re-visit the ideas we shared in our Capacity discussion in Week 3 while contemplating this video. What is the value of people acting within their sphere of capacity? What is gained or lost by people acting outside their sphere?

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This video is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute