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Why it’s important to rethink what we eat and how we produce it

Introduction video
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This is planet Earth, home to 7.8 billion people, an abundance of plants, trees, and wildlife. Earth is particularly special because it’s an ocean planet. Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, from oceans to Great Lakes, rivers, and even the land, like Steart Marshes here in Somerset. Earth’s climate system is relatively simple. When energy from the sun is reflected off the Earth and back into space, or when the Earth’s atmosphere releases energy, the planet cools. When the earth absorbs the sun’s energy, or when the atmospheric gases prevent heat released by the Earth from radiating into space, the planet warms. However, a variety of factors both natural and human can influence the Earth’s climate system.
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In recent years, it has become clear that Earth is becoming warmer. This is due to climate change, which has become an urgent global challenge. Climate change does not respect national borders, nor is it exclusive to a few countries or nations. Climate change is a global emergency affecting us all. And as a result, it requires immediate coordinated global action. The planet’s ecosystem is vital to sustain all life on Earth. As humans, we rely on Earth’s resources, including its land and water to sustain us. Currently, agriculture takes up 50% of the world’s vegetated land and 70% of freshwater resources.
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Food production contributes to climate change as it generates 25% of the annual global emissions, with livestock and fisheries being the major contributors, accounting for more than a third of food related emissions. These alarming statistics are set to rise as our population continues to grow. By 2050, the world’s population is projected to reach 9.8 billion. At the same time, our natural resources are limited. The challenge will be to increase the global food production by 70%, while using fewer natural resources. Both immediate actions and long term solutions are needed to support a food production system able to feed more people in a fully sustainable way. Clearly, it is time to take better care of our planet.
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Climate change is increasing pressure on the land and water, while reducing yield growth, especially in the tropics. Agro Food systems face a twofold challenge as they contribute to and are affected by climate change. Food related emissions come from livestock and crop production, food processing, transportation, packaging, and retail– all requiring energy and resource inputs. At the same time, agriculture is the main driver of deforestation, creating devastating impact on the Earth’s vital ecosystem that help mitigate climate change. Over time, farmers, agricultural producers, and fishers will be under stress to adapt their practises and technology to use land and fresh water in a more sustainable way.
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What we consume in terms of food has a high impact on our long term health and environment. Just like how the food we produce affects the health of the planet, the food we eat affects our own health and well-being. Crucially, food is fuel. And we need it to survive. A well-balanced diet with the appropriate amount and ratio of macro nutrients is vital for a healthy body and mind. It helps children grow and develop properly, and reduces their risk of chronic conditions, including obesity. Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain tumours. Nutrition is coming to the forefront as a major modifiable determinant of chronic conditions.
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Scientific data support that changes in diet have strong effects, both positive and negative, on health throughout life. The World Health Organisation suggests that eating a variety of foods and consuming less saturated and industrially produced trans fats, sugars and salt, along with physical activity are cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, given our systemic impact on the planet, the Nexus of health, nutrition and sustainability, must now be dealt with together. This will require a menu of solutions, changes to diets, food waste reduction, improvements in agriculture efficiency, and technologies that make low carbon food alternatives scalable and affordable. The planet, our food, and ourselves are deeply interconnected. To look after one, we must look after all.
Welcome to the course.
In this video, the course presenter explores the connection between planet, humans and human health.
In recent years it has become clear that the Earth is becoming warmer. This is due to climate change which has become a global challenge.
Climate change does not respect national borders nor is it exclusive to a few countries or nations. Climate change affects us all, and as a result, it requires action to be coordinated at an international level.
The planet’s ecosystem is vital to sustain all life on Earth. We rely on the Earth’s resources including its land and water to feed us. How do we increase food production while also reducing our impact on the environment? How can we feed more people with less land, so we can free up more space for nature and wildlife?
This will require a menu of solutions, changes to diets, food waste reduction, improvements in agriculture efficiency, and technologies that make low carbon food alternatives scalable and affordable.
Just like how the food we produce affects the health of the planet, the food we eat impacts our own health and wellbeing. Crucially, food is fuel, and we need it to survive. The human body requires adequate amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients for energy, growth and maintenance as we will explore in the next Steps.

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The planet, our food, and ourselves are deeply interconnected. To look after one, we must look after all.
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Nutrition for Health and Sustainability

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