What's the carbon cost of your lunch - Transcript
Published on 9th November 2016
The following is the transcript of a The following is the transcript of a discussion on global climate action and the food we eat. What we eat, how we eat, and where we’re getting our food from can have a big impact on the environment.
This event, recorded on 27 May 2021, was hosted by Dublin City Libraries with the support of Vita and Irish Aid.
Paula Brennan: Okay, so I think we get started now. So hello everybody you're very welcome to our event this afternoon ‘What is the carbon cost of your lunch?’ and my name is Paula Brennan I’m librarian in Dublin City Libraries and we are in partnership today for our event with Vita and with Irish Aid and we're absolutely delighted they decided to come on board with us today. So just to let you know that this event has been recorded live at the moment and the recording will be available on facebook and on YouTube at a later date but as this is a webinar none of the audience will be visible and the only people who will be visible on the live event and also on any recordings would be the panellists themselves. So speaking of the panellists we have some fantastic panellists who were really thrilled decided to join us today and I would like to introduce you to Pat Kane. Pat Kane herself is a sustainability advocate, she is a speaker and she's also the founder of Reuzi. So I would like to introduce you now to pat and give the floor over to her now. Pat it's all yours.
Pat Kane: Thanks very much Paula. Welcome everyone hello panellists I can't wait to start talking to you er basically before we start guys, a bit of housekeeping I want to ask you to please share your photos of your lunch today on social media and remember to use the hashtag #carboncostmylunch. You can tag Vita you can tag Evocca, myself, Rozanne, Medhanie. We would love to see what you're eating today and don't feel guilty we're gonna talk all about it. Also if you want to receive Rozanne's notes on your inbox notes from today please do subscribe to her newsletter and all you need to do is check Rozanne's page on Instagram so Rozanne Stephen that's with a Z Rozanne.
So without further ado, today I’m joining, I’m joined by a bunch of incredible people some I’ve worked with before and some are just meeting right now so Hugh, Medhanie and Emily and of course Rozanne to discuss food. Obviously who doesn't want to talk about food right food is one of those things we never really stop thinking about - I know I don't! We buy, we cook, we eat it and we don't really think about what we're doing. All we want is to crave you know our… I suppose they satiate our cravings, but the truth is we should really stop to think about what's going on our plates and what we are consuming, what, where are the these bits coming from? I guess and all of that.
To give you an idea before we start, I would consider myself quite conscious and you know on all things I suppose consumption but a few months ago I found myself staring at my salt and pepper and thinking you know where do you come from? So it turns out the salt and pepper in front of me had travelled much more than the average human being will ever travel. The black pepper was produced in India, packed in South Africa sent to London and then to Dublin. And the salt was not much different from Pakistan to South Africa, London and then Ireland - which is like mind-blowing and not that is only salt and pepper the most basic things you can think of right. So again the average person in our in the world, an average person will only travel so much in their own lifetime but here you go these two basic things travelling the world. So without further ado let's start this, let's ask the experts you know what is the carbon cost of your lunch? you know where does your food come from? and like tell us guys what processes are involved in getting all of that you know on our plates I guess. Hugh, I’m gonna start with you then, what would you - hello by the way, long time, no see - what would you estimate the carbon cost of the lunches that you've been looking at and you know in general what is the story?
Hugh Weldon: Yeah, absolutely Pat. Thanks very much for the introduction. I’m Hugh Weldon CTO of Evocco and I’ve done some quick calculations on a few sample lunches and I’m going to share with you all now. So I’m just going to share my screen so do let me know if this all appears as it should. So can everyone see my screen? Yeah. Great. First of all, so to give you a bit of background on myself: so I’m the chief technical officer of Evocco, it's a mobile app that's available in Ireland and the UK to help people track, improve and offset the climate impact of their food purchases. We source our environmental impact data from a life cycle assessment company. So life cycle assessment is the methodology used to calculate the impact of a product from cradle to grave and the company is called Eternity and based in Switzerland. Our offsetting runs through gocarbonneutral.ie. When it comes to food system emissions there are a few things that you should understand and two numbers in particular – sorry - what you should know. First of all it accounts for over one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. It's an absolutely huge chunk when we look at the food system so 27.6 percent, there or thereabouts depending on what source you reference So it's an absolutely huge chunk and we simply cannot reduce limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius without transforming the food system and the way we interact with food. The second number to know in here is that developed nation diets, that's European, North American diets primarily have to reduce by a minimum of 75 percent in their CO2 impact by 2050 if we're going to eat within planetary boundaries or we're going to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. So that's a huge change that's required and it we simply cannot contain global warming without a shift to more sustainable diets.
But what what's the breakdown of that impact? Well this source Quantis, a life cycle assessment company also based in Switzerland estimates to 27.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions to be primarily from agriculture that's 24 percent of the 27.6 percent in and around 80-90 percent of the food system emissions come from the agricultural processes required to produce the food. So what does that mean in layman's terms or when you're heading to the shop? Well it means what's much more important than how your food is packaged or where it comes from is what the food you're buying actually is. That's when it comes to CO2 is this the single most important thing.
#So now we're going to have a look at these lunches. So the first up - kindly provided by the team - these were lunches that were eaten yesterday. So if we take say a simple popular ham and salad sandwich could be approximately 630 grams of CO2 so what this would have been calculated by breaking down the ingredients, the mass per ingredient and then assigning the climate impact scores. And if we were to talk about well what we need to achieve in terms of our the reduction in our dietary CO2 by 2030 this one sandwich could be about one percent of your monthly budget for your food if you're deep within planetary boundaries. Then another example would be this: a simple salad lunch which would have like say rice noodles, sweet potato, hummus, some bread on the side, that would be vastly reduced impact of 360 grams thereabouts of CO2, which would be just over 0.5 percent of your monthly CO2 budget for food by 2030. And then better again, a veg sandwich in this case aubergine, leeks, yogurt sauce and salad down to 325 grams of CO2 and 0.5 percent of your monthly CO2 budget to eat within planetary boundaries. So I think that's a good start point for the conversation. Very much so that each of these analyses are based upon certain estimations and there are some things we can track and there's some things we can't track but these are good rules of thumb that increasing the percentage of plant-based meals that you eat is probably the first place to start when it comes to reducing the climate impact of your lunch. So I’ll stop sharing my screen now and back over to your Pat.
Pat Kane: So here this is so impressive, this is incredible. So it's incredible to see how much meat represents when it comes to your carbon and like your GHG or your carbon emissions right. So in real life because you would look at that and it's a ham, a ham sandwich right. I wouldn't eat meat well, like I see a ham sandwich being a very, you know harmless thing you look at it and you're like not major. I would say the majority of the people around us at least until now, would think the same. How you don't how what to do not to like basically in simple terms not to freak out right, because you're like, you'll be looking at everything here's like oh no definitely not that you know so obviously you mentioned reduce the amount of meat and plant-based diet increase in plant-based that's brilliant but is there anything that's like don't freak out you know maybe it's a combination of what you do rather than like you know being like so specific with each meal, so how would you go about that?
Hugh: Yeah I think that's a really good point, but I think absolutely I would say it's important to understand the seriousness of the situation when it comes to climate, but it's also important to have like that positive outlook because it is something that we can address. And very much when speaking with friends who have I suppose become aware as they've started using Evocco it's more about I suppose piece-by-piece take the first step on your climate action journey. Don't feel like you have to achieve everything on day one and I suppose like be kind to yourself in that process. It's not like just because it's something you weren't aware of that you're the villain in this case or anything, far from that we don't even like using a language such as that to describe this. So basically the first thing to do is just take that first step on your climate action journey and we say the first step is to like maybe start tracking your impact or to start like reading more about what the different impact is and then finding what suits your taste and your needs. So it's not like we don't say like be absolutist and be vegan from day one we definitely wouldn't even use that kind of terminology what we'd say is just like find products you really like and then you find products that you you're like well I don't I don't even really like this I’m only eating it because I always have. And then try and see if you can reduce from those first before working up to something that say maybe you really love. And it's all about like a balance is what we would say and even approaching it with that mindset is more liberating and it's more motivational than approaching it from the mindset of like I’m doing everything wrong and everything has to change.
Pat: The same goes for sustainability, sustainable living in general isn't it? Step by step, small steps add up. Exactly. It's interesting then because I would love to ask Rozanne, Emily, Medhanie - you know I’m always hearing like also you know obviously shop local, shop seasonal and we're always hearing you know like I heard once that it's worse to buy a tomato out of season in Ireland than buying something coming from abroad and I was like what so hard to know. So guys I’m opening the floor here for you guys, you know how do you factor in the carbon cost of your meals? you know or do you at all? do you do it you know?
Rozanne: Just a bit of an intro to the way I approach things so you may or may not know but I run a zero waste test kitchen in DCU. So obviously we look at the whole food system but we very much focused on preventing food waste that would be one of our main focuses. So we as an integral part is a foundation of our work we look to the SDGs and our job is to find the harmonious intersection between SDG3 which is human health and well-being and responsible consumption SDG12. And that is where the area that we're trying to work in so that there is...we're talking about a more balanced view on the matter but there has to be a more plant slant and a more planetary outlook and he mentioned you know living within our planetary boundaries and it's very, very much like that but we do have to factor human nutrition into that. And yes part of that, as as Hugh said, is finding food that you really enjoy and you really love because then you are more likely to make those changes and stick to them. But back to your question when it comes to selecting foods in season / out of season, locally / imported so we look very closely at that and we take a number of factors into account. So yes of course, carbon footprinting different foods - really important - but then we also think about things like fair trade and foods that are produced in other countries and then how much of an impact it has producing it in a country with a high yield and that uses far less and planetary resources and then perhaps shipping it as an export option which does use a far smaller percentage of global emissions obviously things like air freighting food is a terrible idea and depends where you are in the world how much that happens. So for instance I lived in Singapore for a few years and a lot of the food was air freighted. So salmon, Norwegian salmon as an example, would have been flown in every week, twice a week. A lot of food from Australia and New Zealand, a huge amount even berries from America air freighted so you can imagine that the carbon emissions of that was crazy it was absolutely bonkers just does not make sense so you mentioned tomatoes which are a really good one. SDG, Mary, a very good question stands for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. So go and google SDGs, fascinating, really interesting, and definitely the way of the world now. So back to tomatoes, from a sustainability point of view very specifically after October in Ireland growing tomatoes is pretty much a disaster, from a, from a sustainability point of view. But we have this mentality that we want things 12 months of the year, 365 days of the year, and I think then perhaps we have to look at importing them from neighbours that have better outputs, and low resource usage, and then also using things that are frozen or tinned tomatoes and so on and so forth and just change your menu and change your recipes to reflect the seasons. A lot of countries be very used to that and it's very traditional. I mean that's where preserved vegetables and tomatoes largely come from would be countries like Italy. They would be, as part of the culture, as part of traditions, would be bottling and preserving and pickling foods and it's great to see an interest in that. I think people are really taking a big interest in fermenting foods and pickling foods and preserving foods and it's part of the flow of the seasons and of our food system to embrace that and to look at that really closely.
Pat: Fantastic. Emily and Medhanie how do you see this?
Emily: Hey everyone, I’m Emily from Vita, Programme Officer here. Yeah, I just will tell you a few things about like what I try to do in in my daily life and I don't know if I’m doing the right things but I’m picking up some tips here. So first of all, I only try to buy what I need If a recipe says you only need one carrot it makes more sense to buy a single carrot than rather than buying a big discount bag of 10 carrots say, and it's cheaper as well. So I find this cuts down on packaging and also on food waste. Recently I’ve been trying more to buy what's in season. But I suppose in Ireland where most of us are a little removed from the land or from growing food and as Rozanne said, and there's like such a huge variety of ingredients available to us all year round in the supermarket so it's hard to know actually sometimes what's in season right now in Ireland. So but like everyone else over the past year I’ve had more time on my hands and so I’ve been learning more and also it's given me more time to do more meal planning and try out new recipes and new ingredients that yeah, I’ve been experimenting and having fun with.
Pat: Fantastic that's very real life isn't it Emily? I think that's very important because there's so much I think people will be able to squeeze into their daily lives in terms of theory, they just want to begin with real life so amazing, very good. And Medhanie, I’m sorry if I’m saying your name wrong, but here we are. Nice to meet you and do tell us about your story.
Medhanie: Okay thanks but for introducing me. I'm Medhanie, and let me introduce myself. I'm from Eritrea for some of you who don't know, Eritrea is a small country in the horn of Africa, having almost an equal population with Ireland. Just now I’m at the UCD studying Masters degree. About you know this carbon footprint I came to know especially from the projects that are going on, funded by Irish Aid by Vita, I know, in my country. I can't say that the people there in Eritrea, or in the neighbouring country in Africa still the awareness is quite less in the impacts of our daily life, the food that we are eating daily could have an impact to the greenhouse gas emissions or like global warming. Based on the assumption that because we are not eating processed food as we are less industries industries it's assuming that the impact is, that we are only the receivers of the global warming. But our food you know, our main meals is basically the meals that we are consuming
in Eritrea, are sorghum and others. Definitely it comes from, I can't say directly from the soil there is no much processor for us, definitely in that term, it's definitely, it's helping in reducing the impact of the carbon footprint because we are getting them directly from the soil and like farm, farmers market like there is also such things in Ireland I observed here.
Shopping, buying them in a bulk, not processed in small, small quantities, definitely this helps to reduce the carbon footprint, but on the other hand that we don't observe mainly the awareness less I can say - the time it takes to process it, I mean to cook it in our home you know. We are cooking it a lot there in our way, we boil it for longer period of time I observed here in Ireland it's quite different you know that's the difference we have. They consume here just from packet food - smaller, smaller, smaller. If you buy from supermarket which definitely contributes to the carbon footprint there where comes me from the farms -
loose we buy loose foods. But on the other hand, here you boil them very little. Definitely it contributes very less to the carbon footprint but we boil them there very long and definitely we have one unique meal also, basically it's in Eritrea and Egypt, we call it injera it's quite a big pancake. That requires a lot of energy to consume, you know, to be produced, to be prepared, because it needs a big stove, a big cook stove. Traditionally in the royal areas they use firewood so here you know it contributes two things: First we are destroying the woods - firewood - the trees for for the use of the firewood. And the other thing is we are using increasing the smoke also you know releasing the smokes the environments also. These are the things that still it needs... to be people need to be aware definitely the people are definitely now getting increased and always getting agree with the project there with the others but still still I can't feel that we are contributing something also to the the carbon footprint.
Pat: Very interesting, so you're injera - yes - main meal would that be like in the middle of the day? would be a night meal? and would that be like a lot of different things? That's just out of curiosity?
Medhanie: Yes it's, it's our main staple food you know staple food in Eritrea and Egypt. We consume it mainly in the lunch time and the dinner time with other stew. With potatoes, or in others too. We use it as a bread you know to hold it to all the other stews.
Pat: So hopefully one day we'll get to meet and experience that, it sounds amazing. So before we move on I just want to release here one...we have three polls that we're going to release during this chat so I’m going to ask you guys - here we go - how often have you considered the carbon cost of your meals because we're going to go into real tips now so I think we spoke about concept about you know this is it let's think about it so let's see how you guys are doing when it comes to thinking about this thing. Please divulge! And while we are at it, we are at it, I’m going to ask Rozanne...bring you back and you were an advocate for zero waste meals you know like there must be an incredible job you have I would be so curious to see it and the question is here right how they how do they feed into carbon costing because I’m assuming zero waste is already a great step right when it comes to reducing your carbon emissions and everything well like how do they fit into this world and what tips would you have to share here with us when it comes to zero waste cooking as well as you know trying to reduce the emissions generated by whatever you are cooking.
You're on mute.
Rozanne: On mute! Sorry - rookie mistake, rookie mistake. Just to follow what was said is that the work that we do very interestingly is we do look at energy efficiency appliances, electricity used as a resource. We do look at water consumption and air quality in kitchens all of those things.
They are all really important and the end life cycle the food your waste management has to be 100 immaculate and we do cover composting and biodigesting so we actually reverse engineer the process and I spent the first year on waste management and so I have - I know more about waste management than I ever wanted to know so I would say for people at home, first thing that you do you can have the most immaculate menus planned and fabulous food that you buy but unless your waste segregation is absolutely perfect that's going to end up in landfill and then you are contributing to this global problem of methane emissions that is the third biggest cause of global warming. One question I would ask you there just sorry to pause you but when you say the perfect segregation are you talking about your recycling and composting or anything beyond that? Rozanne: Everything. Because you'll be at a point where not everything is recyclable in Ireland and we can try and reduce buying things that are packaged in plastic as much as we like and but we will still be forced to buy to buy some things unfortunately but you need to make sure that whatever is going to recycling is clean and it's dry okay no little particles of things. No dirty pizza boxes - nothing like that. So you really need to go and educate yourself about that. I’m a big fan of composting. So there is going to be some waste when it comes to food preparation and things like that and it's almost unavoidable unless you get an industrial scale where you can do things with perhaps eggshells and things like that. So composting at home is a really fantastic habit to get into because your brown bin is a bit of a grey area and some people buy products that are meant to be compostable containers and so and so forth but unless your waste management company have an agreement with them and they know that that exact container is compostable, it's going to end up in landfill so don't assume that because you're buying something it's compostable that it's actually going to be composted unless you physically do it in yourself in your own composting process at home or bin, or whatever you have going on at home. So that's not a glamorous answer but that's the honest truth is start when you can have the most impact immediately and then work at preventing your food waste at home and the biggest area where we cause food waste is in fresh produce so a lot of the work that we do is around fresh produce and not buying too much and not over purchasing storing things properly and then you've got a glut of something what to do with that glut. Maybe you've got loads of tomatoes or loads of courgettes and what are you going to do with them perhaps you can freeze and perhaps going to pick them perhaps you're going to do all those things, but to really fix our food system we need to stop buying excess food because we are sending the wrong message at the food chain. So if Rozanne Stevens every single week buys a bag of lettuce that ends up in the compost that's not solving the problem. I’m still sending that message up the food chain that I need my bag of baby salad leaves every single week. So it's, it has a lot of ramifications when we are buying too much food and whether you throw in the food or when it ends up in landfill ends in the compost bin they all have ramifications. So I’m a big fan of staple crops, so your pulses, your beans, your lentils and chickpeas and for lunch bringing back to our carbon footprint in our lunch they make a really good solid cornerstone to build a lunch around so you make fantastic soups you can make fantastic wraps and salads. Mason jar salads are great you can make a few of these ahead of time and they'll stay fresh for three to four days in the fridge. Glass is great obviously, and for preserving your food and keeping it nice and fresh Another strategy I really like is batch cooking on a Saturday and then freezing things in individual portions. So it could be a nice soup, it could be a chili, it could be a topping for a baked potato. So freezing is a really good food preservation method, but you just need to make sure then that you freeze it properly and that you plan on when you're going to eat it. So that's part of your planning. So all the recipe development work that we do in DCU is all vegetarian. We do find a place for meat and seafood and try and make the most sustainable choices around that so I have a policy document, it's a living document -
but one of the policies that I have for my work is that 100% of animal proteins are sourced in Ireland for a lot of reasons and touching on local is sometimes you'll choose to support a local producer not because they've got the lowest carbon footprint but for other reasons you are supporting a local producer, you're supporting a local economy, you might be supporting a female farmer, gender equality, creating work, creating communities bringing back to the SDGs. So if you look at things holistically like that there is that little bit of a balance. I know people get very concerned about food miles but you can you know chime in on this but most of the data shows that the carbon emissions occur at food production stage, and not just the miles it's travelled - unless it's air miles which are covered which is a disaster.
So Hugh, do you want to chime in on that.
Hugh: yeah for sure Rozanne I definitely echo that. I think they when we talk about food miles like you mentioned the impact of cargo or air freighting produce is definitely the highest impact. And just to give you an idea, like you're probably like well how do I know if something's going to be air freighted or if it's going to be shipped like it's definitely not going to say that on the packet well the good rule of thumb is it like fresh produce with a short shelf life out of season so for example if you're having say strawberries in like in the wintertime likely they're going to be air freighted they put a short shelf life so they've got to get quickly from the farm to market. Likewise if you're getting like say green beans or something like that from Kenya it's going to be air freighted most likely. So things that aren't as bad as people think, say like for example bananas, they'll be cargo freighted so it's not going to be as big an impact and then something like citrus fruit as well it'll be. And as well citrus food at room temp...is stored at room temperature close to room temperature when it goes to cargo freighting and ship so even then that's lower impact than some other fruits for example like shipping apples from the southern hemisphere to the European market will have a higher impact than other fresh produce on the same ship given that it has to be stored at a lower temperature. But general rule thumb when it comes to the transportation is that yeah is it is this a fresh product that has a short shelf life and is it like.. if it's not obviously grown in my general region at this time of year that's why it's going to be air freighted. And just to touch on why why I say like it's the agricultural processes that seem to have like the biggest share of impact and it's really not that intuitive for us like there are a couple of factors in play, one is land use change, for example like land that's being converted from what was wilderness or forest into agricultural land, there's a huge carbon cost associated with that. There's some basic farming practices that inherently release CO2 as they're used for example.
Even ploughing a field when you turn the sod, the CO2 that's stored and the carbon stored in that soil is then released and that's on an annual basis. And then one good thing to understand as well, is like why do animal products have such a higher impact? It's because we're eating higher up the food chain for producing those calories in effect, to be crude about it or that protein in an animal product, there's much more input required from plant-based sources. Anyone with an agricultural background, even in Ireland, although we are good for being able to I suppose, use grass practices, there's no farmer in the country, or very few, who don't feed some kind of supplementary grain and where does that come from in the first instance? That's likely soy-based product and that's likely coming from deforested regions and the southern hemisphere. So there's like...it's a much more complex supply chain and those are the reasons why it comes, it comes in a much higher impact. For example like I think it's north of 70% of the world's soy, even up to like 80-90% is just used as animal feed. So there's there are many factors in that case. Fantastic, oh my goodness! You we're talking about food waste Rozanne and I recently learned that the amount of edible mass of fruit and veggies wasted in the in the EU is around 46% which is not right when you stop to think. We could be eating the 46% but we waste it so Rozanne: I mean statistically there currently actually enough food in the world to feed everyone there's enough calories produced in the world to feed everyone but it's obviously very badly distributed. And there's huge inequalities there. So that's SDG zero hunger, SDG2, and you can tie that in. So again, if we can prevent that food waste and send the right messages up the food chain and then we can we can help solve that problem as well. And it is a huge problem. So some food waste does occur in production. I mean I’m a farmer's daughter so I’m under no illusions - so some of it does occur in the actual farming process, but a huge amount of it comes from domestic waste. So since lockdown domestic waste in Ireland went up 40% understandably because everyone's at home there's no restaurants and cafes open I think there was a bit of a panic initially buying lots and lots of food and then it went off, and things like that, so there's lots of reasons we can extrapolate from that. In parallel to that, that's really interesting in surveys done it's something that's very, very concerning to most people, is how to solve this this food waste issue. And I think a lot of it is tacking it from the wrong end and so things like say taking vegetable peelings and things like that and trying to do something creative with that - fine on a small scale - but if you get very sidelined by that you're not seeing the point of it and and that's trying to prevent the food waste before it happens and where the real waste is occurring at home. And on a catering level I know chefs like doing very creative and fun and exciting things, and they love a challenge but it can actually also use a lot more resources - looking at that end of things and say trying to turn all your banana peels into relish this is more sugar you know it's more vinegar it's more spices more electricity it's more time it's all those things,
and are you really making an impact when it comes to that. So I’d say start, obviously the waste management, so you have an immediate impact. The next thing is planning. Planning really is key. And I’m just going to give you one tip with this: don't over plan. As things open up again in Ireland
Pat: Is Rozanne frozen for everybody? I think so, yeah. Okay, well I suppose guys we will just keep going I think this was a great segue, like we talked about Europe and Ireland, very interesting but I want to ask now and Medhanie and Emily how are the farmers in Eritrea or African farmers in general and communities being affected by climate change? and if there is anyone taking actual you know, action with people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, so we can all adapt to this challenge. So if you could shed some light here that would be amazing.
Emily: yeah I’ll start off with kind of the general picture. So in Africa and elsewhere in the global south and countries are experiencing more and more extreme weather events, like flash floods and a series of intense droughts and in the horn of Africa where Vita works I think about 80% of people are subsistence farmers and depend on the land to survive so these extreme weather events are very devastating for them because they're wiping out crops or farm animals. So obviously, that's really unfair, but what's really unfair about this situation is the people suffering the most from climate breakdown often people who are living in poor countries in Africa and other countries in the global south, did not really create the climate change that we're living with today.
Even today if you want to look at like the average carbon footprint of a person in Ireland, versus a person in say Eritrea or Ethiopia our average carbon footprint per capita is 40 times higher than the average carbon footprint of a person in Ethiopia or Eritrea. But even in resource rich countries like ours we're not all the same and people have different levels of advantage or disadvantage and but yet we all need to move forward to greener society but I think it's unrealistic to expect a person who is struggling to make ends meet whether it's in Ireland or elsewhere to take climate action, if that a climate action step is costly and unaffordable to that person. So clearly we have to support less well-off or marginalized communities, both in Ireland and internationally, to transition to a low emission society and develop in a sustainable way otherwise our efforts will be for nothing and only wealthy people will be able to afford to take climate action and inequality will be further increased and vulnerable people will be left behind. So that's what really motivates Vita and shapes our work and it's about creating opportunities for poorer communities or more marginalized communities to have the benefit from climate solutions.
Pat: Yeah well, that's fantastic. Medhanie, what's your view on that as well?
Medhanie: Yeah thanks Emily. As Emily said the impact is quite very high in the African communities in Eritrea and the other all Sub-Saharan African countries. As the farmers, actually they are subsistent they depend on the nature, on the land and they depend on the phase, they have to - the nature also. They wait only something would come, the rain will come and dramatically this all the climate change is affecting you know the rain pattern increasing drought and the flood. It increases diseases and the pest pressure, as it imitates them, like in through some new pests also getting interested like the pest locust swarm which was in the past years it was heavy local affected many African, Sub-Saharan African countries. When yeah when we come to the what actions either in action to take in there is, yeah the awareness on the source and impact of the climate is quite increasing I can send the governments and the different organizations are coming forward with different solutions for this unprivileged communities. In Eritrea the impact of the climate change and reclaim the degraded landscape difference rights are under implementation mainly by mobilizing the community such as planting of the trees and the production of an improved cook stove. I told you our cook stove one of the main things that contributes to increasing of carbon greenhouse gas emissions and definitely a lot of energy. So different organisms like Vita are just working a lot into that. And the policy of agriculture is definitely improving to cope up with this change. Like now the Minister of Agricultural focus on diversification of crops and livestock so that they can reduce the impact, and ensure food and nutrition security such as there is a package called a minimum integrated household agriculture package which promotes the subsistence farmers to have a small plot of land and produce different type of crops, integrated with livestock and planting of tree and fodder and fruit so that they can have nutrition also there produced locally. The organizations like Vita gives me a pleasure to mention you know what they are doing is like it's a marvellous thing. Vita, Teagasc, Africa and mainly funded by Irish it is working in cooperation as you know with the Eritrean government, to improve the livelihoods of rural communities.The project is running there by Vita Irish Aid and others in Eritrea and actually in Ethiopia also, they are decreasing you know they are making great impacts in the climate change and reducing the source also like by promoting improved cook stove. Most importantly, you know this projects that are run by the Minister and funded by Irish Aid are community based and science related with the science also. I can't think, I can say, it's like from bottom up and up to bottom so start from the community and mobilize them and work with them so so that they can benefit from their nature and so that they can benefit the other community also. Like the introduction of resilient cultivars that adapt to the climate change, tolerate to the drought, erratic rainfall and the so-called climate smart potato, wheat, pearl millet and others, and milk dairy cows also.
Pat: I’m actually not gonna let you talk about potatoes anymore, because we're gonna have a question about it. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,
Medhanie: Yeah my main thing, is the main thing they do is that by introducing resilient crops, different crops and there are a lot of other dairy projects that promote farmers to have their own one cow...so that the farmer will have for his own and for his community there. Others you know like the cook stove I told you. The cook stove is one of the great - improved cook stove developed by the Minister of Energy of our country. Vita are promoting this improved cook stove people's stories so far you know from the from the day on the actually put their food in Eritrea they have promoted about 45,000 improved cook stoves so they have constructed in collaboration with the community. And the different other, also the water sanitation programs so that the people will not bother to boil it so that you are releasing that carbon out from that also. Planting of trees is more than three million trees have been already planted so that it reclaims the land and composting. Yeah this is some of the things, you know, some of the marvellous things.
Pat: Yeah no, this is fantastic, and I will take that opportunity to bring up our next poll, which is basically you know, after today's events would you say that you're aware of how food choices impact on climate change and communities in the global south? I would like to believe that we are very much aware right now but I’ll let you guys divulge for a little minute or two now. Back to the potato because it wouldn't be an Irish conversation without mentioning this delicious little thing and I want to ask also again Medhanie and Emily you know how can potatoes help African farmers and communities who are affected by climate change? You started their Medhanie talking about it and and the other question that we took in just as we go is like what would you like people here today who are getting their lunch ready to know about climate change and the choices we make as consumers you know. So again back to you guys.
Emily: Yeah I’ll just say a little bit about potatoes and why they're a good crop for climate change. So a lot of Vita's work revolves around climate smart agriculture and as Medhanie said creating access to kind of crop varieties that are more suitable to the changing weather conditions. So potatoes obviously they're highly nutritious we know that, and they produce more food per kind of land area than many other major staple crops so and three to five times more than wheat or rice for example so and they're a good crop for increasing food security and food supply as well in these countries. Because they're a bulky crop and they're less likely to be exported and so they're they're less subject to kind of like price volatility or price fluctuations so it provides a kind of a stable income for the potato farmers or whoever the the people are who are growing potatoes. So that's kind of some of the the interesting things about potatoes. I’m growing potatoes myself right now and I love doing it so easy and they're resistant.
Pat: Medhanie, so do you have any more to talk to us about that or even if you want to talk to us about what people here what should we be thinking about when preparing our lunches today.
Medhanie: Yeah, so it gives me a lot of pleasure you know to talk about potato you know when we talk about climate change especially in Africa we the first thing that comes into our mind is the variability in the rainfall, you know that's making. So potato is ,as Emily said, it's one of the crops that have high water use efficiency you get per drop of water the product is per drop of water is higher than any other crop so it helps in we cope with the erratic rainfall low spatial distribution of the rainfall and others. And nutritional is a resource of all the nutrients some experts even say that you know having a potato and a cup of milk fulfils almost all the requirements a person needs per day. And due to its high starch content potatoes acts as a staple food in many countries. So if you take potato you basically you don't need to worry about carbohydrates from wheat and others. You can take an example that in the 1980s Irish main food was potato until the farmer in 1945 comes too many farmers potatoes also a cash crop in African countries especially in my country. So it increased their income than any other crop because it gives higher yield per area. So we can see the impact of potato crop in the farmers level in the horn of Africa mainly in Eritrea and Ethiopia and from the initiatives undertaken by Vita, Irish Aid, Self-help Africa and others. Potato agriculture also associated with low greenhouse gas emissions relative to other major crops therefore it can be said that it's a climate smart option and some researchers even say that potato is one of the crops that adapt quickly to climate change and make use of the carbon dioxide for its benefit basically it means that it's acting as a sink for carbon. So yeah finally you know, I want to say the change you know in the climate due to the increased carbon footprints generally speaking at greenhouse gas emissions not only carbon cannot be blamed to industries or government choice, policy choice only, every individual has a contribution to the greenhouse as previously say, either decrease it or increase it. Sometimes it's good to pause for a moment from our routine habit of living or for eating practices. Anything is our choice contributing positively or negatively to the ecosystem which in turn affects our life and the life of others. You can't think of the world itself. The word itself it says global warming. I have never heard of local warming, whatever choice we take have affected the other communities in the world. You can see we can say an example therefore we are taking packet in plastics to bring those foods into such packet state until into our table, they have passed through different energy consuming stages where it leaves some carbon there at every stage. Then we eat our meals and throw the packing materials.
Then two things may happen, in either it goes to the recycling and there we need or some energy to be recycled, and the second thing is we throw it away then this goes to the ecosystem for example if it goes to the sea it affects the aquatic diversity, the fish abundance in others and there we need fish again so we have to produce them artificially in an enclosed system so you are consuming again another energy. So then again you produce more energy and more carbon so we may think that the industries are producing highly processed foods or something else, but our choice you know are also dictating them I can say. And policy makers should support more to the initiatives
Pat: It's a, it's a big I suppose system but I think your point of you know we can all make a difference we can all think about what we're doing is spot on because at times we forget about that isn't it?
Pat: So unfortunately we'll have to wrap up. I could talk to you guys forever, it's amazing. So big thanks to our panel. Thanks to Hugh, thanks Rozanne, thanks Medhanie, thanks Emily. Please remember the libraries are open across Dublin and ready for you guys. Please remember to sign up to Rozanne's, Rozanne's newsletter, just check her Instagram. Please remember to download the Evocca's app and support Vita if you can and check Reuzi if you can. So there you go I think I did everybody
Paula: Yes thank you very much Pat, that was really informative. I know I will never look at my sandwich the same way again. So I am I hope you all learned something, found it informative and also enjoyed it so on behalf of Dublin City Libraries, Vita and Irish Aid I’d like to thank all our panellists. Thank you so much! Thank you Pat for being our moderator and doing such a fantastic job and using the technology as well we got through. And naturally thank you very much to the audience thank you all for coming to this event. As Pat said we are absolutely thrilled in Dublin City Libraries to be open again - our doors are open - so hopefully we'll be seeing you again in person soon. Just remember online events are still going on you can find our events on the library's web page www.dublincitylibraries.ie and on our usual social media. So all I can say again is thank you very much everybody and enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you!