Food: On the Forefront of Inclusive Conversations About Climate Change

Women working in a field.

As the changing climate transforms the way we think about water, it also brings about changes in the way we look at food.

Extreme weather conditions like floods, fires, and droughts bring shortages in food. And because of the new weather patterns, it’s harder to farm, hunt, and fish – all of which exasperates the world’s current problem with hunger.

Associate Professor Michael Fakhri, an expert in food sovereignty and agroecology understands the issues and their possible solutions. As he investigates international government and food systems he makes connections in law and policy that may be used to increase biodiversity through food-making practices. This is especially critical in our current climate crisis.

“We’re seeing a significant rise in hunger across the world but there has not been significant legal and political responses to these changes,” said Fakhri.

Sample image
821.6 million people are chronically undernourished globally.
The Hunger Project

Fakhri agrees with leading scientists that the world needs to see food become more resilient, productive, and sustainable – but he notes that it also needs to be more inclusive and equitable as well.

“When climate disasters happen, food prices skyrocket and it is harder for people to eat,” said Fakhri. “What typically happens is that peasants, hunters, pastoralists, and fisherfolk – the world’s principal food producers either don’t have access to the food they produce or can’t afford to eat.”

Fakhri’s research indicates that when we look at the imbalance in food production through the agroecology lens, both the climate and the most vulnerable and poor communities mutually benefit.

“Agroecological practices depend on using less carbon intense sources of energy, and finds efficiencies in natural resources,” said Fakhri. “At the same time, it takes into account the micro-scale  and what is appropriate for each community and considers both human and non-human life.”

Fakhri sees it as the duty of legal scholars and students to highlight how the law structures the allocation of power and wealth when it comes to food production, distribution, and consumption. He notes that it’s easy to get caught up in putting forward technical solutions to climate change and pushing for the political will to implement a plan. But no solution is sustainable, he says, if it doesn’t empower the people most vulnerable to climate change.

“Any long-term solution has to enable people to determine their own future and give them the tools they need to solve the problems within their own communities,” said Fakhri. “In other words, social justice is not something you tack-on at the end but rather a core part of an ecologically sound future.”

How to Prepare for the Unknown

Fakhri emphasizes that there has always been a constant change and back and forth with the biosphere and that agroecology practices are not entirely new.

“We’ve always had to adapt to environments,” said Fakhri. “The idea of agroecology is that we are in a constant dialogue with nature. However, now due to new patterns in the climate, this adaptation needs to happen much faster, and at an unprecedented scale.”

This rapid change, highlighted in Fakhri’s research, finds that people are living in new biospheres without moving locations. He discovered wine growers in Oregon that are now able to grow grapes that were once only compatible with the environment in Northern California.

These changes are happening globally and Fakhri points out that given the opportunity, small-scale farmers, farm workers, pastoralists, hunters, and fishers have the know-how necessary to develop new practices.

“This group of people are on the front line and experience ecological changes on a day-to-day basis,” said Fahkri. “What we see in the international arena is these people organizing themselves through social movements around concepts like food sovereignty and agroecology. It is because of them that agroecology and peasant rights are even on the international agenda.”

By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications