The Trillion Tree Campaign was announced in January 2020 at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos 2020. This bold initiative grew from the Billion Tree Campaign launched in 2006 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This valiant vision, which will hopefully motivate all nations around the world to participate, has already inspired 193 countries into action, planting 13.6 billion trees. Amazing results, but we’re still a long way off target.
“It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees,” said Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of the Green Belt Movement. With 2.7 billion people who are food insecure across the globe in 2022, choosing native fruit trees to plant in public spaces, will not only store more carbon but also curb hunger through healthy, nutritional means, feeding hungry families, birds and animals. Thinking smarter with our limited time and resources will save many lives. Recommended locations for native fruits trees and berry bushes:
Different types of fruit trees thrive in different regions of the country. It’s wonderful to see families stop and pick wild raspberries on the trails in my county. Here are a few that grow well in the East Coast, South & West Coast Regions:
According to the World Economic Forum video above, there are a number of cities who have jumped in with the dual purpose fruit tree initiative. Not only do these trees cut carbon, they also curb hunger through healthy, nutritional means. When one solution can address two of the world’s most dire circumstances, you know this is money and action well spent.
In the US, grabbing a bite to eat off a fruit tree in a public park has begun taking root. According to TakePart the following cities have such initiatives: Seattle, Boston, Asheville (NC), Madison (WI), and San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco has 25 urban orchards and Wild Food Walks to help residents and visitors find the edibles that abound in the city.
With hundreds of thousands of American youth actively participating in plant-a-tree programs, as well as large corporations joining the effort, it’s time to promote the multiple benefits of scaling up the planting of fruit trees in communities around the country.
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is an up-and-coming innovative solution for consumers looking for the best way to eat wonderfully healthy, locally grown produce at an economical price while dramatically reducing the carbon emissions associated with our food system (which is 15% of our total annual CO2 emissions in the US, or 9 billion tons per year). “If you want to support regenerative agriculture, and all its benefits, buy produce from a local farmer,” recommends Gabe Brown, a North Dakota farmer who is a soil health pioneer and was featured in the acclaimed documentary, Kiss the Ground.
There are more than 7,600 CSAs in the United States. Most, if not all, have caps on the maximum number of members. Once the CSA has reached its max, they create a waiting list. The average retention rate for CSAs is approximately 45%, with a few retaining as many as 70–80%. But that’s a very small few. These strong partnerships, between farmers (producers) and consumers, were established so that both can share in the benefits and the risks of the farm’s harvest. CSA’s are located primarily in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest. Consumers pay a flat fee upfront to become a member, and then receive a weekly share during harvest. This is referred to as cropsharing.
Producers develop a strong connection with their members by providing regular farm updates, usually through email, which might include recipes and a newsletter. Many CSAs have a social media presence as well, and also host farm events and offer farm tours. This positive and educational interaction results is a very well-informed consumer which strengthens the consumers’ ties to the farm and local community which is one of the goals of CSA producers.
What are the food miles of the produce in your local grocery store?
When shopping at any of the big super market chains, including Whole Foods, you’ll spot the little colorful signs alerting shoppers to which state or country a specific fruit or vegetable is from. The large grocery chains in my location mostly sell produce from “California,” which is quite far for simple vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. Too often, we’ll also see Mexico, Peru, Ecuador. Whole Foods has a special “local” section with a small selection of produce and eggs from Virginia or Maryland.
Eliminating the unnecessary amount of carbon emissions associated with food transportation is imperative. According to The Conscious Challenge, food transportation amounts to approximately 4% of the our food system carbon emissions. To stay below 1.5ºC, which must be our goal to prevent catastrophic warming, we’re required to cut 3 billion tons of CO2 from our consumption choices as outlined in An Action Plan for Solving the Climate Crisis Now.
By definition, “locally grown” means within 400 miles per The Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. But farmer’s markets, retailers and food organizations, often draft their own definition of locally grown, which may end up being vegetables from as far away as 1000 miles. Additionally, recent studies have shown that the vital nutrient density of fruits and vegetables goes down as the distance traveled goes up.
One Acre Farm
One Acre Farm is an amazing CSA, powered by the sun, located in the DC metro area on the Maryland side. It services all three communities: Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington DC; and Northern Virginians who may work in DC or can easily travel by metro to the One Acre Farm DC pick-up locations. This 34-acre farm (wow, quite a stunning growth spurt, from 1 acre to 34 acres in 15 years), is located in Dickerson, Maryland just a few miles from the Potomac River. It was founded in 2007 and is owned by Mike Protas and his wife Kristin. Farmer Mike, as he is called, has always been a CSA producer and pursued this particular path in the world of agriculture because he feels “it’s very important to have a connection with your community to grow your food with.”
Charlotte Henderson is the One Acre Farm Manager. I was delighted to have an informative conversation with both Mike and Charlotte and hear their passion and excitement for the CSA experience as they were pricing the 2022 annual member fee and calculating how many open spots they have based on heir 2021 retention rate. One Acre Farm has a max of 200 members.
“If we want farms to exist, we have to change our mentality as consumers.”
Mike Protas, Founder and Owner of One Acre Farm
Mike explained how misconceptions about CSAs are really the only thing holding back growth. Traditional small, local farmers who follow conventional ag practices, (that of using pesticides so that their produce looks beautiful at the farmers market), rarely survive. “They may have a few good years, but eventually the pesticides will degrade their soil, and they can’t make it in the long run,” Mike said.
Mike and Charlotte are enthusiastic about their Certified Naturally Grown practices that are very similar to organically grown and regenerative farm soil health practices:
They do not use pesticides.
They do use cover crops to boost soil health and increase water infiltration rate which helps keep the soil moist in high heat.
Compost is applied to the soil which also boosts soil health and crop nutrient density. (One Acre Farm gets their compost from Compost Crew that rents land from One Acre Farm for their composting.)
Mike even adds biochar to the potato field “because potatoes love biochar,” (so does the soil).
It’s very important to Mike that he pay those who work for One Acre Farm a living wage. Mike went on to explain that the upfront commitment is the most important part. Once the 200 members’ are confirmed, One Acre Farm’s annual harvest is paid for, (Mike will happily set up a payment plan if that works best for family budgets; and Individuals who want to become members, can join with a friend and the two can either split each week’s bag or alternate weeks). With the planting and harvesting costs covered from the start, Mike has already sold all the produce that he’ll now spend the year growing. Both the producer and the consumer share in the harvest’s risk.
Once the summer harvest begins, the team walks the fields each week to see which vegetables are “ready.” Mike and Charlotte explained that the farm sends an email to all members at the beginning of the week, letting them know what it “looks like a possibility of” the veggies that might be in their weekly “share.” The morning of their pick-up day, the farm sends out an email stating, “This is what is actually in your share” this week, along with a few recipes.
In my humble opinion, this is the very best part. Vegetables picked fresh from a local farm and placed into a bag with your name written on it, delivered to the local pick-up spot, every single week during the 22-week stretch. Very fresh, which means very delicious. Maximumly healthy. Nominal handling. Very low carbon emissions. And no single-use plastic produce bags. The next best thing might be growing vegetables and fruits on your own property, but many people don’t have the time or patience. So, for the majority, this is as good as it gets.
Charlotte sounded thrilled that their pre-packaged “share bags” worked out so well. This method was a Covid modification. Originally, families picked their selections from bins. But now, the One Acre Farm team fills the bags each week for their members. Charlotte also stressed the value CSA members receive, explaining how there are some weeks in the summer when there is so much produce, families would have ended up paying a fortune at a local store for the same quantity of fresh-picked, certified naturally grown fruits and vegetables.
One Acre Farm also has a corporate client. Each week several of the team members bring a couple hundred mini share bags to the corporate office and pass them out to the employees. Additionally, Manna Food Center is a recipient of One Acre Farm’s weekly share.
I asked Mike and Charlotte if climate change had impacted One Acre Farm, the way it’s impacted farmers in many farming communities out West and in the Northern Plains. Mike sounded really grounded in his perspective. “What we need to do as farmers and humans is help mitigate some of these climate challenges.” He continued with a determined outlook, “What we have done on our farm to help deal with the fluctuations of climate and temperatures and extreme moisture and extreme drought and extreme cold is work on the soil.”
Soil health! Smart. Very, very smart, actually. Soil health just may be the most effective climate mitigation of them all.
At his Glasgow speech during COP26, Vijay Prashad eviscerated the West with an impassioned rebuke of colonialism, and our “middle class, bourgeois, Western slogan” that states how worried we are about the future. There are “2.7 billion who can’t eat NOW,” the Indian historian raged to a stunned crowd. Prashad’s fiery speech went viral. “The United States, 4-5% of world population, still uses 25% of its resources.”
Prashad’s charged coup de grace never made it into the Western mainstream media news cycles during this twelve day gathering of global leaders. The critical points he was thundering, and striving to communicate to the West, are valid, though, and need to be absorbed into our consciousness.
Our excesses, and our warped perspective, are harming billions of people.
Vijay Prashad is Executive-Director of Tricontinental: Institute of Social Resreach, a journalist commentator, and former professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut from 1996-2017. Maybe it was Prashad’s Trinity professorship that had me so transfixed as I listened to his impassioned wake-up call. Trinity College was my old stomping grounds from 1997-1998. I lived nearby and visited campus regularly. Perhaps that’s the reason why Prashad’s message resonates so strongly with me now, our being at the same place at the same time, back when all of our futures were so much brighter. Back when Americans could have changed the course of human events had we only paid attention to the scientists and acted.
“There is hope. In these moments of darkness, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Assad, COP26 Commentator in Glasgow introducing Vijay Prashad
Prashad’s fury stems from what he referred to as the West’s “colonialism,” and our lecturing others about how to behave, insisting that others reduce consumption, and how our hypocrisy has left 2.7 billion innocent people starving with many children going days without food.
Prashad unleashed his contempt for Western colonialism as a permanent condition in two ways:
Colonial mentality. From Prashad’s perspective, the US and the West tell others that others are responsible for the global climate crisis. “The US will never accept that they’re to blame.” The West comes up with catchy phrases like “We’re all in this together.” But Pershad assured his Glasgow audience that “We’re NOT in this together.” The US outsources the production of most of our products: phones, buckets, nuts and blots, etc. Our excessive consumption, with production in foreign countries, destroys these foreign landscapes and pollutes their air, and then we lecture them about polluting.
Our excessive consumption, and inability to restrain ourselves, destroys these foreign landscapes and pollutes their air, and then we have the gall to lecture them about polluting.
Colonial structures and institutions. Prashad reminded listeners that between 1765 — 1938 the British Isles stole £45 trillion sterling from India, destroyed the landscape, forced coal on India, and now lends India’s money back to India as debt. “No, it’s OUR money. You gave us our money back as debt and then you lecture us about how we should live.”
Prashad’s outrage should cause us to each take stock. Excessive consumption in the US should not come at the expense of 2.7 billion people on the brink of starvation, many of whom are children. The simmering anger that vulnerable countries feel, countries who didn’t contribute to the climate crisis, but are already suffering permanent negative impacts, (while millions of Americans act oblivious and refuse to change their habits), may soon become a national security concern. Not only our actions, but also our inaction. Prashad’s hair-raising indignation is a warning bell for the West, particularly the US.
Democratic leaders have become advocates for climate justice and equity, as communities create climate action plans to guide us through climate mitigation and adaptation and reaching a 50% cut in CO2 by 2030. But they can’t stop there. And neither can we as individuals.
Fairfax County’s Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) highlights the importance of protecting the most vulnerable. It established the One Fairfax Policy that declares that every Fairfax County resident, no matter what personal characteristics, deserves an equal opportunity to succeed.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 246 was announced on January 7, 2022 and emphasizes the significance of ensuring environmental justice and equity in North Carolina’s transition to clean energy.
Additionally, Prashad’s warning about the extreme harm of colonial institutions, such as banks, on the vulnerable should be addressed immediately through legislation and the Financial Consumer Protection Bureau (FCPB). US banks charge excessive overdraft fees and refuse to make exceptions regarding waving fees for situations like Covid or extreme weather events, mail delays, a whole host of challenges in this new 1.2ºC world we live in. Banks are literally profiting on the most vulnerable’s financial distress. Tragically, this is so American, and is one of the reasons why we’re despised around the world during what is quickly becoming a life-threatening emergency for billions of people TODAY, not tomorrow.
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According to John Doerr’s Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, tackling our food system carbon emissions has to be addressed systematically. More than 15% of the excess carbon in the atmosphere is attributed to our food system. Doerr has broken down the 15% into sub groups:
The general public only has to focus on consumption and food waste. Consumption, too, has been broken down for us, making our individual decisions and responsibility much easier. Doerr explained in Speed & Scale that we must cut our intake of conventional beef and dairy 25% by 2030, and 50% by 2050, as well as follow recommended dietary guidelines and choose low emissions food products when shopping. Carbon labeling will make visits to the grocery store much easier.
Although we’re only responsible for reducing beef and dairy 25% by 2030, there are many who are choosing to become 100% vegan, or somewhere in between the two numbers. This is okay. (I hover at about 85% vegan. I do eat eggs daily, and chicken on occasion. )
We need to improve and scale plant-based alternatives to compete with (conventional) beef and dairy products, and shift demand from high emissions foods. Carbon labels and dietary guidelines can guide consumers to better choices.
John Doerr, author of Speed & Scale, Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now
How do we begin to rethink our individual food habits and factor in the recommended dietary guidelines that John Doerr mentions, as well as cut the high emission food choices available to us?
As if on cue, Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD’s new book Recipe for Survival, What You Can Do to Live a Healthier and More Environmentally Friendly Life (Cambridge Press, available January 27, 2022) is available for pre-order. Recipe for Survival provides the necessary insights into how to develop a climate action way of eating and shopping.
Dana is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a Senior Dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Her day-to-day experience as a practicing dietitian, educator and researcher provide an example for us on how to rethink our food habits as we begin to shoulder our individual responsibility for cutting the emissions from our individual food choices and habits by the required amount by 2030.
Dana explained for Gallant Gold Media Hill Report that she’s an advocate for the most sustainable and environmentally friendly diet. She and her husband are vegan at home where they have full control over what they purchase and how it’s prepared. When they’re out at a restaurant and vegan options are available, they’ll choose those. If not, then no worries, they’ll choose something else from the menu.
Dana considers meat grown on a regenerative farm that contributes to soil health to be fine. She points out that 99% of the meat sold in stores is not prepared this way. She eats plant-based meats. Impossible is a personal preference, although she also eats Beyond. All plant-based meats are environmentally friendly and use 80-90% less water than beef, and have less than 10% the CO2 emissions than beef. Dana’s 7 year old son is vegan when he’s with her, and he’s vegetarian when he’s on his own (at school or with friends). Many schools have plant-based choices for children now. Some of the largest school districts in the U.S. (Los Angeles and NYC) have signed on for the Meatless Monday campaign.
I advocate for doing the best you can as often as you can.Choose what you can do now – you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to make an effort.
Dana Ellis Hunnes, author of Recipe for Survival, Recipe for Survival, What You Can Do to Live a Healthier and More Environmentally Friendly Life
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