OTTAWA – This year’s UN International Youth Day focuses on Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health, highlighting the need for meaningful youth engagement in any global initiative designed to restore the planet and protect life.
“Young people around the world have been galvanized by the climate crisis and it follows that they will play a major role in transforming our food systems, ” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.
“Agriculture and climate change are inextricably linked. Extreme weather events such as drought or floods affect both crops and livestock, putting farmers, supply chains and global food security at risk. At the same time, the farm sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Urgently seeking and implementing solutions to help farmers mitigate both of these situations is critical.”
In Canada, cities like Guelph, Ontario have committed to support a circular food economy model that will achieve a 50 per cent increase in access to affordable nutritious produce, and a 50 per cent increase in circular economic revenue by recognizing the value of waste. Regenerating soil is becoming a game-changer for Canadian farmers seeking to adapt to a changing climate while helping to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.
Toronto-based political activist and Green Party youth critic Kayne Alleyne-Adams is a student at York University where he’s experienced first hand the challenge of obtaining food from sustainable sources on campus. He said: “We all have a part to play in bringing about a more equitable and sustainable food system.
“When looking at our future, with populations likely to increase, food deserts entrenching themselves in urban centres, and fast food delivery services seemingly taking up more of the market than ever before, it is clear that distinct change is needed. We have to start asking ourselves: how can we make sustainable food more equitably available; how do we ensure that economic barriers do not prevent people from accessing food that is healthy for themselves and the environment?”
A specialist in urban adaptation to climate change and governance of environmental issues, Green youth critic Clément Badra was a representative of the Young Greens of Quebec for three years. He notes that more young people are motivated to become engaged in local food production but points out that governments need to facilitate access for young people seeking opportunities in the sector.
“Our generation is at a crossroads when we talk about food systems and food production,” said Badra. “For decades we’ve industrialized the way we produce our food and it's been costly for our health and the environment.
“Innovation in food systems doesn’t necessarily mean using complicated technology. It can be as simple as creating a co-op that brings together different stakeholders to develop a local resilient food production system and adopting a circular economy approach to ensure no product is going to waste. The pandemic has shown the importance of being able to count on things that are closer to us. Solidarity and collaboration are also forms of innovation that need to be supported.”
Alleyne-Adams concluded: “The answers may be closer than we think. Innovation is critical, but in order to support innovation, we must foster new voices, not only within the food industry, but across all sectors. Youth voices are essential if we are to find a new, better way to live.”
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