The simplistic anti-meat media coverage of a serious IPCC report on climate change is symptomatic of the tribal politics currently gripping the UK, says Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission.
Summer recess is supposed to be the quiet time in politics. And I’m supposed to be having a break from the desk job, now we’ve published our Food, Farming and Countryside Commission reports.
Neither of these things are happening.
Our recommendations are grouped into three chapters: healthy food is everybody’s business, farming is a force for change and a countryside that works for all.
We call for a ten-year transition plan to 2030, in which farmers and growers work together to design the pathways towards a more sustainable future, backed by the investment needed.
While intensive global agricultural systems have contributed to the serious problems we are now facing – degraded land and water, destruction of forests and sensitive ecosystems, pollution from synthetic chemicals and widespread wildlife loss, it is regenerative farming and land use that provides solutions.
We know many farmers are up for this. We met them on our travels around the country and tell some of their stories in the Field Guide.
For others, this represents a significant shift from all they’ve invested in (in good faith) towards new ways of farming, to bring many benefits to the environment while producing healthy affordable food for our communities.
For this, they need appropriate support and a practical affordable plan.
So I was pleased our recommendations were backed by the IPCC report last week. I got a sneak preview and was looking forward to publication.
Imagine my dismay when I saw the media coverage, with the actual findings airbrushed out in favour of a simplistic anti-meat storyline which did not reflect the thoughtful and serious scientific consensus in the report.
But perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. We’re living through dangerous times, when polarising, provocative speeches trump thoughtful, respectful debates.
Balanced consideration of the evidence is shelved in favour of name calling and ‘us and them’ tribalism.
Instead of engaging people in the difficult choices we’re all going to have to make, it forces people to double down into their ‘safe spaces’.
The shouting gets louder; the problems get harder to solve.
And let’s not forget we’re facing urgent and serious challenges. We can’t carry on as we are, wastefully consuming our earth’s scarce resources, especially in the developed world.
Regenerative agriculture cannot produce the quantity of animal products the global population will consume, on current trends.
We have to value all our food more, eating much more healthy veg, fruit, nuts and pulses, and much less over-processed junk foods.
We need to fly much less, drive less and stop consuming so much ‘stuff’ – whether that’s fast fashion, or single use plastics.
And we need serious, intelligent, courageous, compassionate leadership. From all of us.
Sue can be found tweeting at @suepritch