The food on your plate, and how it got there, is the theme for our tenth issue. Food has been an area of conflict at least since the sugar boycotts of the anti-slavery struggle, right through the an-ti-apartheid campaign against Outspan oranges to today’s rallying cry for a “post-milk generation”. Looking ahead, it seems like our food economy is on course to become an even greater point of conflict and debate.
This is because food, particularly livestock, is now the next biggest culprit in the cause of climate change after fossil fuels. According to the World Resources Institute, if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US.
We have already seen how the necessary move to renewable energy has progressed in fits and starts. While the costs of solar power and battery technology have fallen, rural protests against wind turbines as an apparent blight on the landscape led the UK government to focus investment on much more expensive offshore turbines. However, at the end of the day, people still get the same electricity.
A societal shift away both meat and dairy is a much bigger challenge. These are the mainstay of traditional Western food culture and a sign of affluence that those in emerging countries appear keen to emulate. Meat eating per capita in China alone has gone up sevenfold since the early ‘80s.
Food also highlights the increasing generational gap in the climate debate. Millennials seem more willing to go vegan. Many teenagers and young adults already view the older generation’s re-sponse to the climate emergency as too little and too late. It is not beyond the realm of the possible that in a few decades tucking into steak and Gruyere could become a guilty pleasure only enjoyed behind shuttered windows.
The change is not just about consumers; the livestock industry is huge. In the UK, 70% of all farmed land is for livestock. What future is there for cattle and sheep farmers across the UK? Are they going to make the protests against turbines look like a picnic?
So we have a feast of articles and interviews on the food system to get your teeth into: Alex Sexton looks at the new alternative “meat” industry while Carina Millstone argues that the carbon di-vestment campaign needs to focus on killing off “big livestock”. Jonathan Chenoweth tells how his attempt to become a vegan cheese entrepreneur floundered in the face of the established food system. Anna Cura writes about the rise of the food citizen. David Evans and Peter Jackson ex-amine the influence of our desire for “freshness” on energy use, while Megan Blake seeks to green inner-city food deserts. And we interview the London Mayor’s food advisor, Claire Pritchard, on her food career and the potential for London to “be the change”; and much more.
And, of course, we have many treats for you about bread-and-butter economics. To name just two, we interview Michael Jacobs on the Green New Deal, while Richard Murphy argues that the in-formation required in accounts needs to recognise that there are others who count on them apart from shareholders. Plus, our wonderful regular columnists tackle a range of other, fresh issues.
To complete the menu, we have two articles on winners of the Nobel Economics Prize in its 50th year. Steve Keen digs into the modelling that allows William Nordhaus, last year’s winner, to spread complacency about climate change and finds it anything but safe to consume. And I have written about two other winners who also turned out to be a risky bet. They helped start a hedge fund based on their theories and nearly brought the financial system down in the ‘90s. So do join us this Autumn in looking for people who are providing the truly fresh thinking needed in economics to address our 21st-century crises and keep us safe. More information on how we will conduct our search will be coming soon.