So it happens, a few weeks ago Sylvie enrolled us both in a free course offered by +Acumen called Designing for Environmental Sustainability and Social Impact, recommended by one of her closest friends. We are using this online learning experience as a means to get more structure in developing Experimental Peace Research and Learning Centers(1).
We are excited about the possibilities to find the best way to frame our projects using the concepts we are meant to learn the following 6 weeks of duration of this course.
During the welcome stage, we were asked to define sustainability. In our opinion, sustainability and replicability MUST go together. We have heard people saying that when in doubt of what is sustainable, it is helpful to ask yourself “Can I do this forever?”
We would say it is necessary to rephrase that question this way: “Could almost 8 billion people on planet Earth do forever the same thing that I am doing?”
From this angle of sustainability, we have been instructed as part of Module 1: The Relationship Between Poverty and the Environment, to select a challenge at the intersection of environmental sustainability and social impact to explore in the weekly workshops.
For this, we were given two options:
Select one of three challenges inspired by social entrepreneurs in Acumen’s network.
Choose our own challenge.
The Noble Peace Tribe has decided to go for our own challenge as we want to start up Experimental Peace Research and Learning Centers that take on key research areas, such as:
creating regenerative decentralized autonomy in water, energy and food,
and new economics.
These Experimental Research and Learning Centers “should synthesize different solutions in all these (and other) areas into a coherent system. And while knowing that what brings about global change isn’t a single solution, person or project, but an integrated unified system”(2), The Noble Peace Tribe Team has chosen it’s challenge based on the following Context of the Environmental and Social Problem:
Note: The following text has been curated by The Noble Peace Tribe Team from FAO’s The State of Food Security and Nutrition in The World 2018 (3).
Hunger is on the rise
For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people, i.e. those facing chronic food deprivation, has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016.
Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation.
Efforts to fight hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace
Last year SOFI (The State of Food Insecurity as it was formerly known; now known as The State of Food Security and Nutrition) pinpointed conflict and violence in several parts of the world as one of the main drivers of hunger and food insecurity, suggesting that efforts to fight hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace.
key force behind the recent rise in global hunger
New evidence in this year’s report highlights that beside conflicts, climate variability and extremes are also a key force behind the recent rise in global hunger. They are also one of the leading causes of severe food crises.
Exposure of countries to climate variability and extremes is a rising trend. In 2017, the average of the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in countries with high exposure to climate shocks was 3.2 percentage points above that of countries with low or no exposure. Even more striking is that countries with high exposure have more than doubled the number of undernourished people as those without high exposure.
A high dependence on agriculture, as measured by the number of people employed in the sector, leaves the PoU 9.6 percentage points higher (25 percent). For low-income countries, the increase is equal to 13.6 percentage points (29 percent).
The finding is different for middle-income countries where the rise in PoU is less pronounced and occurs later (from 2015–2016). This tends to indicate that middle-income countries were able to absorb the impacts of increased exposure to climate extremes, but may not have been able to cope as well in the 2015–2016 period, possibly due to the severity of exposure to El Niño. In that same time period, the drought caused by El Niño resulted in losses of 50-90 percent of the crop harvest in the dry corridor, especially in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Economic slowdowns diminished countries’ capacity to cope
Other factors may have also come into play during this period, for example the economic slowdowns that many Latin American countries experienced, which reduced the fiscal environment to implement social programs and thus diminished these countries’ capacity to cope with the aftermath of extreme climate events.
Climate variability and extremes undermine dimensions of food security
Climate variability and extremes have the strongest direct impact on food availability, given the sensitivity of agriculture to climate and the primary role of the sector as a source of food and livelihoods for the rural poor. However, the overall fallout is far more complex and greater than the impacts on agricultural productivity alone.
Climate variability and extremes are undermining all dimensions of food security: food availability (with losses in productivity that undermine food production and increase food imports); food access (causing spikes in food prices and volatility, especially following climate extremes, income loss for those who depend on agriculture); food utilization and food safety (worsened or reduced dietary consumption, reduced quality and safety of food because of crop contamination, outbreaks of pests and diseases because of rainfall intensity or changes in temperature).
Climate-related disasters create and sustain poverty
Climate-related disasters create and sustain poverty, contributing to increased food insecurity and malnutrition as well as current and future vulnerability to climate extremes. Prolonged or recurrent climate extremes lead to diminished coping capacity, loss of livelihoods, distress migration and destitution.
The majority of people most vulnerable to climate shocks and natural hazards are the world’s 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent communities, who derive their food and income from renewable natural resources.
Malnutrition Amongst The Poor Across Low-Income to High-Income Countries
Many countries have a high prevalence of more than one form of malnutrition. This multiple burden of malnutrition is more prevalent in low-, lower-middle and middle-income countries and concentrated among the poor. Obesity in high-income countries is similarly concentrated among the poor. The coexistence of multiple forms of malnutrition can occur not only within countries and communities, but also within households – and can even affect the same person over their lifetime.
Households adopt coping strategies in response to food and income reductions and increased prices following climate shocks. Coping strategies, including eating fewer meals per day and less at each meal, skipping meals and eating less nutrient-dense foods and/or more calorie-dense foods high in fat, sugars and salt, compromise dietary diversity and quality.
How can we scale up programs aimed at guaranteeing access to nutritious foods and breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition in underserved communities from low-income to high-income countries, while engaging them into participating in good sustainable food systems that are clean and fair for all, and simultaneously tackle the three greatest challenges of our time, climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, and at the same time provide a livelihood for local populations?
Planning for Impact:
It is stated that later in this course we will identify potential solutions for addressing our challenge. How will we know if our program is positively impacting the environment and human wellbeing?
The preliminary list of ideas and indicators we have discussed to help us know if our program is positively impacting the environment and human wellbeing are:
Environmental Impact Assessment
Key drivers of climate change are CO2 and methane emissions, which could be assessed through extrapolation* of different scenarios of food production, which will be listed below.
Some of the land use scenarios would actually store or sequester more CO2, which – like emissions – could be assessed through extrapolation*.
* Actual measurements for such a project would be too difficult and time-consuming, while exact numbers are not the aim of this exercise. Therefore, we would use numbers measured and calculated for similar scenarios, as published.
Different food production scenarios, for which carbon emission and carbon sequestration could be estimated:
1. Local free range cattle farming: a) direct CO2 (and methane) emissions from cattle and b) indirect from loss of carbon sequestration by clearing land for cattle grazing c) transportation & others (packaging, cold storage facilities, etc.)
2. Industrial cattle farming in CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations: a) direct CO2 (and methane) emissions from cattle and b) indirect from loss of carbon sequestration by clearing land for CAFO and for growing cattle food; c) transportation & others (packaging, cold storage facilities, etc.)
3. Conventionally produced fruit & vegetables: a) carbon sequestration from planted monocultures vs. carbon sequestration of plants cleared for plantation ; b) carbon emissions from transporting, storing, packaging, use of chemical fertilizers & pesticides
4. Organically produced fruit & vegetables: a) carbon sequestration from planted mostly monocultures vs. carbon sequestration of plants cleared for plantation; b) carbon emissions from transporting, storing, packaging, use of animal-based fertilizers
Another factor would be to look at records of local climate-related events, such as droughts and flooding, and compare frequency and severity before and after implementing the project.
Water pollution / quality
Soil quality (water retention, pH, air, microbes)
Waste generation (from packaging of food)
# species in the area (animals and plants)
# population numbers of each species (animals and plants)
Social Impact Assessment
…access to nutritious food:
⁃Food availability (food production) – in kg and # of people fed per hectare
⁃Food access # people (or % of population) provided with nutritious food (affordability)
-Food utilization % of provided nutritious food actually consumed (through survey of population)
…breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition in underserved communities from low-income to high-income countries:
⁃Health records of population (quantitative)
⁃Survey of health in population
… engaging them into participating in good sustainable food systems that are clean and fair for all:
# number of people engaged in (% of population)
# number of people growing their own food (clean and fair)
… provide a livelihood for local populations:
# people, for which clean and fair food production provides a livelihood (farming, ecotourism, gastronomy, education)
For that purpose, we have designed an online questionary to asses the awareness and interest in such a proposed solution. This tool is meant to be answered by two basic different sectors of participants:
Social entrepreneurs and environmental activists,
People attending vegan and permaculture events,
All other people interested.
Our close friends and family, professional network and, of course, our fellow participants/students & catalysts of the Designing for Environmental Sustainability and Social Impact course.
Would you spare a few moments to take this survey?
Please take the survey titled “Edible Forests & Veganic Permaculture” by clicking here.
Your feedback is important!
We appreciate and acknowledge these sources of inspiration:
(1) “Terra Nova: Global Revolution and the Healing of Love”, by Dieter Duhm
(2) The-Healing-Biotopes-Plan https://www.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Healing-Biotopes-Plan.pdf