Food security in an age of climate change

  • October 14, 2014

Having GDP as the sole measure of growth in a world threatened by food shortage and climate change could “drive us to destruction”, Dame Barbara Stocking, former head of Oxfam, will argue at the Inaugural Gates Cambridge Annual Lecture.

Having GDP as the sole measure of growth in a world threatened by food shortage and climate change could “drive us to destruction”, the former head of Oxfam will argue at the Inaugural Gates Cambridge Annual Lecture.

Dame Barbara Stocking will argue that if we are to build a sustainable future in a world where climate change will have a huge impact on food availability, particularly for the poor, we need to make major changes in how our economies operate as well as tackling climate change and taking individual action on food waste.

Her lecture, which takes place on 11th November, is entitled Is there Enough for All of Us? Global Growth, Climate Change and Food Security. It will explore the state of the natural resources of the planet, looking at basic human needs to see how near we are to living within the boundaries while meeting the needs. It will look at food security and what needs to be done by whom; and also ask how we can continue to have food security in a climate changed world.

Dame Barbara, who is currently President of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, was for 12 years the Chief Executive of Oxfam GB. She will say that GDP leaves the economy as the driving force of the world, “not the means to achieve the things that really matter”. For instance, it fails to take into account all the unpaid caring work in the world.

She says: “We need to challenge people to think about natural resources and whether by having measures like GDP we are just driving ourselves to destruction.” She will also argue that there is currently enough food for the world’s population, but that by 2050 we will need at least 70% more.

She states: “While population increase is one issue the bigger ones are the rising middle classes and their meat consumption, agricultural land converted to biofuels and the massive waste of food. In the poorest countries this is often storage or poor transport to market; in our developed world it is often between shop and stomach.”

She will call for more help for smallholder farmers, for instance, agricultural extension support, access to loans and support so they can organise for production or marketing as well as urgent help to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Dame Barbara will also argue that people in developed countries can look at ways to reduce their own food waste and put more pressure on their Governments to reach a deal on climate change that starts to reverse the ongoing rise in global temperatures. She says: “We will deal with this eventually, I believe, it is just how much suffering, especially to the poorest people of the world, there will be before we take action.”

*The Lecture takes place at David Li Kwok Po lecture theatre, Faculty of Law, 10 West Road from 6 – 7pm 11 November 2014. It will be followed by a drinks reception until 8pm. The Lecture is open to all. Poster available here.

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