Sustainable Agriculture: Offering Climate and Health Solutions

Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 by Renata Brillinger
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
Credit: Paolo Vescia

In late June, almost 100 public health and medical experts declared that climate change is a health emergency with their release of a “Call to Action on Climate, Health and Equity: A Policy Action Agenda.”

The Policy Action Agenda calls for a rapid transition away from the use of coal, oil and natural gas to clean, safe, and renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also calls for action on active transportation, sustainable agriculture, and for climate solutions to be incorporated into all health care and public health systems.

CalCAN had the opportunity to inform one of the agenda’s 10 priority actions to “promote healthy, sustainable and resilient farms and food systems, forests, and natural lands,” excerpted in part here:

By changing what we eat, and how we grow, harvest and transport our food, we can protect our health, reduce obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Properly managed and protected forests, farms, rangelands, and wetlands can serve as resilient carbon sinks and protect the communities that depend on them from climate impacts.

Practices that reduce food waste, conserve and regenerate our soil, conserve and protect our water, sustain our fisheries, conserve productive agricultural land from urban sprawl, and protect those who grow our food are essential to safeguard our food supply and our safety in the face of climate impacts. Building resilient, ecologically sustainable, local food systems can support the livelihoods of agricultural communities and the people that grow and produce our food, expand access to healthy food, improve air and water quality and biodiversity, and reduce carbon emissions.

Key policies include:

  • Invest in programs and encourage practices that protect, manage, conserve, and expand natural and working lands to increase carbon sequestration and reduce catastrophic wildfires, floods, and mudslides.
  • Expand tree canopy, parks, green spaces, and green infrastructure to sequester carbon, increase cooling in urban areas and reduce the impacts of flooding.
  • Use agricultural funding and programs to prioritize and enable a rapid shift to diversified and sustainable agroecological and regenerative practices that reduce reliance on chemical- and energy intensive industrial monoculture and animal-based agriculture and environmentally damaging agricultural and fisheries practices.
  • Support urban and peri-urban agriculture.
  • Integrate urban and agricultural land use planning to maximize transit-oriented infill development while conserving productive agricultural lands on urban edges.
  • Establish incentives and supports for reduction of food waste.
  • Incentivize livestock manure management practices that reduce potent methane emissions and produce valuable compost for soil fertility.

Health and medical professionals can sign on to endorse the Policy Action Agenda here.

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