[MUSIC] Greetings, my name is Roni Neff and I'm from the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and I'm also from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, which is an academic center focused on food systems and public health. I'm going to talk today about food systems, sustainable diets, and public health. You can see here I've put up a set of sustainable development goals that connect with the topics I'm going to talk about. Good health and well-being, climate action, zero hunger, life below water, life on land, decent work and economic growth, and responsible consumption and production. Those are all goals that we as a global society have committed to advancing and they all connect to what I'm going to talk about. Food systems is also a topic that's just inherently of interest to a lot of us because we all eat and we all have to make decisions constantly about what we're going to put into our mouth. But as I'll discuss, the food system is much broader than the specific foods we put into our mouths. I'll talk about what a food system is, what systems thinking is. I'm going to dig in deep on the topic of meat and public health and how it connects with environment and why out of every food item that's out there meet is the most important from the environmental angle. I'll talk about sustainable diets in more detail and then some interventions to advance food system sustainability. The food system is basically everything that it takes to get food from where it starts, on the farm, or in the water, or even in the wild or in a lab, to us and then into waste. The green boxes there represent the food supply chain from where we start with the food through production, manufacturing, logistics, wholesale, retail, food service, consumer. But this graphic shows that there's all these other pieces to it like social organizations, policies, markets, science, the environment, all of those play into that food. You can't just say we follow the food on the food chain, you have to think about all the things that it takes to get that food and to shape what that food is and then in turn, there's a flow of money and demand information that flows backwards based on what we choose towards shaping that food system. When I talk about this as a system, systems thinking is an approach that's really gaining increasing currency within public health, and yet traditionally often we thought about how some factor affects public health as a linear cause and effect chain. When you think about things as a system, we're thinking about the whole web of relationships and the complexity and recognizing that some of these factors that we might just want to control for may actually be incredibly important in and of themselves, and so we need to think about all of these pieces as they interact. I like to think about all the different elements that were in the prior slide. If you picture a whole set of arrows in between all of them connecting them, when you animate those arrows, that's what makes it a system. Those arrows show the relationships between these items and that's what makes it a systems. They may use modeling tools and things like that that allow us to look systematically at this complexity. Systems thinking recognizes that complex issues are linked, there's multiple actors in the system and they're connected and that integrated solutions are required. It allows us to express an act on strategy, engage in a line diverse actors, and to link all of our health and environmental and our economic and our social concerns and domains into one model. This is so important when it comes to food systems because "Food system have a major effect on how the world is used." to quote Wendell Berry, who is a poet and farmer among other things. The food system basically uses 40% of the world labor force, 40% of our global land service, actually 70% of that is used for livestock and the increase in food that we're producing as our populations increase is dramatic. There was a 12% increase, for example, in global land use surface used for food in only four decades. There was 70% of our global water use. When we think about the land that's used for food, at the same time as we're needing more and more of it as our populations grow, a lot of this land is quite threatened. For example, a lot of our food is grown with irrigation when we irrigate the land in some places and in some ways we end up with salinization or salts left on the soil that damage the soil so that it's not as good for producing future food and in some cases becomes unusable for food production and we're losing about 1.5 million hectares of arable land per year. 40% of our crop lands are experiencing soil erosion and reduce fertility and over-grazing. That's just one example of a resource that's been dramatically affected by our food production, that's soil. We're also damaging soil by compacting it. For example, rolling over it with tractors, tilling it up or plowing it up, too heavy grazing. But we don't put cover crops on the soil, which means those are basically crops that you might plant when you're not planting the crop that you want to grow. A certain grass for example, that just basically holds that soil in place so it doesn't blow away. When we don't do that, soil does blow away or water erosion or other things can affect it and we lose that topsoil. The topsoil, it's just incredibly important for growing our food. We're also damaging with the pesticides and fertilizers that we use. A healthy soil is important for a number of reasons, but one key reason is that it consequences for a tremendous amount of carbon and that's important as one strategy for mitigating climate change. Food production in our current system also uses vast quantities of energy. In fact, it's responsible for almost a fifth of our national fossil fuel use in the United States. It takes 7-10 energy calories to produce, process, and package every calorie of food. Beef is going to come up a lot in this talk, is over 40 calories to produce one calorie of beef. As I mentioned, we're also using vast quantities of our freshwater for crop production. In many case, just one example of a reason why our food production is affecting our water supplies. The Ogallala Aquifer lies underneath over a quarter of the irrigated land in this country. It's the drinking water for 82 percent of the people who live above it. It's estimated to be depleted very dramatically, within 25 years it could be depleted. Let's turn to meat. I suggested that meets a concern. Meat not just has all these environmental impacts, but from a public health nutrition, there's also concerns about meat consumption, particularly red unprocessed meat consumption. When you look at the recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we in the United States are eating 20-60 percent more meat than that. Excess meat consumption, and again I highlight especially red unprocessed meat, is associated with heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. Red unprocessed meat is associated with higher overall cardiovascular and cancer mortality. Here's what it takes to make a quarter-pound hamburger, and here's where you get to some of why the environmental impacts are so big. It takes 6.7 pounds of grains and forage to produce one quarter-pound hamburger, 52.8 gallons of water, 74.5 square feet of land, and 1000 BTUs of fossil fuel energy, just for one hamburger. I'm looking at a simple bar graph that's going to give you an overview of some of the concerns with the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our food system, of which meat and red meat and particularly as the highest contributor. This is one of the things that keeps me up at night. If you look at the left bar on the bottom is agriculture, it's about 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year. Another almost 40 on top of that is all the other sectors, industry, transport, buildings and energy and so on. In a business as usual scenario, if everybody continues to eat as much meat as they're eating, and populations grow, and populations get wealthier and so on. We can expect agricultural greenhouse gas emissions to basically doubled to 20 gigatons per year. Now, here's the thing that is incredibly close to the emissions, quote, budget for all sectors of the entire economy. If we are to keep our global warming to below two degrees centigrade, which is what we agreed to in the Paris Agreement. Basically by 2050, agriculture would eat our entire budget of greenhouse gas emissions and there will be no space for all of the other sectors. This is an example from one study, but there have been many others that have found something similar. That if we were, for example, to reduce global meat and dairy consumption by about 75 percent and that means that those in wealthy countries are reducing even more, so that there's space for those who are inadequately nourished and growing populations to increase their meat and dairy. We have to meet someplace in the middle. Seventy-five percent reduction in meat and dairy and 50 percent reduction in waste of food, brings our agricultural emissions down below 10 gigatons and then leaves a significant space for all of the other industries. Basically, what this set of bar graphs is showing is that, if we don't address our food-related greenhouse gas emissions in a major way, there's not any chance we're going to even come close to meeting our Paris Agreement goals. If we want to just climate change, we have to address food. Sustainable diets as a concept, that includes both shifting our diets so that they are better able to address climate change. But there's a lot of other factors in sustainability besides climate change. This shows a flower graphic with sustainable diets in the middle and a set of petals that give an overview of a whole lot of other dimensions of sustainability that are of concern. Sustainability includes well-being and health, equity and fair trade, eco-friendly production, local and seasonal foods, cultural and heritage, and food production skills, food and nutrient needs and food security and food access. All of those are part of sustainable diets or the sustainability, the ability to continue eating well for the future. Eating what is needed for a healthy and active life. So what do we need to eat, to eat sustainably? A challenge here, and those of you who are studying communication, we'd love you to be thinking about this, is it's complicated. There's not really a simple answer and here's a whole lot of things for which the answer is sometimes, it depends. Is eating local a sustainable diet? Well, if you live in Maryland and your local food is a Perdue chicken, maybe. Is eating organic sustainable? Well, in many places, organic production, it's very good for the soil, it's reducing chemical exposures to workers and others, but there are places where organic production can use tremendous amounts of water, like if you're producing tomatoes in an arid area of Mexico, using organic methods, is just one example. Or producing an organic, heated greenhouse during the wintertime. Grass-fed beef. Many of us have this assumption that if it's grass-fed, that's sustainable and on many dimensions, it absolutely is the way to go, but then, when you look at greenhouse gas emissions, grass-fed beef is actually, by most studies that have been published to date, neck and neck and sometimes higher than beef produced in industrial settings. That's because, so with beef, the primary reason why beef has such high greenhouse gas emissions, has to do with the cattle belching out methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. When cows are eating grass, it's less digestible than some of the feeds that are process to be very digestible so their methane emissions are higher. They also live longer, typically, and so they have more time per cow to be emitting greenhouse gases. On the other hand, a cow that is produced in an industrial setting, they have the emissions related to the feed and other types of emissions. Anyway, it comes out neck and neck when you balance all these factors. This is just a whole set of examples. A chicken that's produced in a confined animal feeding operation, which is what's sometimes referred to as a factory farm, in some cases, has lower greenhouse gasses than some non-meat products. So from a climate perspective, it's sustainable but then when you get to looking at the emissions into waterways or potential spread of antibiotic resistant infections, otherwise, it may not be so sustainable. Ultimately, there's all these dimensions of sustainability. It just, it sometimes depends. I'll just mention two more vegetarian diets, if you're eating a high dairy, high cheese vegetarian diet that may not be sustainable as a low food chain diet that includes some animal products, particularly like low food chain animal products. If you're eating a lot of processed food, you're probably not wasting a lot of food because it's very well preserved. So your food waste may be so much lower that, that may make your diet more sustainable. So it's always complicated and we want there to be these co-benefits, where what's healthy is also the most sustainable, and often that's the case, but not always. It also depends where you live too. What is going to be the most sustainable diet? With that said, generally speaking, a diet that's lower on the food chain, local, seasonal, less meat, less processed, is going to be more sustainable, generally. Studies have shown that most consumers say that they're willing to change their consumption habits if it can help make tomorrow's world the better place to live which I find really heartening, but you'll find that I'm often contrarian and I am here right now, the challenge is that people will say anything in answer to a survey and of course, who wouldn't want to make tomorrow's world the better place to live. But when it comes to being in the store or in a restaurant and choosing what they're going to eat, they don't always follow what they might idealistically answer to a survey. What are some ways that we can bring about a shift towards more sustainable diets? Some of the reasons that we don't necessarily eat in more sustainable ways, even with the best of intention, include, first of all, preferences, many people really like meat. It's core to many cultures, for many people who are relatively unable to afford meat, as they get wealthier, that's one of the first things that they shift to as they change their diets. Then, there's a lot of cost issues as well although, eating more fruits and vegetables doesn't have to cost more, many people perceive that it does and the ways that we choose to eat them often do cost more. There's factors like political factors related to the livelihoods of those in the meat industry and many more. So there's a lot of challenges. There's also cultural factors like, for many meat is associated with masculinity, it goes on and on. So there's a lot of places that we need to get into to shift our choices about diets. There's some really interesting work going on from a group called the World Resources Institute, where they've been, for example, changing the names of plant-based dishes so that they're more appealing and tap into some of the things that are meaningful to us culturally. Another idea is, for example, if you formulate a burger and you make a significant percentage of it made out of mushrooms rather than meat, people often can't taste the difference or they even think it tastes juicier and you're using less meat. So there's a lot of ways to do it, they get around some of these barriers. Here's a brief typology of five types of intervention approaches. What's really interesting is that a lot of these have not been tried yet. Some have, but there's a lot more opportunity to both try these and then to evaluate them. Those of you who are thinking about interventions that you might like to test and evaluate come talk to us in the Center for a Livable Future, there's a lot of work to be done. The first approach is to inform, educate, promote, or empower through things like community initiatives or labeling. You'll see there's examples like labeling, gardening or cooking projects, media or other campaigns, and education programs. The second set of approaches is changing the context or defaults or norms of production and consumption. Changing the choice architecture, what people see when they go into the store. What are they going to see first? What is placed right at eye level? It's also things like maybe making the healthy or a sustainable choice the default that's offered in a restaurant, rather than making that a side thing that you have to request. The third set of approaches is encouraging collaboration and shared agreements generally with industry. Having industry voluntarily agree to shift what they're doing. An example is, in food date labeling, the industry has recently agreed to a new national scheme of food date labels in the United States that will help reduce waste of food. You can see that these types of interventions are becoming increasingly intervening as opposed to just putting something out there and letting the effect happen. If you change the governance of production or consumption through things like macro economic policies and agreements, or national planning policies, or other regulations that can shift us towards a more sustainable diet because sometimes it can change the cost or availability of different foods. Then finally, changing the incentives through fiscal measures. That could be things like taxes or subsidies, environmental regulations that change the costs, or research and development that help reduce the prices of alternative products. Now, some may say that all of these in various ways are public health being paternalistic. There's a piece of truth to that but it's also important to remember that whether public health or environmentalists or anybody is working to shift our diets, our diets are also being shaped every day by industry choices about what they're going to produce, sell, market to us, the price points that we see things at. None of us are choosing our foods in a vacuum, we're all affected by various things. These are some possible roles for those in public health who see the need and see the benefits and want to find ways to shift things in ways that have the most social benefits and help shift people in a way that works for them and enables them to make the easy and default choice the healthy and sustainable choice. In summary, food systems is basically everything that it takes to get food from cradle-to-grave, systems thinking is a way of approaching problems that embraces complexity rather than simple linear relationships, food is one of the major factors affecting our environment and vice versa, high consumption of red and processed meat can have harmful effects for nutrition and environment. As we want a shift towards more sustainable diets, there are challenges in identifying what is sustainable, it's complicated and it depends. But there are some consistent themes such as reduced red meat, lower on the food chain, more local, less processed, shorter food supply chain are often more sustainable. There are many barriers to increasing dietary sustainability and most of the strategies have not yet been tested, although there's increasing efforts to address these. There's a lot of opportunities and there's really an incredible movement going on right now with a lot of attention to finding ways to advanced change in helpful and healthy ways. We have a food system certificate and a concentration at the Center for a Livable Future. If you're interested in these issues, we also teach a number of classes, so reach out to us and we'd love to engage with you more. Thank you.