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GA at UN: Food Systems

by Alexis Mitchell

During the Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns: Biodiversity, Resilience, and Food Security session, panelists shared strategies for improving how our global food systems operate. A central theme of this session included sustainable food production and distribution. That is, critically evaluating the methods for how food is grown, harvested, raised, fished, etc., and the effects these methods have on the environment.

Improvements being made in the realm of sustainable food systems and malnutrition were highlighted by panelist Dr. Howard Shapiro’s discussion on his project with The African Orphan Crop Consortium (AOCC) and The African Plant Breeding Academy in West Africa. These projects teach and utilize genetic sequencing technologies to advance the types of crops that are grown and harvested in Africa (i.e., more nutrient-dense crop seeds are prioritized and improved). The goal of this work is to increase the region’s degree of agrobiodiversity and establish a more resilient grow-harvest system.

Agrobiodiversity was a term that came up throughout all panelist discussions, which reflects that resilient and sustainable systems go hand in hand with diversifying, adapting, and improving current methods being used worldwide. For instance, the panelist Dr. Remans, a research scientist, highlighted that 75% of the global food supply comes from just 12 plants and 5 animal species. Currently, as a global community, our food systems are not diverse enough (i.e., focusing on crop yield versus crop sustainability and diversity is not viable), and this will result in less resilient and sustainable systems in the years to come. Without improving our food systems now, we risk increasing the risk for greater rates of malnutrition in years to come.

Global food insecurity and malnutrition are of grave concern to the Global Alliance. Increasing access to nutritious foods and encouraging cultural shifts about how food, climate change, and human well-being are interconnected are efforts that we are passionate about at the Alliance. We strongly affirm that all people should have access to the resources that make a healthy, fulfilling life possible, such as access to nutritious foods and quality healthcare. The issues highlighted in this session speak to the dire need for individuals worldwide to become more knowledgeable about food systems at a global, national, and local level to ensure our global food supply remains resilient in decades to come. World hunger has been on the rise since 2015. If we are no longer able to produce sustainable food options and connect people worldwide with nutritious foods, then how will we eradicate malnutrition and end hunger? Learn more about the United Nation's efforts to eradicate hunger and address food security issues. 

GA at UN: Energy and Participatory Science

by Alexis Mitchell

Session 6, Energy decarbonization and universal access: Participatory Science and Stakeholder Capacity Building in Sustainable Energy Development, was closely tied to SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Concepts relative to sustainability and energy decarbonization may not immediately come to mind when thinking of behavioral health or social justice, however, featured speakers passionately conveyed that having access to sustainable, clean energy sources is tied to health and wellness, as well as socioeconomic development. Two organizations were featured in this session.

First, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), spoke to their program in which they work in countries and regions around the world to improve access to sustainable energy sources and build decarbonized energy capacity (i.e., reducing sources of energy that come from burning fossil fuels). The second panelist spoke on behalf of the NGO Objectif Sciences International (OSI). OSI has been very active in providing opportunities all over the world for children, youth, and adults increasing knowledge about global scientific inquiries (e.g., climate change, endangered animal species, ocean conservation)– through camps, expeditions, and research projects. OSI centered their discussion on participatory science (also known as citizen science), which is the act of engaging citizens in scientific endeavors, like research. The panelist emphasized the role of participatory science in increasing individual autonomy, knowledge, and interest in global scientific issues. This in turn has positive implications for shifting cultural views about how everyday people can be agents of change towards global issues, such as climate change.

Access to participatory science opportunities remains an issue though. It is important that all individuals worldwide, especially youth, have equal access to be involved in science. Just as we see global disparities in education and health, it is important for OSI and IAEA to understand and address disparities that may crop up regarding access to clean energy and participatory science opportunities.