Photo: © Shutterstock – Rdonar
Editorial: Taking the next steps
The drought in Northern Europe last summer was a climate wake-up for many of us living in the region. It is one thing to grasp the basic science behind global warming and realise that things are going in the wrong direction, and another to experience it with your own senses. See the bone-dry fields, feel the sweat on your forehead and smell the smoke from forest fires.
The climate debate intensified during the autumn. Not least as it was embodied by the fifteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who began her own school strike outside the Swedish parliament in September. A strike that has inspired youth in several European countries to mass actions. In some member states this was reflected in the European Parliament elections. In Germany, Ireland and Lithuania, the green parties grew stronger. Though in too many countries this was not the case.
A paradigm shift is needed. But the concept of transformative change is a bit like the concept of global warming, most of us can understand it on some basic level. Things need to be different from now on. We cannot continue like this. But we also need concrete plans for what really needs to be done.
Scenarios, like the ones described on page 4, are one way to realise a vision of a different future. Through modelling, we can explore plausible pathways and find out what options actually are available and what trade-offs they bring and must therefore be addressed.
The IPES-Food report (front page) is another example of the work needed, not just suggesting modifications to existing policy, but sketching out a new policy architecture for our food system. The Common Agricultural Policy has been reformed many times since it was first introduced in the 1950s, but it is still a product of post-World-War-II thinking, when the focus was on keeping production levels up and ensuring that the population had enough to eat. In this era of obesity, biodiversity loss and the risk of run-away climate change, our priorities are different and we will need new frameworks that reflect these new priorities. There is a greater need for cross-sectoral cooperation that gives health and environmental concerns a greater influence on food production. Different people need to be involved in the policy process.
Summer is approaching fast. Farmers and many others fear a repetition of the last one. But we already know that extreme weather will become more common and that annual variations in weather will persist, so this summer could just as well turn out to be cold and wet. Regardless, we are still in a situation where climate change is heading towards climate crisis.
Whether summer is spent in the shade with a cool drink trying to survive a heatwave, or curled up in front of a fireplace with the rain lashing down outside, it will be an opportunity to close your eyes and reflect. We need system change. But it is not going to happen without ordinary people like you and me being able to visualise a different future and taking the next steps.