Chapter 3: The food system, planetary boundaries and eating for 1.5°C: the case for mutualism and commensality within a safe and just operating space for humankind
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The food system is a major contributor to the current ecological crisis and climate emergency. Yet while agriculture holds responsibility for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that decisions made in the realm of consumption - our food choices - drive market signals that lead to agricultural expansion and intensification. All too frequently 'consumers' are regarded simply as acting only with economic self-interest and portrayed as lacking effective agency. Drawing on the Doughnut model that usefully extends the Planetary Boundaries framework, the chapter argues for building a greater sense of mutualism if we are to achieve nutritional security within a safe operating space and guided by principles of intra- and inter-generational justice. Recent scientific evidence (IPCC, AR6) suggests that early efforts to reduce methane emissions would provide relatively quick gains in the global effort to meet the 1.5°C Paris target. One way to do this would be to tackle dietary practices in the wealthiest countries, especially reductions in meat consumption, that while yielding co-benefits for human health would permit space for others in low-income countries to achieve their own nutritional security. The chapter proposes that concepts such as mutualism and commensality - the act of eating together - could be harnessed in pursuing this goal.

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