The 30 Project: Three decades to a more sustainable food system

Remember 1980? The Miracle on Ice? Voodoo economics? “Funkytown” at the top of the charts?  Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it? You may not remember (or even realize) that 1980 was also a seminal year (or, the round-about time for big changes) in our food system. Consolidation of agriculture? That’s when we started to see it. High-fructose corn syrup? It started showing up in, well, everything right about then. A decrease in US agricultural aid to other countries? That, too.

So, is any of this important to us now, or just a little food history trivia? If you buy Ellen Gustafson’s argument, we’re now seeing those trends that started about thirty years ago come to full fruition (if you will) in the global numbers of both hungry and obese people: about 1 billion of each. The connection between starvation and unhealthy weight may seem tenuous at first, but Gustafson argued at a 2010 TEDxEast event (above) that these phenomena are connected to each other through the changes in the food system we started around the time of the Iran hostage crisis and the election of Ronald Reagan.

Her TED talk also marked the launch of The 30 Project, an initiative she started to argue for this thirty-year period of radical change in how we grow, sell, and even eat food. Gustafson and her partners don’t just want to discuss the past, though; they also want to advocate for major shifts in agriculture and the “food industry” to take us towards a much more sustainable food system in another thirty years. While some will argue that such a shift mainly involves what happens on the farm, The 30 Project looks at a broad range of disciplines – from government policy to health care to economics – to understand the complexities of feeding a growing world in a manner that sustains us all.

Think thirty years is a good time frame for fundamentally changing our food system? Think the kinds of changes The 30 Project wants to make are realistic and needed? Watch the talk, check out the site (as well as their Twitter feed and Facebook page), and let us know what you think.

via Ideas for Breakfast


Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker at Flickr under a Creative Commons license