Jolene Bowers, a scientist with TGen from Flagstaff, and I spoke at Orme School, a boarding school in Mayer, last month. A wonderful event put on by Slow Food Prescott and the Orme School dining director.

You know the facts: the food system is one of the largest contributors to climate change, reports suggesting it is responsible for 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions; it is the world’s largest single user of fresh water; we currently cultivate 50% of the world’s land mass; the Earth loses 18.7 million acres of forests (a huge carbon sink) per year, largely due to more grazing land for animal agriculture. The impact on land use and bio-diversity is a major threat to the health of our planet.

From production to processing to packaging to transportation. From seed to supper to the landfill. Greenhouse gas emission impacts occur at every stage. Our culture, our consumer practices and our eating habits reinforce these negative environmental impacts.

Yet, we can have individual impacts – we vote three times a day with our fork! Jolene is a practitioner and advocate for a plant-based diet. Why? One person can save 11 gallons of water; 30 square feet of forest; 40 pounds of grain and save one animal’s life. That is for each and every day! “The single biggest thing you can do for the environment is modify your diet.” And the impact on our personal health is substantial. 80% of our chronic diseases would be prevented. This is a significant public health issue in our schools and across the nation.

In addition to this important dietary shift, we need action at the movement level, as well. We need to reorient our industrial and monocrop farming system. We need managed grazing. We need to halve food waste. And this last point is so important: We need to partner with the agriculture and cattle industry. Those of us who call ourselves Earth stewards, Earth protectors or environmentalists are not the enemy – climate change is!

AZIPL has an active Food Justice Action Team, with some concrete steps we can pursue here in Arizona. To learn more and become more involved with food justice in your faith community or at the local and State level, contact me at patrickgrady70@gmail.com or Nona Siegel at nona.siegel@gmail.com.