Month: September 2021

Interfaith Reflection Read at UN Food Systems Summit

Interfaith Reflection

United Nations Food Systems Summit
Thursday, September 23, 2021
New York

Our story of food is one of sacred joy. Values of interdependence, sharing, dignity and empathy are enshrined in all traditions’ understanding of food as a universal human right. 

Food serves as a sacred reminder of the holy and the righteous. It tells a story of fellowship and is an invitation into the presence of the Divine and the wider world.

Food should be a channel of peace, not a weapon of war used to cause hunger and poverty; We cannot sustain a global food system that exploits biodiversity and well-being in the name of short-term profit. 

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a clarion call for the need to transform. 

We call upon Heads of States and Governments, civil society, faith communities, and businesses to:  

1. Invest in solutions informed by indigenous wisdom, smallholder farmers, women and youth, targeted at building food systems’ resilience including  agroecology without acquiescing to corporate capture of critical infrastructure.

2. Subsidize nutritious, diverse plant- centered growing practices and increase smallholder presence within global markets from farmers, pastoralists, and blue foods.

3. Guarantee food security through sustainability, nutrition, and equity — innovating with a moral compass 

4. Provide policy, innovation, educational, and business opportunities for the underrepresented food system actors and ensure their voices are involved at the highest levels of decision making.

5. Restore degraded lands and protect ecosystems.

6. Promote and support breastfeeding — the first food system

7. Regulate the marketing of food and beverages to children, preventing ultra-processed foods from being sold as healthy substitutes for real, nutritious food.

Ours is a challenge of ethical and spiritual conviction. The most recent IPCC report is alarmingly clear. If we do not reorient our worldviews, our future is bleak. 

As people of faith, we are committed to the equitable transformation of our food systems to prioritize people and planet over profit. Let us come together as a world community to face this challenge as one human family.

Thank you

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Editor’s Note: This statement was read during the “People’s Plenary” session of the United Nations Food Systems Summit on Thursday, September 23, 2021. Dr. Marium Husain and Steve Chiu, members of the Faith + Food Coalition Steering Committee, read the reflection, which was condensed from the Coalition’s Interfaith Statement, signed by 60 organizations and individuals at time of the Summit.

 

Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems

More than 800 million people worldwide could go hungry by 2030. At the same time, agriculture accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural practices damage global biodiversity. We cannot solve climate and biodiversity crises without solving the crisis in global food systems.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will take place this Thursday, September 23, 2021, is an unprecedented opportunity to think critically and develop solutions for current food system dilemmas. As part of its contributions to the Summit, the Food + Faith Coalition has issued a report, “Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems.”

“Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient” reframes conventional narratives about our relationship to food and ways to transform food systems. It affirms a universal right to healthy food, addresses the most immediate challenges facing current food systems—reducing meat consumption, halting agricultural deforestation, increasing access to and reducing the costs of nutritious food—and advocates for sustainable, equitable, and resilient agricultural practices.

“Food sovereignty and the right to food are not just slogans,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “They are real principles upon which lives and whole cultures depend. This report wisely prioritizes values in global discussions about food.”

“Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient” recognizes the imperative for sustainable agriculture, respect for Indigenous knowledge and local traditions, and the value of reinvigorating local food systems. It advocates bold, decisive action to align global production and consumption within sustainable, regenerative limits, centered in equity and care for the most vulnerable. It emphasizes not only access to healthy and nutritious food but also empowering women and girls, confronting systemic racism and inequality, and supporting localization and smallholders.

“This report identifies the kinds of meaningful change that is needed from the local to the global,” says its principal author, Andrew Schwartz, CEE’s director of sustainability and global affairs. “It synthesizes the repercussions being felt around the world due to our over-consumptive, inequitable and unsustainable food system.”

The report deepens and expands the Interfaith Statement on food systems that the Coalition issued last week. Like the Interfaith Statement, the report builds upon five dialogues held in May and June that examined food systems through the lens of faith and ethics. These dialogues, part of the UN process to engage civil society in the Summit, brought together more than 40 faith leaders, activists, Indigenous advocates, farmers, workers, and policymakers to share insights and develop recommendations. Another 1,500 people took part in the dialogues online.

In addition to Schwartz, the other members of the Faith + Food Coalition Steering Committee—Chris Elisara (World Evangelical Alliance), Gopal Patel (Bhumi Global), Joshua Basofin (Parliament of the World’s Religions), Kelly Moltzen (Interfaith Public Health Network), Marium Husain (Islamic Medical Association of North America) and Steve Chiu (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation)— contributed to report.

The Faith + Food Coalition is an alliance of seven organizations—Bhumi Global, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the Center for Earth Ethics, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Interfaith Public Health Network, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the World Evangelical Alliance—that formed to contribute to the UN Food Systems Summit.

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Faith + Food Coalition Interfaith Statement for the United Nations Food Systems Summit

Editor’s Note: The Faith + Food Coalition, of which the Center for Earth Ethics is a member, issued the following Interfaith Statement in advance of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will be held on September 23 during the General Assembly in New York. 

Click here if you would like to add your name to the list of signatories.

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Faith + Food Coalition Interfaith Statement on the Occasion of the United Nations Food Systems Summit

Friday, September 17, 2021

Our story of food is one of sacred joy. Interconnectivity. Dignity. Empathy. These values are enshrined in faith, non-faith, spiritual, and Indigenous traditions’ understanding of food. To eat food, especially healthy, nutritious food, is to experience our interdependence with nature, fully embracing the land we live on and those who have nurtured the food that is provided for us to eat.

Food is both a building block of life and a basic human right. Sharing food is an expression of our love, a way we care for each other, exchange culture and history, and remind ourselves that we are a part of the wider world.

Globalization of recent decades has decreased poverty, strengthened women’s rights, and increased food production for a growing global population. Over the same time, however, we have replaced the timeless wisdom of how to nourish the land with extractive industrial models that privilege profit and convenience at the cost of workers, the lands, and the waters. We have ceded this most basic aspect of the human experience to the sphere of private profit, resulting in food “products” that are detrimental to the health of consumers and ecosystems. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has erased many of the gains made from globalization—especially for women, children, and other vulnerable populations—is but one of the many outcomes of this exchange.

An unsustainable dependency on industrial agriculture pillages the very earth on which we live, emblematic of unregulated economic greed, and an unchecked desire for an endless more. We have become disconnected from our world and our bodies, entertaining illusions of progress while ignoring the suffering of billions. Progress is measured by market indices and GDP, rather than collective prosperity. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we no longer let the pursuit of profits define what is best.

The once balanced relationship between humans, animals and plants has become corrupted into an exploitative, and abusive relationship. Nowhere is this more manifest than in the case of industrial animal agriculture. From the Confined Animal Feeding Operations fueling the vast majority of animal product production in the Global North, to the industrialized cattle and dairy industry deforesting mass swathes of rainforest in the Global South, scenarios of irresponsible animal agriculture bring untold environmental destruction and inflicts inexcusable suffering onto animals. Our faith values remind us that eating is sacred; it connects the land and our bodies. We must align our actions to these values so that we consider the impact the production of our food makes, commit to consume responsibly, and incorporate more plant-based and locally cultivated foods into our diets.

In this Decade of Action, maintaining the status quo is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of humanity. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has made it more clear than ever that in order for future generations to flourish, we must reorient our relationship to the Earth and its ecological boundaries.

As the United Nations prepares to convene the 2021 Food Systems Summit, we the undersigned call people of faith, spirituality, and goodwill to make a commitment to uphold the following principles as we work towards building forward a more equitable food system for all life:

  1. Interdependence. Human health is linked to the health of the Earth. We affirm the adoption of the One Health model to create nutritious and climate-resilient food systems.
  2. Truth. Science and faith are not at odds. They inform, enrich, complement, and challenge each other in the pursuit of truth.
  3. Reverence. Our traditions teach us that the Earth and the food it provides is sacred and serves to nourish our minds and bodies. We must reconnect our rituals with an ethical and ecologically sound food system with minimal food waste.
  4. Respect. We must respect and protect the wisdom of Indigenous traditions on sustainable ecosystems, healthy food systems, and safeguarding biodiversity.
  5. Compassion. We must ensure that marginalized communities and workers at risk of being left behind are centered and uplifted as part of a just recovery and sustainability initiatives
  6. Solidarity. We only have one common planetary home, and all life is dependent upon it. We should set aside our differences to work together as one human family for the common good
  7. Empowerment. Resilience lies within ourselves.

We call upon Heads of State and Governments at the Food Systems Summit to implement bold and decisive actions to align their countries’ production and consumption to sustainable, regenerative outcomes, centered in equity and care for the most vulnerable by:

  1. Committing to the equitable transformation of food systems that centers indigenous and smallholder farmers at the heart of our development
  2. Investing in innovative, evidence-based solutions from Indigenous and faith communities and the organizations that support them, targeted at building the food systems’ resilience without acquiescing to corporate capture of critical infrastructure.
  3. Providing policy, innovation, educational, and business opportunities for underrepresented food system actors, uplifting traditional agriculture in research methodology.
  4. Building critical alliances among farmers, businesses, NGOs, governments, Indigenous communities, and faith groups.
  5. Restoring degraded land and protecting ecosystems while connecting farmers to fair and equitable markets to produce better health, social, economic, and ecological outcomes.
  6. Incentivizing and subsidizing healthy, climate resilient, nutritious, local plant based foods growing practices to allow competitiveness with global markets at the local level.
  7. Re-aligning tax systems to drive immediate changes, such as taxing foods that lead to undesirable health outcomes, as well as taxing excessive plastic packaging, particularly the single use plastics that are embedded into industrial food delivery systems
  8. Regulating the marketing of food and beverages to children, preventing non-nutritious, chemically dominated foods from being sold as healthy substitutes to real food.
  9. Protecting, supporting and promoting breastfeeding, which is the first food system that provides the ideal first food to the most vulnerable human beings.
  10. Promoting and encouraging the local generation of knowledge to address food security, empowering farmers and youth, as the agents of change to play an active role in creating solutions that address the context and reality of local needs.
  11. Guaranteeing food security through sustainability, nutrition, and equity rather than chasing untested biotechnologies and GMOs to augment food systems, innovating with a moral compass.

We are committed to the United Nations’ vision of transformed, sustainable food systems and the UN’s aspirations to create a more equitable, livable future for all. You may look to us as continued partners of good faith as we all endeavor to build a brighter tomorrow.

Gratefully,

Drafting Team
Andrew Schwartz, Center for Earth Ethics
Chris Elisara, World Evangelical Alliance
Gopal Patel, Bhumi Global
Joshua Basofin, Parliament of the World’s Religions
Kelly Moltzen, Interfaith Public Health Network
Marium Husain, Islamic Medical Association of North America
Steve Chiu, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Signatories
50by40
Abibinsroma Foundation
American Indian Law Alliance
Bhumi Global
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Creation Justice Ministries
Critica
Franciscan Action Network
Global One 2015
Golden Leaf Community Development Center, Inc.
Hazon
HolisticMom, MD
Interfaith Public Health Network
Islamic Medical Association of North America
Lyla June Johnston
NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns – NY
Parliament of the World’s Religions
Sacred Lands Coalition
Sustainability Department, The Sisters of St. Joseph
Temple of Understanding
Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, Iona College
Unitarian Universalist Association
University of Colombo
University of Jordan
Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA)
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE)

 

The Drafting Team extends thanks to our readers and editors: Becky O’Brien, Daniel Perell, Grove Harris, Lina Mahy, Meera Baindur, and Nate DeGroot.

Faith + Food Coalition to Issue Interfaith Statement before UN Food Summit

“Food is both a building block of life and a basic human right.”

This fundamental truth underpins the “Interfaith Statement” for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will be presented at a virtual launch on Friday, September 17, at 11 a.m. EDT.

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The Statement is the culmination the Coalition’s engagement in the formal process leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit on September 23 during the UN General Assembly in New York. Over the summer, the Faith + Food Coalition held five dialogues, and three follow up events, to articulate values-based perspectives to the Summit. The Statement is product of those efforts.

“The Interfaith Statement correctly moves values to the forefront in our global conversation about food,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “The UN should heed this call and use the Food Systems Summit to advance the equitable and agroecological practices that are healthy for both people and planet.”

The Statement will be delivered to the Heads of the Food Systems Summit as well as key Member States. The UN already has indicated that it will include the Interfaith Statement in the Summit’s official record.

The launch event will bring together members of the faith community and civil society to present key findings from the Coalition’s dialogues, review the Statement’s Calls for Action, and outline next steps for faith-based organizations following the Summit. Scheduled speakers include:

  • Martin Frick – Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021
  • Karenna Gore – Founder and Executive Director, Center for Earth Ethics
  • Bibi la Luz González – Founder, Eat Better Wa’ik
  • Meera Baindur – Associate Professor of Philosophy, Manipal University Jaipur
  • Felipe Carazo – Head of Public Sector Engagement at Tropical Forest Alliance, World Economic Forum
  • Nate DeGroot – Associate Director and Spiritual & Program Director, Hazon Detroit
  • Mona Polacca – Senior Fellow, Original Caretakers Program, Center for Earth Ethics

Andrew Schwartz, director of sustainability and global affairs at the Center for Earth Ethics, will moderate.

The launch event will be broadcast on Zoom, with simultaneous livestreams on Facebook and Twitter. Those wishing to participate via Zoom are encouraged to register in advance.

The Statement was months in the making. In preparing for the Summit, the UN encouraged civil society groups to hold dialogues to contribute outside perspectives. The Coalition, an alliance of seven organizations, formed to take part in that process. The Coalition aimed to bring voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities to the process.

In May and June, the Coalition hosted five dialogues corresponding to each of the five UN “Action Tracks” for the Food Systems Summit. The goal was to use the dialogues to examine global food systems critically, using the lens of faith and values.

Although billed by the UN as a “people’s summit,” the UN’s process raised concerns from the start. “The process surrounding the Summit has caused serious concern from observers and those of us who have participated in dialogues,” said Schwartz, who convened the Coalition. “While the Summit has welcomed unprecedented input from the civil society and key stakeholders, there is an obvious and concerning bias towards the corporation actors and methodologies that have led to the problems that the Summit is supposed to address.”

Over the summer, the Coalition’s efforts attracted the attention of Summit organizers and other multilateral organizations. The WHO invited the Coalition to present its findings at a webinar held on June 10. The UN invited the Coalition to present an online forum as an official “side event” to the Pre-Summit in Rome on July 27. And, in one of the last preliminary events before the Summit itself, on September 2 the Center for Earth Ethics and the UN co-hosted a “global dialogue” about faith-based perspectives on food systems.

The Statement was drafted by Schwartz along with Chris Elisara (World Evangelical Alliance), Gopal Patel (Bhumi Global), Joshua Basofin (Parliament of the World’s Religions), Kelly Moltzen (Interfaith Public Health Network), Marium Husain (Islamic Medical Association of North America) and Steve Chiu (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation). Dialogue participants Becky O’Brien, Daniel Perell, Grove Harris, Lina Mahy,  Meera Baindur, and Nate DeGroot also contributed.

The Faith + Food Coalition (www.faithandfood.earth) is an alliance of seven organizations—Bhumi Global, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the Center for Earth Ethics, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Interfaith Public Health Network, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the World Evangelical Alliance—that bring voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities to the UN Food Systems Summit.

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NB. This story has been updated to include comments from Karenna Gore and Andrew Schwartz.

Remarks by Karenna Gore on the Global Biodiversity Framework

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) World Conservation Congress

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

 

Faith communities are calling on governments to strengthen the Global Biodiversity Framework. For too long, economic development has come at the expense of Nature. It is driven by a mindset that measures value according to short term monetary gain, no matter how much pollution, depletion or inequity results.

The scale and pace of this pattern has brought us to the brink of unimaginable loss. This loss is indeed economic, in part; all wealth is derived from the biosphere. But it is more than that too. It is cultural, moral, and spiritual. To be effective, the Framework must reflect the totality and urgency of what is at stake.

Faith traditions are diverse but they share a sense that values run deeper than politics or price-tags, that life (including nonhuman life) has meaning, and that there is some form of higher power to which our actions are ultimately accountable.

From this viewpoint — which has corollaries in secular thought — we did not create other species and we have no right to destroy them. They have a right to exist. The Framework should reflect those rights of nature and the rights of future generations. It must also secure the rights of the Indigenous peoples and local communities who are courageous guardians of so much of what remains. Indigenous peoples must give free prior and informed consent for any project (including any conservation project) in their territories.

I am honored to be with you and convey my strong support for this call. The Center for Earth Ethics draws from the world’s faith and wisdom traditions to pursue the changes in policy and culture necessary to create a world that values the long term health of the whole community of life.

We must look at the level of cause, not just the level of effect. That means regulation of the most serious drivers of biodiversity loss — such as the current industrialized food systems and the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. It means investment in positive solutions such as ecosystem restoration, which can bolster carbon sinks to fight climate change and provide good work for people who need it. It also means changing social norms that encourage gross overconsumption and waste by some while tolerating deprivation for others. Life on Earth is interrelated and we need reciprocity and balance to sustain it.

In closing I note that diverse faith groups have been carefully reviewing the First Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and will put forward their response soon. Please stay tuned for that.

Thank you.