‘Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.’ Anthony Bourdain
What happens when world population continues to grow and natural resources are dwindling on a finite planet? Is it utopian to consider sustainability based on self –reliance – a system that supports sustainable land use and sustainable living?
Can we maintain a system that can meet all our needs and produces enough energy to maintain itself?
All our supplies come from large scale production in factories and from large tracts of agricultural land. These take a huge toll on the environment and constitute the main cause of climate change, which is already having disastrous consequences on the life of the planet and its inhabitants. Current agricultural practices, processing, storage, transportation of food and supplies play a huge role in food’s carbon footprint.
Bringing the dilemma closer to home, what is our ecological footprint in the BVI?
Currently, we exist on a basic diet of imported products that use four times the energy and produce four times the emissions of an equivalent domestic diet. Being able to meet our needs for food is an important part of a sustainable system.
Our experience after the devastation of Hurricane Irma left us in no doubt that we need to reduce our dependence on imported products especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
As a small island state, the need to develop a system of growing our own healthy food by being resourceful and environmentally responsible is inevitable. We need to make the transition from being dependent consumers to self- sufficient producers. Can we demonstrate our love for these islands and for the health of our people, especially the coming generation by promoting healthy food choices?
Growing your own food allows you to harvest your food directly from the garden when you want to consume it. Vegetables harvested from the garden have far more nutrients than vegetables that must be picked early, stored and then transported thousands of miles before getting to warehouses for distribution.
“Growing food is very simple,” says Kathleen Frith, managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHGE) at Harvard Medical School. “It takes a little time, but things like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, basic kitchen crops are very forgiving.”
Start small and plant things you like to eat. “You will be amazed by how much fun gardening can be, and the pride you take in sharing healthy food nurtured by your own efforts,” says Acacia Matheson, the CHGE’s assistant director of communications. “We hope that people will develop more interest in learning about their food choices, and how to prepare fresh, healthy food at home.”
Growing your own produce is a simple solution to numerous health, environmental, and economic problems. Growing some herbs and a few tomato plants on your porch or having a large backyard garden is beneficial to your health, as well as the environment. When we eat vegetables fresh from our own garden, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The fresh produce purchased in the supermarkets has a long journey before reaching the shelves, losing nutritional value every step of the way.
Studies have shown the physical activity required in gardening helps to improve cardiac health and immune system response, decrease heart rate and stress, and improve fine and gross motor skills, flexibility and body strength. Getting regular exercise can relieve stress, anxiety and depression while boosting energy.
Gardening is a great way to absorb vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is crucial in order to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and it can also protect against certain diseases. By spending a few dollars on seeds, plants, and supplies you will produce vegetables that will improve your health and reduce expenditure on food.
Although, climate change and personal health may not seem related. One is a global, political and environmental concern, while the other deals ultimately with an individual’s well-being. The effects of climate change on the environment is already directly affecting human health in many parts of our world. Fortunately, governments of the world are dedicated to doing their part. Last year, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, which commits signatories to work toward keeping temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This effort would eventually reduce carbon footprints and subsequently the “runaway greenhouse effect,”
Philosopher, Tao Te Ching says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Growing and consuming your own produce will improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint. You would do your part in saving the planet. Far from being separate issues, climate change and human health are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to separate having a healthy body from having a healthy planet. Environmental health is human health.
If you live in an apartment and do not have access to garden space, windowsill boxes and plant containers on your porch filled with herbs and vegetables are a great way to filter the air coming into your home. Give it a try.
Ecological sustainability is necessary for eco-friendly living. Many of our native forested areas have been removed for urban development. We can counteract this by replanting our native trees in our gardens. Living in your own green space will be your contribution to combating the effects of climate change.
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.” — Michael Pollan
This article was written based on information from the internet and the author’s own experience living, working and travelling throughout the Caribbean.