5 min read

Let's Get Louder About Whole Systems Climate Action

Let's Get Louder About Whole Systems Climate Action
Photo by Diogo Palhais / Unsplash

This week I had a lot of conversations with folks about the power and beauty of "whole systems" approaches. This applies both to my food systems transition work and my bikes as transportation work. These particular discussions revolved around affordable housing in urban areas and how, when done well, they actually address so many of our damaged society's ills.  

A New York Times piece by Roni Caryn Rabin nailed the point so well, but as a public health story.  Everything is connected, folks.

The incredible whole systems approach to improving health by way of affordable housing, safe streets (so more people can walk and bike) and less processed (and more likely, I'd add, plant-based) food is here.  Because of these incredible multi-level benefits, it is big, old climate action ( and 100% aligned with #SDG11). Rabin cites research by Dr. Dean Shillinger of the University of California, San Francisco. Here's a quote:

"It calls for reframing the epidemic as a social, economic and environmental problem, and offers a series of detailed fixes, ranging from improving access to healthy food and clean water to rethinking the designs of communities, housing and transportation networks."
“It’s about massive federal subsidies that support producing ingredients that go into low-cost, energy-dense, ultra-processed and sugar-loaded foods, the unfettered marketing of junk food to children, suburban sprawl that demands driving over walking or biking — all the forces in the environment that some of us have the resources to buffer ourselves against, but people with low incomes don’t,” Dr. Schillinger said.
“We feel impotent as doctors because we don’t have the tools to tackle the social conditions people are grappling with,” he added.

Whole systems address, to re-emphasize Dr Schillinger's point: all the forces in the environment that some of us have the resources to buffer ourselves against.

Why isn't this the message of every climate organization and leader out there?  If we get too focused on our isolated solution worm hole, we just will not collectively act in time.

Recording my Living Change podcast conversation with Alex Fisch, Oct. 6, 2022

Talking With Alex Fisch

I recently interviewed Alex Fisch a Culver City (CA) city council member, for the Living Change podcast. For that community, it is clear that a more whole systems way of messaging this sort of progressive change is starting to move the needle. The leadership in that entertainment industry studio city, in the middle of infamous LA metropolitan area housing crises and congested highway sprawl, is on it. Take a look at the Move Culver City initiative, which "envisions a reimagining of our streets as public spaces and prioritizes moving people over cars in the design of the street," and is making headway in engaging the city's residents and businesses.

Refer back to Rabin's NYT story on how to approach diabetes, and you can see how Culver City is addressing chronic health conditions too. It's all connected, and these whole systems stories need to be much better told.  Better messaging will help forward even more progressive U.S. city shifts in housing, social justice, safer streets, and... drum roll... climate action. This can't happen quickly enough.

It is huge climate influence! Watch this space, and stay tuned for when my Living Change episode with Alex Fisch drops.  

Eating Meat Is Killing The Planet

I'm always game to share great backgrounder articles that might help my climate-concerned peers really start to understand the climate influence benefits of going plant-based. Two of the most visible (go, Twitter) academic leaders in this space (who often co-author) are Jan Dutkiewicz and Matthew Hayek. This 2021 VOX piece is evergreen, so file it away as a resource to help educate your communities and related leadership (especially anyone with influence in policy or corporate decision-making).  As we head into COP27, where, supposedly, food systems transition will be emphasized, we must get louder.

"Fossil fuels do make up a far greater proportion of emissions in the US and globally, but even if we reduced energy emissions down to zero, demand for meat and dairy alone could make us exceed critical levels of global warming. That makes shifting diets away from meat a critical tool in preventing global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C or 2°C by 2100."

LinkedIn "Greener By Default" Case Study

As I mentioned in my last newsletter issue, I'll be at GreenBiz VERGE late this month. I'm only getting more pumped as I prepare to moderate a panel on the LinkedIn food service shift (and the ways the Greener By Default/ Better Food Foundation helped). The climate influence in even one incredibly well known brand moving in a more plant-based direction with food service can be game-changing.  The point is: it shows that this transition to a new food policy direction CAN be done, and there is at least one leader to watch. After learning from/about the LinkedIn experience, I imagine attendees will walk away wondering why their teams wouldn't dig in on this incredible corporate Scope 3 emission reduction action ASAP.

I hope to see lots of folks there, but you better believe I'll also amplify the learnings and any related links after the event.  Follow the #VERGE22 tag from October 25 - 27 to monitor the tweets.  Our "case clinic" panel is Thursday the 27th at 1:30 PT.


ABCs of Climate Change

Climate-focused artist Nicole Kelner shared this incredible image on Twitter, and I had to share. A picture is worth a bazillion words. The plant-based food systems transition world should be super psyched to see that a cow represents "M" for methane, and not the usual smokestacks. As well, making the "V" about voting and the "Y" about youth.  Amplify this, share it with teachers, yell about it to all the organizations not doing enough about their own climate-denying actions. And, don't forget, point to it when you use social platforms during #COP27 !

Learning Resource: Get LOUDER DURING COP27: Twitter Engagement Jumpstart

Whether you will be in Egypt or not (and, let me point out there is a lot of potential to be seen in that conversation even without flying there), now is a really good time to get more comfortable and strategic with your Twitter account. I really would love more company in digital climate influence during that period, so I am offering regular  30 minute "office hours" leading up to COP27.

To repeat: My dream is to see more folks with leadership platforms knowing how to intentionally leverage them. The more smart, climate-acting leaders who do this will change the social norm for smart leaders: it's about doing all in your power to act on climate.( This is your climate action call to #TwitterSmarter.)

From my years doing this sort of work, specifically, I'd argue there's more power in using Twitter well than you'd get by being at a side-event, on a global stage for an hour, or even being quote in a mainstream media story. Your audiences want to really feel your personal values reflected in your corporate and political decisions. (That's exactly why I look for people doing this to interview for my Living Change podcast). A traditional press release can't hold a candle. I'd love to help you, and am happy Calendly helps make this happen with easy scheduling and payment.