This year, ISS employees attended Aim for Climate, a conference that brings partners together to increase and accelerate investment in and support for innovation in agriculture and food systems for climate action. The experience was rich with information and innovation, with calls to action being issued. Secretary John Kerry, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, gave a keynote speech, imploring the activists, innovators, ministers, and policy makers in the room to act.
“I have voted thousands of times, on issues of war and peace, life, and death. On no other issue can we say that every one of us can contribute to [the solution],” Secretary Kerry said. “We are facing record malnutrition, at a time when agriculture is facing a record climate crisis. Without action, millions of livelihoods and lives will be in danger.”
With the global population continuing to grow, emissions from our food system alone are projected to create another half degree increase in the planet’s temperature, which endangers our most important climate goal to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is the aspiration of global agreements, but more importantly, it is the deciding factor for whether some cities and island nations will continue to exist.
The summit included three full days of presentations, breakouts, and exhibition booths, as well as interactive exercises to convey the severity of the crisis and inspire the audience to think creatively about the innovations and solutions necessary to reverse course.
On day one, lunch was curated by Sam Kass, former White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition. Kass themed the meal “The Last Supper,” which featured ingredients that will no longer be available within 100 years due to rising temperatures and lack of resources—frisée salad, beets, chickpeas, tomatoes, rockfish, barley, chocolate, and coffee. It was a thought-provoking exercise that encouraged the 1,000+ attendees to think about the very real impact of our current practices.
The audience also learned about emerging technologies that leverage global satellite systems to help farmers make decisions about their land and water usage, alternative proteins and cultivated meat, soil health, crop diversification, and feedstock to reduce methane. We saw examples of precision irrigation using drones, learned about re-fertilizing desert land into farmland, and dove into regenerative agriculture and the barriers to adoption.
Leaders also discussed how, across industries, we see the rapid advancement of multiple technologies that enable data gathering, but a lack of analysis and synthesis to make this data useful for decision making on the ground, or rather, in the field. Also highlighted was the idea of doing more, or the same, with less. With our planet’s population projected to grow to 10 billion people by 2050, our resources will only become further contracted and reduced. Without action, projected food system emissions to support that population will increase by 50 to 90%.
Not every solution requires a degree in aerospace engineering. Some solutions—one of our favorites—is as simple as growing and eating more beans. We joined the Beans is How campaign for their booth at Aim for Climate, featuring Chef Hector Playuk serving up his signature red bean and chickpea hummus festival toast with lentil and lemon salad. Guests raved that they never considered beans as party food, and we provided the recipe to policy makers and farmers alike!
So how does this relate to you? As Secretary John Kerry said, never has a crisis of this magnitude existed—its unique quality is that every single person on planet earth can impact the severity of this crisis. Of course, major government and business initiatives will have the most impact, but each of us can work to decrease our individual footprint and adjust our behavior to contribute to the welfare of our global ecosystem.
It may even start with one small and mighty bean!