David A. Cleveland, University of California, Santa Barbara

David Cleveland is professor of environmental studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. His research and teaching focus on small-scale, sustainable food systems, and he has worked with farmers in Ghana, Mexico, Zuni, Hopi, Pakistan, and California. His current focus is the potential contributions of diet change and local food systems to climate change mitigation, improved nutrition, and food justice. His 2014 book, Balancing on a Planet: The future of food and agriculture, is a guide to thinking critically about how to achieve the local and global agrifood systems we want, based on understanding their biological and sociocultural roots.



What’s on Your Plate? Is Global Diet Change the Key to Food and Climate Justice?

Climate change is a major threat to the food system, making it harder to grow and distribute food. There is also a major crisis in the food system, increasingly dominated by central governments and multinational corporations—over consumption, under consumption, and unhealthy foods. And the food system is also a threat to the climate system because it contributes at least 30% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). The food and climate crises are intimately linked, and need to be understood and solved together. Limits to resources and sinks for pollution in the Anthropocene mean that the supply side Neolithic solutions, currently “green growth,” must be replaced with solutions that address the environmental and social roots of the problem. We will need to greatly decrease the GHGE of highest emitting populations to allow some increase by least emitting populations, and reduce food consumption of highest consuming populations to allow increase by the least consuming populations: climate justice equals food justice. This paper discusses why diet change is key to these solutions.