Our Australian agricultural story begins more than 40,000 years ago, with our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters sustainably farming the earth we walk on and the water that flows around us. They used sophisticated farming practices to sustain the environment in order to feed our families, our communities and our culture. They did this successfully across dramatic climate change events, including ice ages. As we approach our anthropogenic climate change challenges, we have much to learn from the ancestors of this place.
Even with the extreme disruption of colonisation, cultural ways of caring for and making productive use of the land remain. New innovations are being incorporated, as we see with the emergence of native foods such as kangaroo and Kakadu Plum into our modern Australian diet.
But our story is also depicted in recent history. Food and agriculture contribute immensely to the shaping of the modern Australian identity and landscape. From ‘riding on the sheep’s back’ to immigration from Europe in the 50s and Asia in the 70s, the modern Australian diet has a smorgasbord of flavours, textures and colours to choose from. This is a description of who we are. Food and agriculture can, therefore, inform who we want to be.
We commonly seek to draw upon the learnings of our past, recognising the culinary reconciliation that all food can provide across the world. We need to understand the role of food and agriculture plays in modern society, including the shaping of our ethics and identity.
In the next 34 years, an additional 2.3 billion mouths will look for a meal 3 times a day, including another 18 million here in Australia. Already, 2 million people in Australia rely on food relief every year. That is, almost 1 in 10 Australians that need help to put food on the table.
While it is pivotal that agriculture plays their part in lowering their emissions and farmers continue to explore sustainable farming practices, it is essential that every person has access to safe, affordable and nutritious food, especially with a growing population. I recognise that agricultural production will become half of the Earth’s emissions for us to reach 2 degrees of warming and therefore the question we should be asking is how are we going to continue feeding a growing population sustainably? Rather than punishing farmers for what type of food they produce, we need to encourage them to do things better- we need farmers empowered to power their community with renewables, we need them to want to farm sustainably and want to strive to lower their emissions.
We need our agricultural systems to be made up of sustainable businesses, with strong livelihoods for the caretakers of the land. I believe there are 4 building blocks to establish this:
- Better relationships between farmers and the public, including full transparency of farming practices and mutual appreciation of the long term goals for agricultural and food systems.
- Good biodiversity and environmental policy, whereby farmland and the environment sustainably work together to ensure the longevity of farm businesses and food.
- Continued research and development of low methane animals and livestock systems.
- Greater integrated farming systems and renewable energy systems to provide a passive income for farmers and provide the opportunity for farmers to power the world.
Farmers have great amounts of ground to make up for with their farming practices, however we shouldn’t starve people to make this happen. By living in a world where we honour and integrate the clear values of agriculture with the broader public, we have the ability to become more sustainable and lower our emissions. This approach starts with mutual respect- respect of the sustainable farming practices in Australia by our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, the respect for farming practices and equally consumer wants and needs, and the absolute respect of working together, farmers and consumers, to ensure a food system which provides enough food to feed the world.