DIGGING DEEPER: Bringing a Systems Approach to Food Systems: Another Argument for Adaptability
Keywords:Systems Thinking, Adaptability
First paragraph:I thought of some of the systems concepts I've been writing about here when I saw the paper by Marty Heller and Greg Keoleian in the Journal of Industrial Ecology last fall (2014). In it they reported that a shift from the present-day average American diet to a diet based on the current USDA dietary recommendations results in an 11% increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). On the other hand, a shift to a 2,000 calorie diet (Americans now "consume" an average of about 2500 calories according to the USDA's retail-level food availability data [Heller & Keoleian, 2014]) results in only a 2% overall decrease in GHGE. Most people would expect larger decreases in GHGE given the 20% decrease in calories and considerable decreases in recommended meat consumption. But the shifts to food patterns needed to move to a healthier diet include the substitution of dairy products for meat proteins, and solid fats and added sugars represent relatively low emissions per calorie. The authors state that this may be a surprising result—but it shouldn't be if one has been following the research on foodprints for a while. What I find of most interest, however, is how the new science in the article again calls forth a need to understand the complexity in dynamic food systems, including feedback and how it is heard and treated, and heterogeneity—many actors who have different goals and decision-making procedures. What follows from this reality is the need for adaptability, clear thinking, and overcoming innate biases....
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