The first thing that Damon Gameau, the filmmaker responsible for the environmental documentary 2040, wants you to know is that you matter.
When it comes to the state of the planet, your future also matters, as does the future of your children. But what many of us tend to neglect in discussions about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, he says, is that our actions in the kitchen and at the dinner table are also essential to the health of the environment. In short, that’s because what you eat matters.
"So we need to be more aware of the types of fruits and vegetables we are eating.”
“I just think that a lot of people haven’t yet made a mental connection and realised agriculture and climate change are just so closely linked,” Gameau tells SBS.
“Yet, every decision we make about what we eat has an impact on our children’s future. So we need to be more aware of the types of fruits and vegetables we are eating.”
It’s Gameau’s belief that we should all increase our consumption of foods from perennial trees and plants, which build soil health and decrease the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
He explains that perennial foods do this because “they don’t need to be dug up or harvested often, so they won’t release carbon into the atmosphere as often.”
In technical terms, this concept is known as ‘carbon sequestering’, where the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is reduced with the aim of slowing down the accumulation of greenhouse gases.
According to the Government of Western Australia, carbon farming is another term used to describe the “process of changing agricultural practices or land use to increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil and vegetation”. This aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, soil or vegetation.
So if perennial foods are so great, how do we start eating them? Gameau explains that it’s not rocket science. To choose foods that reduce greenhouse emissions, we just need to look a bit closer at kinds of trees or plants our foods grow on and get back to the source.
The foods that may help the planet
Here are 15 perennial foods you may already be familiar with that sequester carbon and build soil health, according to 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration.
10. Jerusalem artichoke
Nuts or beans
14. Raw cacao powder, made from the cacao bean
“If we are going to solve our problem [and save the Earth] – which is the best revolution I can think of – we need to eat more coffee, bananas, mangoes and chocolate,” says Gameau. “They are some of the best carbon-sequestering foods and they are delicious at the same time.”
He explains that by eating more perennial foods, consumers will send a signal to food retailers and farmers letting them know that patterns of demand are changing. The hope is that changes in demand will also influence the supply chain so that these foods become more readily available.
"Just by changing the foods we eat, we can turn this situation around.”
“We have to start saying we want more of these foods, as they are helpful for the soil and sequester carbon. If we do that, then we are going to get a bigger supply of them from the people who are producing them. Just by changing the foods we eat, we can turn this situation around.”
The downside to this push for action is that perennial foods aren’t cheap and accessible to everyone. Even though Gameau expects that changes in demand and supply could lead to cheaper prices in the long-run, the cost of changing current agricultural processes could be pricey and the economic consequences of change are yet to be revealed.
Acknowledging this, Gameau encourages people with the financial means to afford to change, to buy more perennial foods regularly. “I am in a fortunate position where I can make those kinds of buying decisions. And I feel that any one who has that same luxury needs to do it too to help lower the prices of certain foods to make it accessible to everyone.”