Wheel of Life - Food, Climate, Human Rights, and the Economy

The Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life. Picture iStock

September 15, 2011
Debbie Barker
The links between climate change and industrial agriculture create a nexus of crises—food insecurity, natural resource depletion and degradation, as well as human rights violations and inequities. This report unravels the interrelated causes of and effects on these issues.

This report is published in cooperation with the Center for Food Safety.

Executive Summary

The links between climate change and industrial agriculture create a nexus of crises—food insecurity, natural resource depletion and degradation, as well as human rights violations and inequities.

While it is widely recognized that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to human activity are detrimental to the natural environment, it can be difficult to untangle the cascading effects on other sectors. To unravel some of the effects, this paper focuses on three interrelated issues:

1) What are the critical links between climate change and agriculture?
2) How is the nexus of agriculture and climate change affecting human societies particularly regarding food and water, livelihoods, migration, gender equality, and other basic survival and human rights?
3) What is the interplay between economic and finance systems, on the one hand, and food security, climate change, and fundamental human rights, on the other?

In the process of drawing connections among these issues, the report will identify the commonality of drivers, or “push” factors, that lead to adverse impacts.

A central theme throughout this report is that policies and practices must begin with the ecological imperative in order to ensure authentic security and stability on all fronts including food, water, livelihoods and jobs, climate, energy, and economic. In turn this engenders equity, social justice, and diverse cultures. This imperative, or ethos of nature, is a foundation that serves as a steady guide when reviewing mitigation and adaptation solutions to climate change.

Infused within this theme is the sobering recognition that current consumption and production patterns are at odds with goals of reducing GHGs and attaining global food security. For instance, consumption and production levels, based on the global average, are 25 percent higher than the earth’s ecological capacity. As societies address the myriad ecological and social issues at the axis of global warming, a central task will be to re-align consumption and production trends in a manner that can fulfill economic and development requirements. This will require a major shift away from present economic growth paradigms based on massive resource extraction and toward creating prosperous and vital societies and economies that preserve the planet’s environmental capacity.

How urgently and effectively we mobilize and respond to global warming and its associated impacts will be a test of our collective humanity. The challenge requires that a broad, diverse coalition of civil society movements unite to ensure that proposed solutions maintain ecological integrity, which in turn helps to secure human rights. To facilitate alliance building, the paper provides a compendium of organizations engaged in and writing on these issues.

Click here to read The Wheel of Life (110 pages, pdf, 2.14MB)

Click here for the Executive Summary of The Wheel of Life (16 pages, pdf, 1.51MB)

Job Announcement
Office & Communications Manager, Assistant to the Executive Director
The Heinrich Böll Foundation North America is accepting applications for the position of Office and Communications Manager, Assistant to the Executive Director. We are looking for a highly qualified and motivated individual with an interest in green policy issues. Qualified candidates have a BA and are fluent in English and German. The position is full-time. The start date for the position is July1st, 2014.

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