World faces ‘endgame’ in climate and biodiversity

Organic farming leaders and business experts have issued a powerful call for action for businesses to help address an ‘endgame’ scenario in climate and biodiversity action.

Speaking at a Soil Association event this week, chief executive and organic farmer Helen Browning called 2020 the start of “the most important decade humanity has ever faced”.

“We know that over the next decade, we need all of our land to be farmed agroecologically, like organic already is doing. We also need to challenge ourselves to see how much more nature organic can protect.

“The situation is so urgent – this is not a time to sit in our ivory towers and in our siloes. This is a time to work together,” she said. “Organic food and farming have been trailblazing an alternative for the past 60 years. It’s time for that alternative to become the mainstream.

“If we do it really well we can reverse the loss of biodiversity, feed people really well, and slow our impact on climate. This is the stuff that will determine the prospects of future generations.”

‘2020 is the most important decade humanity has faced’ – organic farmer Helen Browning.

In food and farming, organic should be the bare minimum in how to farm to protect the planet, Browning said, while stating that even organic businesses should “go further to protect nature”.

Re-orientating societies and businesses to prioritise planet and people, alongside profit, is a key solution to the crises facing the planet, according to another speaker, business expert Victoria Hurth, of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

“Businesses should be engines for wellbeing,” said Hurth. “The problem comes from the Western ideal of a free market economy – free from government interference, and with no real constraints.

“We’ve done really well at checking financial outcomes, without remembering to check the wellbeing outcomes. It has resulted in short-term financial benefits for a few rather than long-term wellbeing sustainability outcomes for all.”

Unrestrained market economies have largely resulted in the crises facing the world today, including climate change, biodiversity losses, the pandemic, and the global financial crash, as businesses are allowed to operate to prioritise only profits, with no other constraints, said Hurth.

“It’s all one big reminder that we should hold businesses to account. We are at endgame time in terms of the threats facing our future, she said, adding that “there is deep support for paradigmatic change coming from both young and old” in terms of how to transition post-Covid.

The urgency over climate change and biodiversity losses is stepping up, with two new programmes by David Attenborough bearing witness to the deterioration of natural habitats throughout his career, and presenting the facts around species extinction.

Protecting wildlife, rewilding and restoring marine and land habitats not only protects wildlife, but slows the impact of climate change by storing carbon through natural climate solutions, Attenborough pointed out.