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POLICY BRIEF No. 1 • 2017


Executive Summary Since 1972 at the UN Conference on the Human Environment [Figure A2], there has been continued global effort to procure sustainable frameworks in the face of climate change, industrialization, and urbanization, the results of which are increasing environmental degradation, resource insecurity, and economic inequity. 45 years later, now in 2017, global cooperation towards a more inclusive and environmentally safe future emerge with resolutions such as The Paris Accord and The Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The United States’ divergence from these global agreements under the Trump administration does not preclude agency on the state and city level to enact legislation in ecological practices and new economic typologies towards a sustainable future.

Introduction 40% of Earth’s land cover is used for agriculture while 86% of available global freshwater is appropriated for irrigation1. 16-40% of this land is already degraded from malpractice and exhaustive resource exploitation, threatening food security and the sustained management of these systems2. The intensive use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides since the “Green Revolution” in the 1930s has depleted the organics in soil, limiting produce nutritional value, contributing to almost a quarter of GHG emissions [Figure 1], and polluting water closets. These detrimental impacts have their origin in outdated industrial paradigms, and they are no longer feasible.

As solutions to mitigate contemporary

adversity progress, it is an unprecedented time in history for decision makers and legislators at every level to advocate for their communities, promote sustainable practices and participation to ensure ecosystem preservation and equitable access to nutritional food supplies.

Why Cities? As of 2016, an estimated 54.5% of the world’s population lives in an urban domain3. This is the


first time in history that the global community is predominantly more urban than rural. The rapid industrialization accounting for and informing the capitalist paradigms of today not only influence economic practices and policy, but also physically construct the environments which perpetuate these same systems. It is no longer a question how detrimental these outdated paradigms have been; an increasingly volatile, climate, social insecurity, and economic fragility. Despite global efforts to mitigate these challenges [Figure A2], the fundamental opportunity for transformation will lie within the urban ecosystem and the majority of people who will be living there. Initiatives such as C40 Cities, the GRI Standards, and The McKinsey Center’s “Focused Acceleration” plan are just three examples of resources for cities with strong mayoral jurisdiction, such as New York City, to drive meaningful change as urban pioneers of innovation. While urban centers are catalysts for change, growth, and industry, they are also primary consumers of energy and producers of waste. The following recommendations hone better practices in the urban food system for sustainable production and consumption to improve environmental health and quality of life in urban domains.

Recommendations Both regulatory and economic tools require a framework for legislative application and community integration.

A “systems thinking”

approach for public participation [Figure A1] is proposed to bring knowledge into decision making and merge the common ground between the empirical data of scientific research with policy makers, practitioners, and planners while simultaneously meeting local community needs. This approach is also complimentary with the concept of “weaver work,” a transdisciplinary activity, strategically linking corporate/political

Figure 1 Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector via EPA 2014

activism and economic reconstruction with civic engagement and partnership mobilization4. This conceptal framework will also help in the design of new methodologies to effectively translate data driven knowledge into practical strategies for policy application, producing transformation on the ground and new modes of governance.

Market Mechanisms for Sustainable Production & Consumption A market based solution regulates capital enterprise from







growth creates

environmentally responsible marketplaces and commodities, as well as consumer consciousnesspotentially shaping and transforming cultural behaviors towards more sustainable lifestyles and practices5. Like the certification process behind “USDA Organic”, or “Non GMO Project,” Eco-Labeling is a design strategy in which the consumer is educated on the environmental impact of a commodity good, as well as encouraging production and distribution lines to compete with each other in evolving market

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trends. This could then reflexively inform better

of political decision making. The reckoning of the


economics inherent to unsustainable practices




of today is crucial in their transformation for

sensitive agriculture. • Taxation: Polluter Pays Principle • Sustainability Abatements & Incentives • Eco-Labels

tomorrow. Promoting observance with new regulations and practices is necessary for successful transitions in “capacity building” and collaboration between sectors including but not

Capacity Building for Community Engagement & New Literacy

limited to the stakeholders delineated below, in Figure 3.

Developing skills and processes to adapt to a rapidly changing climate on the community and individual level will promote agency, self advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge to increase public participation and awareness.


With the new urgency and prevalence of urban challenges, urban populations will need to





Local & Regional Authorities


Department chairs, directors, committees of the city, county, and state levels- mayors, governors, politicians.

communities to gain proficiency in the tools and opportunities in mitigating the effects of climate change. With a public participation framework

Agricultural & Food Sectors Communities and organizations engaged in agriculture and food producing sectors, food service, and food retail

[Figure A1] skills, knowledge, and experience are designed into programmatic scientific or political interests. Novel interventions in the form of local organization can be specifically designed for to produce social collaboration and cooperation

Business & Industry

with policy implementation. Skill sharing in

Commercial, corporate, public and private enterprises contributing to economic growth and development

agroecological farming practices, and urban agriculture will be an important intervention to design for in order for “market mechanisms” to be understood by local consumers. These

Academia & Innovation Universities, research labs, startups, think tanks and incubators, scientists

interventions will also build social ties, reconnect the people to their municipal representatives, and physical environment.

NGO, GO & NPO International and regional organizations, agencies, policy makers, legislators, consultants

• Knowledge Sharing Platforms • Local Organization: Alternative Marketplaces • Agroecology & Urban Agriculture

Communities & Consumers Locals, children, families, neighborhood coalitions, shop owners

Applications & Implications Under the leadership of the UN, a comprehensive network of multi-stakeholder initiatives, high level forums, conferences and partnerships are pushing sustainable frameworks to the front line

Figure 3

Icons sourced via thenounproject, from bottom to top: Aneeque Ahmed, Abir Alward, Adrien Coquet, Brand Mania, Gregor Cresnoe.

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productively aligning more than 193 UN members to adopt the SDGs6. While it is important to gain political leverage in the pursuit of a sustainable future, there is not just one strategy in a successful transition: this is why dimensional and transdisciplinary partnerships must be engaged with to produce robust results. Successful application of the recommended “market mechanisms” is dependent on integrated “capacity building” to promote participation in urban food system transformation. Real and sustained change will not independently rely on either just consumer behavior or just institutional direction, but instead the collaboration of both. The empowerment of local populations will contribute to equitable accessibility and the evolution of ethical consumption into ecological citizenship7.

1 Rulli, M. C., et al. (2013). Global land and water grabbing. 892. 2 Chappell, M. J., & LaValle, L. A. (2011). Food security and biodiversity: can we have both? An agroecological analysis. 4. 3 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2016). The World’s Cities in 2016- Data Booklet (ST/ESA/ SER.A/392). 4 Stevenson, G. W., et al. (2008). Warrior, builder, and weaver work: Strategies for changing the food system. In Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability 33. 5 IPCC, 2014: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. 20. 6 “Historic New Sustainable Development Agenda Unanimously Adopted by 193 UN Members.” United Nations. September 25, 2015. 7 Morgan, Kevin. “Local and green, global and fair: the ethical foodscape and the politics of care.” (2010): 1860-1865.

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APPENDIX 1. Systems Thinking for Public Participation

Figure A1

Sourced via Shirk et al. �Public participation in scientific research: a framework for deliberate design.� Ecology and Society 17, no. 2 (2012). 8.

2. Historical Progress Towards Sustainability

Figure A2

Sourced via UNEP Sustainable Production and Consuption, A Handbookbook for Policymakers, 2015. 48.

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Works Cited

Other Sources

Shirk, Jennifer, Heidi Ballard, Candie Wilderman, Tina Phillips, Andrea Wiggins, Rebecca Jordan, Ellen McCallie et al. “Public participation in scientific research: a framework for deliberate design.” Ecology and Society 17, no. 2 (2012).

FAO. “Writing Effective Reports.” 2017. i2195e03.pdf

“IPCC, 2014: Summary for Policymakers” in “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

APA. “APA Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning.” 2007. Images sourced via The National Archive Catalogue in Documerica:The EPA’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern. “Sulfur-Dusting of Grape Vines.” Photographed by Gene Daniels in Fresno California, 1972.

Morgan, Kevin. “Local and green, global and fair: the ethical foodscape and the politics of care.” Environment and Planning A 42, no. 8 (2010): 1852-1867. Poulsen, M.N. (2017). Cultivating citizenship, equity, and social inclusion? Putting civic agriculture into practice through urban farming. Agriculture & Human Values, 34: 135. “SDGs: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations. UNEP. “Sustainable Consumption and Production Global Edition. A Handbook for Policymakers.” 2015. Mckinsey Center for Business and the Environment, and C40 Cities. “Focused acceleration: NOVEMBER 2017 A strategic approach to climate action in cities to 2030.” November 2017. “Statement by President Trump on the Paris Climate Accord.” The White House. June 01, 2017. statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Status of ratification.” The Paris Agreement - main page. October 12, 2017. paris_agreement/items/9485.php. “Summary of the Paris Agreement.” A Guide to the UNFCCC and its Processes. Accessed December 13, 2017. Van den Bergh, J. C., & Nijkamp, P. (1991). Operationalizing sustainable development: dynamic ecological economic models. Ecological Economics, 4(1), 11-33. Rulli, M. C., Saviori, A., & D’Odorico, P. (2013). Global land and water grabbing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(3), 892-897. “Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data.” Greenhouse Gas Emissions. April 13, 2017. Chappell, M. J., & LaValle, L. A. (2011). Food security and biodiversity: can we have both? An agroecological analysis. Agriculture and Human Values, 28(1), 3-26. Nassauer, Joan Iverson, and Paul Opdam. “Design in science: extending the landscape ecology paradigm.” Landscape ecology 23, no. 6 (2008): 633-644.


Falkenmark, M., & Xia, J. (2013). Urban water supply under expanding water scarcity. Source separation and decentralization for wastewater management. IWA Publishing, London, 59-70.

I would like to thank Dr. Reynolds for modeling a

“Historic New Sustainable Development Agenda Unanimously Adopted by 193 UN Members.” United Nations. September 25, 2015. sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/09/historic-new-sustainable-developmentagenda-unanimously-adopted-by-193-un-members/.

found in modern industry and much of 21st

Stevenson, G. W., Ruhf, K., Lezberg, S., & Clancy, K. (2008). Warrior, builder, and weaver work: Strategies for changing the food system. In Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability (pp. 33-62). University of Nebraska Press

enthousiastically anticipating.

dedication to scholarship despite the discouragement century politics- with the right attitude, anthing is possible, including the transformation we are so

“Food & The Environment, UENV 4714” Parsons SDS, The New School, 2017.

Sustainable Models for Food Production & Consumption in New York City  

A political ecology perspective

Sustainable Models for Food Production & Consumption in New York City  

A political ecology perspective