If a weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered, then seaweed is ready for rebranding. This food source, underutilized in the Western world, is rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron and iodine. To cultivate, it requires no fresh water, no land, no chemical inputs, and no fertilizers, and it creates no nitrogen runoff. Furthermore, sea vegetables sequester carbon as they grow, helping to combat the effects of global warming and mitigate ocean acidification. When it comes to feeding a global population of 9.7 billion people in 2050, seaweed could play a large role in finding sustainable solutions.
Food from the “industrialized” food system is less nutritionally dense than organic, sustainably-grown food. Low-nutrient foods grown with synthetic chemicals have spread across the world, often targeted to the poor segment of the population in developed and emerging nations alike. This food and agriculture problem is too big to fix solely with philanthropic donations or government policy—even assuming a fully favorable policy environment and the effective deployment of philanthropic dollars. Here’s the good news: after decades of effective storytelling, public education, and advocacy by activists, we have a generation of Millennials embracing a broad-based behavioral shift toward healthy, sustainable food options.
Too often “good food” is written off as the pet project of the elite: access to healthy, sustainable food is a luxury. How wrong this is. Good food cannot be viewed as a “privilege.” It must be recognized as an inalienable right—one that we must fight for as a community, for the community. The effects of unsustainable, unhealthy food radiate out to every inequity facing humankind. Our food culture and agricultural system are central causes of climate change, the health crisis, the energy crisis, poverty, war, the list goes on.