Unknown Uknowns

For my semester project, I am trying to understand the issue of urban environmentalism and who to hold accountable for righting issues of climate change. While I haven’t honed in on a particular solution yet, the answers seem to lie in:

  • decreasing the education gap to highlight issues of climate change
  • making actions for environmentalism more convenient
  • focusing on reducing large scale consumption via food and materialism
  • incorporating urban environmentalism with current ideas and seemingly more urgent act (e.g. promoting increase in fresh fruits and vegetables in urban spaces and increasing access in food deserts as a way of tying in better health conditions for current residents and decreasing environmental impact)

However, as I try to hone in a solution there are a lot of ways in which this situation could deviate. As I am working through this process, I would like to list what unknown unknowns there might be.

One unknown I would be interested in looking into is if I follow a solution of reducing large scale food consumption, what ways can capitalism adapt to over-work and extort this seemingly new and better model? In a similar vein to how the sudden interest in quinoa because of its super-food benefits have led to quinoa shortages and unfair labor and wage conditions for farmers, could increasing consumption of less environmentally disturbing food actually further this disadvantages. Where would the sustainable farming sources from land, to water, to power, to transportation, to food waste come from to supply a world in which everyone at 20% more vegetarian meals? How would increasing the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables impact deforestation?

Another potential solution in this area is to get people more involved with snout to tail policy, utilizing the entirety of an animal. In this hypothetical world, people are expected to use the entire animal if they were to purchase an animal part. However, I am unsure what impacts that may cause on the pricing of animal products. Currently parts like gizzards, chitterlings, sweetbreads are low priced because they aren’t demanded, however, an increase in demands could make pig snout the new fine dining changing what is affordable to the everyday people. How would encouraging use of an entire animal play into expected serving sizes for people? How would that change in serving sizes impact the populations health? Would this new trend in foods impact the understanding of a nuclear family as people attempt to have enough people at dinner to finish an entire animal product? Of course, changes to the nuclear family could have ripples on tons of other industries especially, the home goods industries as large groups of people share resources. Instead of one hammer per household, we could potentially see a single hammer being shared across a culdesac. How would the animal farming industry be impacted? Would we move towards purchasing smaller animals with more manageable portion sizes and potential lead to western nations eating more types of animals such as pigeons?


If these policies work out, how might this impact the life expectancy of the average human? How would we handle the potential for overpopulation if life expectancy dramatically increases due to these policies? How would this potentially affect housing reform? How would this impact the food supply chain? Would it increase or decrease disparity in food allocation? I think if these policies are adopted to the scale of millions of people, we could definitely see effects outside of the realm of food and climate change. More importantly, I am unsure if we are prepared to handle a mass-adoption of these policies. The first step of mitigation would have to be around sustainable methods for food production from farming to disposal.

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