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Earth Day - Educating to protect the environment and save the planet

The 22nd April is Earth Day, a global initiative which brings together 192 nations with the goal of increasing the literacy of everyday citizens on topics relating to the environment. The BCFN will participate by presenting the Food Sustainability Report, a tool to keep the public informed on what is happening in sustainable agriculture and food.



This year, 192 countries will come together on the 22nd April to celebrate Earth Day (www.earthday.org), reaffirming the need to protect the world’s ecosystems and promote sustainable agricultural and industrial production practices. 

At the centre of the various actions scheduled for this important day are environmental literacy and the need to raise awareness about the risks of global warming so that the world’s citizens are able to make well-informed decisions. Given this premise, it is no coincidence that American Earth Day representatives chose the 22nd April as the date for a large march on Washington, D.C. The event will bring Americans out to protest the policies of President Donald Trump which are intended to dismantle the climate agreements signed in Paris and to deny the human cause of climate change.

The very future of humanity is at stake, especially considering that almost 40% of land on earth is used for farming plants and animals, yet in the last 40 years, 30% of cultivable land has become infertile. Many regions around the globe, including sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and Northern Europe, are seeing losses of over 50%. 

Educate and inform

Every year the planet loses an agricultural area equivalent to the size of Italy.  To effectively combat this phenomenon, the organisers of Earth Day have decided to focus on education, providing teachers with a special kit (which can be downloaded from the site, in English) to address the topics in the classroom with a strictly scientific approach, free from politics and ideology.

The BCFN is also providing materials to spur reflection through a new initiative carried out in collaboration with the Milan Center for Food and Law Policy: the Food Sustainability Report. Thanks to the monitoring conducted for the Right to Food Map, this tool periodically collects information from websites, research institutes, legislation and NGOs to analyse the global debate revolving around food and sustainability, thereby raising awareness about the complex problems related to food and its production.

The goal, perfectly in line with the guiding principles of Earth Day, is to inform governments, institutions and the general public on the urgency of taking action to make the food system truly sustainable. 

The first issue of the Food Sustainability Report can be read online.

More demand, fewer resources

In the past 50 years, across the globe, the total surface area of farmed land has risen by 12%. As a consequence, irrigated surfaces have doubled and the yield obtained from the main crops has tripled. 

Pressures from a ballooning global population and the affluence of growing segments of society is causing a spike in demand for food production. Agricultural production is expected to grow by 70% by 2050 (compared to 2009) with peaks of 100% in developing nations. 


As the food production paradoxes studied by the BCFN demonstrate , we have the resources to feed everyone, but the distribution of land and water does not favour the countries which will need to produce more in the future. The average per-capita availability of farmland in   low-income nations is less than half of that in high-income nations. Not only that, but it is also less suited for growing crops in general. 

Evidence of such a perilous reality is seen in the recent intensification of the worst famine since the United Nations was founded, a devastating food shortage affecting more than 20 million people, mostly in the Horn of Africa.

It’s a political and moral defeat, as the world should have immediately provided the financial support necessary to respond to and overcome this crisis. If each human being has the right to adequate food, each nation has the obligation to play its part in the war against hunger”, stated Livia Pomodoro, President of the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy.


It’s a political and moral defeat, as the world should have immediately provided the financial support necessary to respond to and overcome this crisis."

Land grabbing and deforestation

While climate change erodes the quantity of available arable land, the non-transparent purchase of plots in violation of human rights feeds into what is known as land grabbing. This phenomenon, in which land ownership is consolidated into the hands of the few, currently involves about 60 million hectares of farmland. 

From 1990 to present, 129 million hectares of forest have been lost (the equivalent of an area almost the size of South Africa) and food production is to blame for 80% of the phenomenon.

Sustainable agriculture isn’t just a choice, but a necessity if we are to combat hunger, poverty and food waste. 


What concrete actions can we take for more sustainable uses of the soil to become a reality? Three simple steps would suffice: first, we must reduce food waste; second,  use agricultural land to grow food crops instead of biofuels ; and third, we must opt for foods which require less surface area to grow. One prime example: 80% of agricultural land is used to grow animal feeds, but meat makes up only 17% of the calories we consume. 

Now more than ever, our nutritional choices have an impact on the environment, and Earth Day is a chance for all of us to become more aware of the risks we run, but also of what we can do as individuals and global citizens.

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