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What climate change could mean for what goes on your plate

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At this point, most people know that climate change is or soon will affect how we live. And because climate plays such a crucial role in what we can raise or grow or catch around the world, that means climate change is going to affect what we eat. And soon, by 2050, for example, California avocados could be extinct. That's according to the food and culture magazine, Bon Appetit, which has dedicated its entire May issue to sustainability and the future of food. They've included everything from recipes and tips to reduce food waste at home, to envisioning what people may be eating a hundred years from now. Bon Appetit Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis is with us now to tell us more. Dawn Davis, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome.

DAWN DAVIS: Thank you, Michel, for having me on.

MARTIN: So where are we already seeing climate change's impact on food?

DAVIS: Well, we're seeing it in everything from avocados, which, as you mentioned in the introduction, may go extinct by 2050. We're seeing it in coffee beans, which are also in danger of going extinct. Even in our stone fruit, they are, you know, they take cold weather to really kind of reach their full tastiness. And with increasing global warming and droughts, we're seeing some of our fruit impacted already.

MARTIN: So can you just start by explaining the concept of sustainable foods for people who aren't really sure what that means?

DAVIS: Sustainable foods are foods that we can grow without taxing the environment. So we want to think about vertical farms that may take less water, less farmland, and can feed more people. We want to think about our meat products being local so that we don't have to drive them and truck them across country. And also in our May issue, we talk about sustainable sushi. We all love sushi. But if that fish is flown halfway across the world, what about swapping in local fish? What about looking at invasive species as a way of swapping in those fish for fish that might be caught in Japan or elsewhere? So thinking sustainably about food means being willing to kind of make some new choices and some bold choices but doesn't mean necessarily sacrificing taste. In fact, I think if you're strawberries are grown locally, if your blueberries are grown locally, you're going to get more taste.

MARTIN: One of the things that I noticed in the magazine is - and some of the reports - is that - is this sort of the duality. On the one hand, that a lot of people are aware of climate change. It's a big subject of public concern. But say, for example, one of the chefs that one of your writers interviewed when he talked about taking certain things off the menu because he just couldn't ethically condone, you know, flying some fish, you know, halfway across the world to serve it, people got mad. You know, I thought that was fascinating. Is that how, you know, and, you know, obviously, I don't know these people. I wasn't there when these confrontations take place. But, you know, you think it's on the one hand, people say they care about this sushi, but then when it comes to making these kinds of changes in their own lives, I don't know. I just found it fascinating that people actually got furious. Were you surprised by that?

DAVIS: I was surprised by that. That's our story. Can sushi survive? And the chef is Fueng Lei (ph). And people wanted the same old, same old. And he tried to be experimental and swap in local fish, which again, is more sustainable. But other chefs have had more success with that. I'm thinking of Jeffrey Miller at Rosella, where he makes a point of using local fish and really kind of finding out when it is at its most tastiest. And he's had consumers and restaurant visitors who love what he's doing. So we really have to change the way we approach sushi. Sushi has always changed. It hasn't been a static food. And so as we embrace, again, possibly invasive species, which will help the environment and it can be delicious, we have to know that things will change, but it doesn't mean that we're going to sacrifice flavor.

MARTIN: OK, Dawn. I'm going to put you on the spot. The piece features sort of - I don't know how to describe it - maybe projections or a kind of envisioning of what people might be eating 100 years from now, 50 years from now. Was there anything that you just were like, no, ew, I'm not eating that?

DAVIS: We looked at 2032, 2042, and in those scenarios, we talked to real scientists and marine biologists and got some real experts to weigh in. For 100 years from now, it's all, you know, fantasy and projection. So we actually turned to four acclaimed science fiction writers. So we have java coffee made from okra seeds. I think that sounds particularly interesting...

MARTIN: Yeah, I could go for that...

DAVIS: ...3D printed tortilla chips. Yeah. I mean, 3D printers are all...

MARTIN: No, I can handle that. OK...

DAVIS: ...Yeah. 3D printers are already used. They're just too expensive to be used on a macro level, but they're already being used by caterers and in hospitals. I think the cricket tartare served on a bed of plankton might have gone a little bit too far. But, you know, I'm willing to try everything at least once.

MARTIN: At least once. OK. Well, good. You first.

DAVIS: Exactly.

MARTIN: That was Dawn Davis, editor in chief of Bon Appetit. The magazine's May issue, "The Future Of Food," is out now. Dawn Davis, thank you so much for being with us.

DAVIS: Michel, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.