Today I came across an interesting news story about high-yielding wheat. The second sentence of the article pulled me up:
“The new plant application… could help to solve the issue of increasing food insecurity across the globe; 795 million people are undernourished and this year’s El Nino has shown how vulnerable many countries are to climate-induced drought.”
I don’t doubt these facts, but can’t stop dwelling on the productionist outlook, and whether we alienate people with this approach. 795 million people are undernourished in a world which produces enough food – we can turn people off by implying that the link between yield and food security is a simple one.
The growing population and changing diets mean we do need to increase yields, and resistance to drought will certainly be essential. But I can imagine someone reading that sentence and thinking ‘fools, don’t they realise that yields aren’t the issue here’, and therefore discounting the research.
The recent discussion of a ‘post-truth world’ on Radio 4 helped me understand why most conservative Americans deny climate change. I recommend a listen, but in summary the conservatives heard that those godless liberal scientists had got together with the greedy wall streeters to come up with a new tax on carbon.
The issue here isn’t the facts. The conservatives are told about climate change by people they don’t trust using language which they aren’t comfortable with. The story is what’s important.
There’s a valuable lesson in here about communicating agricultural science. Are we telling our story in a way which will elicit mistrust? Do we fail to see how other people’s starting point is different to ours?
I was also a little unsure about ‘solve the issue’ – when there are so many solutions needed, any talk of solving can appear narrow minded (In my fiction writing I’m eliminating unnecessary words – maybe I’m over sensitive!).
Increasing yields and improving access to food aren’t mutually exclusive. Most people discussing yields understand that we need both approaches, and they can adjust their language to reflect this.