What if your meat were grown in a petri dish?
Would you pay $200 for a burger?
These questions and many more were up for discussion as part of the Integrity 20 school program hosted by Griffith University at the State Library of Queensland today, and attended by students from across South-East Queensland.
Integrity 20 is a three-day event which gathers storytellers, educators, activists, artists and philosophers to dissect some of the greatest social, moral and political challenges facing the world.
Writer, academic and activist Raj Patel spoke with one group of students about his work on food systems and the global food crisis.
The informal discussion explored the future of food and ideas of what it could taste like, where it will come from, how it will get to our tables, and what challenges societies face in their transition to future food and environmental sustainability.
“If these changes are going to happen, they have to be fair, they have to be about justice,” Mr Patel said.
“I do believe that if you are interested in the future of food, then you’ve got to think about justice, you’ve got to think about the sustainable production.”
Mr Patel stressed the importance of involving the voices of marginalised groups as well as corporate and political stakeholders, in order to affect individual change alongside social transformation.
Leilani Myers was one of the students at Mr Patel’s discussion.
Ms Myers is in grade 11 and grew up in Brisbane, but for the past two years has been a boarder at Scots PGC College in Warwick, two hours south west of Brisbane.
This gives her a perspective unique to many students her age, and she said it helps her to see the value in both sides of the situation.
“I know my friends in the city they’re all about protest and climate change marches because it’s such an avid thing in Brisbane, but I also see the side of how much it can affect farmers.,” Ms Myers said.
“It’s all well and good for people in the city to be really pushing for change, but it’s also cool to see how farmers can be aware, and I think there just needs to be a lot more education on both sides.”
She agrees with Mr Patel that systemic change will need to happen on an individual level alongside corporate, government, and cultural change.
“When consumers start to make big efforts and big movements, the government really does have to listen, but for consumers to make a big effect, the government needs to aid that,” Ms Myers said.
She felt the morning of talks had exposed her to fresh ideas and new viewpoints both from the speakers, and the variety of student voices in the room.
“There were students from Downlands College in Toowoomba who are boarders from big cattle properties, so it was really interesting to hear everybody’s opinions,’ Ms Myers said.
“And students from the city were sitting in on the talk who were discussing how their opinions and views were challenged by the views and livelihoods of farmers.”
In a discussion which tied food security to the environment, health, workers rights and gender equality, Mr Patel left students with plenty of food for thought.
“It seems to me that we do have choices; we can elect to be in an economy that is very much like this one but with more bad weather, or we can change,” Mr Patel said.
“And that choice is going to be in your hands in your generation.”