We recently submitted a proposal for a Food Vision that asked What would Hong Kong’s Food System look like in 2050, here we share our thoughts!
Through an exercise of Future Casting, Systems Thinking and Behaviour Science this is our vision.
The current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that Hong Kong’s food system faces.
In 2020, HK has the second highest carbon footprint per capita in the world, due to the city’s high consumption patterns and large volume of imports. A significant challenge that the HK food system faces is its heavy reliance on food imports: it imports around 90 per cent of its food goods. By 2050 with growing political tension and shortages of land, food is potentially used as a political weapon which could lead to regional instability. It is crucial to diversify where food comes from e.g. more imports from other parts of SE Asia will help reduce reliance on a single country, currently China.
In 2018 HK had fallen 78% short of the 2030 carbon emissions target set by C40 Cities for high emitting cities. HK is trailing behind its counterpart cities in curbing GHG emissions. The accelerating rate of global warming requires cities like HK and their leaders to double up ambition levels in fulfilling the Paris Agreement. By 2050 we will see increased rainfall causing crops to die, so we need to be smart about rooftop farming, and use of technology to bridge some gaps.
HK’s growing trend for people to eat out and order takeaway has contributed to a substantial waste problem. With the number of restaurants growing, by 2050 the plastic waste problem will be irreversible with no landfill sites left and even more plastics polluting our oceans.
HK University found that HK’s excessive appetite for meat is the main culprit to its high GHG emissions per capita. The results of the study show that if citizens of HK adopt the governmental dietary guidelines on meat consumption, HK would achieve a 43% reduction in GHG emissions. Thus, simply by adopting a healthier diet and shifting to a less meat and more plant based protein diet, the HK population can actually have a very important role in reducing GHG emissions to the level required to reach the Paris agreement. However this is unlikely with an increase in population and wealth, typically it means that meat consumption is likely to continue on an upwards trajectory if there is not a big shift in culture around meat consumption.
The Coronavirus was likely transmitted from touching or eating an infected animal. By 2050 the global population is set to reach 9.8 billion, this increases the likelihood of new infectious diseases spreading, especially when populations are becoming resistant to antibiotics. This points to an urgent need for education and changing cultural patterns to catch up with changing environments; and moving to either modern ways of selling food or better traceability, and hygiene to reduce the likelihood of the transmission of new diseases across international borders.
How will lives be different in 2050?
In 2050 Hong Kong is Asia’s most sustainable food city. Eating out choices are based on sustainability ratings of restaurants. Millennials and Gen Zs (babybommers by then) avoid outlets that ignore the issues. Polystyrene packaging and single use coffee cups will be frowned upon since they were long designed out of the system, and regenerative thinking on plastics means it is used only for food safety reasons. Innovation on cling film replacement means no single use plastic in the kitchen. Fish, meat and dairy will be a treat. Plant based eating will be the norm and people will be keen to live lives that protect human health and planetary health. Animal welfare is a mainstream topic.
The city is re-designed to grow plants due to rooftops being utilised for edible herbs and flowers. Sustainable consumption and responsible packaging is the norm and prices are lower due to the availability of alternative packaging. Recycling is mandatory. Carrying reusables is the norm. Animal derived sickness affecting humans is lower due to stricter government regulation, guidelines and awareness around animal welfare issues. Eating less and better meat will be the norm as well as an abundance of healthy protein alternatives including cell based fish and Omnipork, at reasonable prices. Routine use of antibiotics has stopped, growth hormones will be banned and the government will be taking a stronger stance in the region on animal farming practices; subsidies are diverted to favour agroecological and regenerative farming practices. Negative externalities are costed for.
The population will be healthier due to a i) substantial reduction in air pollution; respiratory diseases will be a thing of the past ii) food decisions are not the first thing that is compromised due to now reasonable prices, iii) normalised plant-based diet, iv) heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes are in decline, all significantly reduced across the population. Valuing natural resources and food growing is a norm. People feel empowered to make informed food choices when eating out. Experiences are preferred over consumption of goods.
Food Sustainability Education is high and charts like this below are a thing of the past. Technological innovation has found ways to help to mitigate food’s impact on the environment and on health. Our relationship with meat has changed, we still eat animals but only as a treat, and the narrative had shifted the dialogue away from demonising meat to one that is debated sensibly through a range of viewpoints.
Our vision is that by 2050 HK will be Asia’s most sustainable city. Food Made Good will play a strong role. We will achieve this by creating and supporting an increased reliance on a local food system that produces food safely, transparently, and creates food in a way that is affordable; healthy and good for the planet. We will collaborate with other organisations that are helping to shift population diets towards those that are healthy and sustainable.