Unveiling Truths, Connecting Communities

Unveiling Truths, Connecting Communities

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Demanding More Than Climate Commitments from Councilmember Sophie Hahn

“I think this will send a very strong statement around our commitment to not only addressing climate impacts of agriculture but also addressing the broader moral issue of factory farming and the negative impact it has on animals in our society,” said Berkeley Mayor, Jesse Arreguin before adopting Vision 2025 for Sustainable Food Policies. The Vision 2025 resolution is in alignment with the previously adopted Green Monday program which recommends that the City of Berkeley replace 50% of animal-derived products with healthy plant-based foods in their food procurement for senior centers and other city-governed venues. But Berkeley Councilmember Sophie Hahn now argues that the city’s nearly $5 million annual food budget is not significant enough to deliver impactful environmental outcomes.  

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global food sector generates 21-37% of the total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Several reports estimate that the global livestock industry accounts for nearly 60% of agriculture GHG emissions, and 83% of farmland is used in order to generate only 18% of the world’s calorie supply. In Berkeley, our food sector accounts for 7 metric tons of GHG emissions per household. That is larger than vehicle fuel emissions. Berkeley Council, therefore, has adopted Green Monday, Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) and Vision 2025 resolutions in the last two years to address Berkeley’s consumption-based GHG emissions.

Moreover, Councilmember Sophie Hahn authored another resolution, Accelerating Transition to Plant-based Foods, just after the adoption of Vision 2025. It is very similar to Vision 2025, but commits to 50% plant-based shift in the city’s food procurement by 2024 along with an eventual goal of 100% shift to plant-based food products. The adoption of Accelerating Transition to Plant-based Foods became national headlines, praising Councilmember Hahn’s leadership in the sustainable food procurement. 

According to the University of Michigan, a 50% plant-based shift that focuses on eliminating 90% of beef can reduce 51% of U.S. food emissions. Several national and international health organizations also recommend reducing or eliminating red and processed meat for public health. Therefore, Nilang Gor and others are proposing a new Food Procurement Ordinance building upon the previous resolutions to begin prohibiting the procurement of red and processed meats. Councilmember Hahn had initially praised this ordinance draft by calling it a “robust proposal” and said that she would consider it for fall submission. But Councilmember Hahn is now denying to sponsor the Food Procurement Ordinance because she thinks the City of Berkeley does not purchase a significant amount of food. This is in contradiction to her GFPP resolution that reports the City of Berkeley’s nearly $5 million annual food budget.

Moreover, when Berkeley Climate Equity Fund asked about the implementation of Green Monday, which requires serving 100% plant-based meals once a week. Councilmember Hahn gave multiple excuses on social media for the lack of implantation. First, she blamed preoccupied staff during COVID-19, which does not consider that Green Monday was adopted before the pandemic in 2019. She then tried to justify that the Senior Centers focus on plant-based options for their Tuesday meals. However, their menu options are made with eggs and dairy. 

On 28th October, Nilang Gor met with Councilmember Hahn at the Farmers’ Market to deliver a letter signed by collaborators and allies in support of the proposed ordinance. But Councilmember Hahn focused on talking about her frustration with being criticized on Twitter. Councilmember Hahn declined to work with Nilang Gor on the proposed ordinance due to his calls for accountability on social media. These public criticisms are within every citizen’s right under the First Amendment to hold government accountable. Not only is Hahn’s response disappointing and counterproductive to the larger goal of curbing climate change, it is unconstitutional to threaten community members as punishment for holding elected representatives accountable. Now, Councilmember Hahn has been contacted by a law firm, Parker Stanbury, demanding to work with Nilang Gor in good faith, despite any posts or other communication by him criticizing Councilmember Hahn on social media or any other forum.    

According to recent UN reports, we are tasked with reducing 45% of our carbon and methane emissions by 2030 in order to limit global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius. As a city that has declared a climate emergency, Berkeley needs to recognize that meat emissions alone exceed natural gas emissions. We must prioritize sustainability in our food sector as much as building and vehicle electrification. We must acknowledge that how we spend our annual food budget has direct impacts on our environment, community health, environmental racism and animal welfare. Let’s all come together, collaborate and implement the best solutions to secure a safe future for our planet! 



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