Redesign food system to tackle climate change, says MacPherson

Lil MacPherson, owner of the Wooden Monkey restaurants, says that in order to combat climate change, we have to change our food system by eating locally and organically.

By Zoe Demarco

David Miller, Steven Mannell, Donald Dodge, Lil MacPherson, and Jennifer Watts. (Zoe Demarco/Peninsula News)


Lil MacPherson, owner of The Wooden Monkey restaurants, says that in order to combat climate change, we have to change our food system by eating locally and organically. Since Nova Scotia is essentially an island, we have to think about how our food gets to us, and find methods to make the process more sustainable.

“We’ve made some really bad designs…I would like us all to get an education about food, and I’m trying to educate people on just how bad the food system is out there. It’s not sustainable and it’s not good for us and it’s not good for the planet. It destroys water and it destroys air and it pollutes our beautiful soil.”

MacPherson was part of Earth Hour Tour: Out of the Dark, Into the Future panel discussion on Friday at the Dalhousie Weldon Law Building. The Dalhousie University College of Sustainability and the Environmental Law Students Society presented the discussion, which revolved around the idea of a future without the threat of climate change, and how we can get there.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is forecasted to negatively affect agriculture in terms of quantity and quality of crops, soil conditions, loss of farmland, and changes to irrigation.

MacPherson opened the Wooden Monkey on Grafton Street after Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia in 2003, leaving some people stranded by the storm and in need of emergency food aid. It caused her to wonder how climate change would affect our food security, and how stable the province’s food system would be if we were ever shut off from the rest of the world.

She and her partner Christine Bower now have two restaurants across the HRM that serve unprocessed food from local, sustainable farms and fisheries, such as Greens of Haligonia and Acadiana Soy.

When asked by Miller what we must do to achieve a future for the world where climate change isn’t a problem, MacPherson said she would remove genetically modified foods from the planet.“[GMOs] are a big threat for me…whoever controls the seeds of the world, controls the world,” she said.

The event was put on as part of awareness for Earth Hour, which takes place Saturday March 29 from 8:30-9:30p.m. Canadians are asked to turn off their lights, and think about how we can overcome climate change together.

Other panelists at the event included counsellor Jennifer Watts of the Halifax Regional Municipality; Donald Dodge, executive director of Efficiency Nova Scotia; and Steven Mannell, director of the Dalhousie University College of Sustainability. David Miller, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, moderated the discussion.

“We need to create an epidemic of health. The biggest bill we have in Nova Scotia is health care, and we can’t get it down because we’re doing it wrong,” says MacPherson. “We need to knock down the systems and rebuild the ones that we need as a global community.”

The other members of the panel had their own ideas for how to solve climate change, such as being aware of our electricity usage, but they were all agreed on one thing: we have to start now.

“We’re not going to solve the climate change problem in two years, in five years, in 10 years. It’s a 20 to 50 year problem,” says Dodge. “Every little step along that path is important. It’s not one big thing, it’s a thousand little steps that we have to take and be aware of.”