To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. This week, we spoke with Board Member Gilonne d’Origny, a translational advisor for the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington, which designs new proteins to solve problems in medicine, energy, and technology.
CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in food policy and a voice for equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration?
GdO: Since my time at university, I’ve believed that food systems must change given the considerable carbon footprint of producing and supplying food, and the potential of rewilding and regenerative agriculture to capture and sequester carbon. Policy is foundational to system change, especially by putting a price on pollution and value — or incentives — on nature.
CPR: What do you see as the highest priority in this field and what are the barriers to change? How does/might your work affect …
A special report released on Aug. 8 by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shines a stark light on how agriculture is both uniquely impacted by and a key driver of climate change, contributing up to 37 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The report highlights the pressing need to reverse land degradation and forest conversion caused by food, feed and fiber production, as well as the significant climate mitigation opportunities of shifting to plant-based diets, especially in wealthy countries like ours.
The United States depends on its vast agricultural and forest lands for a host of amenities, including food, fiber, clean water — and mitigating climate change. These working lands, many of which are already degraded, are under unprecedented stress from rising temperatures and extreme weather. We need a climate plan for agriculture.
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As it stands, agriculture …