Dr. David Cleveland, 2009-2010 Champion

The 2009-10 Sustainability Champion was Dr. David Cleveland whose transdisciplinary research and teaching focus is agriculture and food. He is Professor of Environmental Studies, with affiliated appointments in the departments of Anthropology, Geography, and Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. He was winner of the 2009-10 Leadership and Activities Award for Faculty Involvement from the Office of Student Life, and an internationally-recognized expert on the diversity and sustainability of agricultural systems and their relationship to human ecology. He is also well connected with the local community as founding member of the Santa Barbara County Ag Futures Alliance, California, a member of the Arcosanti Land Use Committee in Arizona, and a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, Goleta.

Activities of the 2009-10 Sustainability Champion

Inaugural Public Lecture: “Sustainability: More greenwash or the key to our future? The example of localizing the Santa Barbara County food system.”

Dr. Cleveland’s team of UCSB undergraduates spent the last year doing research to answer this question. The team found that while Santa Barbara County produces an abundance of fruit and vegetables, we import most of the produce we eat, which contributes to food insecurity and global warming. The team also found that many people are working to localize the system as a way to make it more sustainable, often successfully overcoming skepticism and institutional obstacles. But what effect will this localization have? How can the concept of sustainability be put to work for localization? The lecture ended with a discussion on these very questions.

Sustainable food and agriculture research

During the year Cleveland as co-investigator carried out sustainability related research funded by the UC Pacific Rim Program (Transgenic crops in Pacific Rim centers of origin and diversity: Farmers, risk assessment and sustainable development in China and Mexico). He was also a Co-PI on a project which surveyed 800+ residents of Santa Barbara County (Public Opinion on Tradeoffs between Agriculture, Open Space, and Urbanization) as part of the UCSB Central Coast Survey 2009/2010, funded by the Social Science Survey Center/Benton Survey Research Lab, UCSB.

In addition, Cleveland made many informal presentations during the year on and off campus on sustainability of the agrifood system including: to the Food Studies Research Focus Group, at the Environmental Studies 40th Anniversary Celebration, as faculty lecturer at UCSB’s Spring Insight, at several Environmental Affairs Board events on campus, and as discussion leader at the campus Twenty-Sixth Annual World Food Day Teleconference.

The Santa Barbara County Agrifood Systems research project

Cleveland’s work with undergraduate students has focused on involving them in new research surveying the sustainability of the Santa Barbara County agrifood system (SBC AFS). This research includes documenting the current system (production, consumption, export and import of fruits and vegetables); the impact of the current system on food security and nutrition; loss of farmland to development and potential for conserving it; the use of migrant farm labor and its effect on the environment and on communities in southern Mexico and Santa Barbara County; the contribution of the current system to climate warming and the potential for reducing it. Its over arching goals are assessing the potential of localization to increase environmental, social and economic sustainability and encouraging community discussion of results, of visions for the future, and of alternative scenarios for increasing the sustainability of SBC AFS.

The SBC AFS involved collaboration with 14 undergraduates ranging from freshmen to seniors, with majors in a range of disciplines (Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, Psychology, Zoology). Students carried out the full range of research activities under Cleveland’s mentoring: creating a research design, gathering published data and primary data through interviews and observations, organizing and analyzing data, creating and presenting talks using power point.

The research group made six public presentations in 2010 of preliminary results, involving up to 11 students, at the: conference Oil and Water: The case of Southern California, IHC, UCSB (April 10); Roundtable: Some Futures of California Agriculture at the Food Sustainability and Food Security Conference, UCSB (April 10); Earth Day, Santa Barbara (April 18); Santa Barbara County Food Policy Council, Casa de la Raza, Santa Barbara (April 24); Environmental Studies, TIFFET, UCSB (May 11); Food for Thought, Community Environment Council (June 10). The research group and individual students also made presentations in several classes on campus, including Cleveland’s Small-Scale Food Production class. Cleveland also presented this research at a meeting of the Santa Barbara County Ag Futures Alliance, the Community Sustainable Food Group, the inaugural meeting of the Santa Barbara County Food Policy Council (2009 Dec 7), and to the UCSB Sustainability Change Agents (January 29).

Cleveland also collaborated with off campus groups to further this research and action, including the s’Cool Food Initiative for Santa Barbara County in planning a conference for 2011, and the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis on research collaboration.

All of these activities combined reached about 200-250 UCSB students, and many others both on and off campus, increasing awareness of sustainability activities on campus, and establishing important campus/community relationships, enhancing campus standing in the community for the work we are doing at UCSB.

Cleveland, with 7 undergrad researchers as co-authors, is submitting an article based on the SBC AFS research to a scientific journal. This article documents how the current SBC AFS contributes to the high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition and generation of significant environmental damage, including a large proportion of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and evaluates the potential of localization to increase sustainability. We analyzed data for SBC on produce grown, consumed, and grown and consumed in SBC, to estimate produce export and import: <1% of produce grown in SBC is consumed in the county, >95% of produced consumed in SBC is imported. However, if there was 100% localization, where all produce consumed in SBC would be grown in the county, it would affect mainly direct transport, and result in reduction of GGE from the SBC agrifood system of <1%. The effect of localization on food security and nutrition is likely to be positive, but is difficult to estimate because it depends on many intervening factors. However, there are potential synergies between reducing GGE and improving nutrition—if localization involved replacing many dietary calories currently supplied by highly processed and animal foods with fresh fruits and vegetables prepared on site, and grown in SBC using environmentally friendly methods, it could not only improve nutrition, but reduce GGE from food production, storage, processing and preparation.

Two other research articles by student researchers and Cleveland are in process, as well as several popular articles based on the research.

UCSB Residential Dining Services

During fall and winter quarters of 2004-05 Cleveland served as Faculty Advisor, for two Sustainable Living Program group study projects on increasing the amount of organic local food in the UCSB Residential Dining Services (RDS) dining halls. He has continued to collaborate with RDS in researching and promoting more sustainable UCSB food system, and during 2009-10 this included: sponsoring student internships through the Environmental Studies Program, serving as faculty advisor to the Real Food Challenge project funded by TGIF, supporting the Environmental Affairs Board’s (EAB) Meatless Mondays campaign, and developing a research proposal with RDS and EAB to evaluate the effect of education and outreach on student food choices in the RDS dining halls.

Continuation of Sustainability Champion activities with students and potential for funding

Conference on localizing the agrifood system

A 2-3 day conference in winter quarter on localizing agrifood systems is being planned for 2011, to be held on the UCSB campus and involving the campus and Santa Barbara County communities. The conference will be organized and publicized in collaboration with campus (e.g. Residential Dining Services, Environmental Affairs Board) and community (e.g. Orfalea Foundation’s s’Cool Food Initiative, the SB Certified Farmers’ Market, Farmer Direct Produce, Ag Futures Alliance, Community Environment Council) and other California organizations (e.g. UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute, and the Occidental College Center for Food & Justice).

Presenters would include the Sustainability Champion sponsored students as presenters, moderators and organizers, UCSB faculty and staff, SB County community members such as the s’Cool Food Initiative, and a few experts from outside the area, for example from the UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute and the Center for Food & Justice, Occidental College The preliminary program includes four foci: Research for change in the agrifood system, Challenges to localizing agrifood systems: From field to plate and beyond, Facilitating change, Field trips to local agrifood sites. Besides the presentations, expert participants would be available to interact with students, staff and faculty.

Santa Barbara County Agrifood Systems (SBC AFS) research

The SBC AFS research will continue, focusing on climate change mitigation, migrant labor and mechanisms for increasing the positive impacts of localization.

UCSB Residential and Dining Services

Cleveland is working with RDS to organize an internship program beginning Fall quarter 2010 that will bring undergraduate students into RDS to work under the direct supervision of RDS staff on their program of increasing the sustainability of the UCSB food system. Activities will involve research on ways of increasing sustainability and evaluating its impacts, education of students in the dining halls and beyond, and outreach to the larger Santa Barbara County community.