This Art Project Shows How Your Food Will Change Due to Climate Change

published May 1, 2017
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(Image credit: Heami Lee)

Whether you’re a believer in man-made global warming or a denier, there’s no ignoring the fact that our earth’s climate is changing and with it comes modifications to the food ecosystem.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change disrupts food accessibility, diminishes access to food, and impacts food quality. In a 2015 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that while global food security is currently on the rise, it will suffer from climate change in the long run.

But truly understanding this shifting food ecosystem can be challenging in the context of global warming. Some foods won’t exist; others will have more clout in the new culinary landscape.

To spotlight the looming changes that may come forth, a team came together to work on a project — a photo essay accompanied by a set of recipes — called “Flooded.” The project is a collaboration between Allie Wist (art director), Heami Lee (photographer), C.C. Buckley (food stylist and recipe creator, and who also happens to be Kitchn’s own food stylist), and Rebecca Bartoshesky (prop styling).

“[Climate change] is going to be an adaptation and there are a lot of people with different visions for that adaptation,” says Wist. “I personally think that we are going to have to get used to some alternatives and embrace more sustainable ingredients. But I don’t think it’s going to be a hard line horror movie.”

(Image credit: Heami Lee)

The photos served to make the undergoing ecological transfiguration more digestible to the average person who might not be well-versed in climate change’s effects. “I think putting things into visual forms reach out to more people than just having plain data and research,” says Lee. “Providing visual elements for anything would reach and resonate in more people.”

To cement the concept, which took months of collaboration, the group agreed to treat it as a “dinner among friends” anchored in the future in the Northeast region of the country. Wist and Buckley researched and compiled a list of foods that would be available in the next hundred years — ingredients that would be resilient to the evolving environment.

Take oysters, for example. Research has shown that Olympia oysters are more resilient to ocean acidification than their shellfish counterparts. Some scientists even argue that bivalves — oysters, mussels, and clams — are the most “environmentally sound species group” with “minimal ecological impact.”

Or mushrooms, which could be a more important food source as crops fail to grow in extreme temperature. Even the use of seaweed is strategic. As aquaculture grows more popular, seaweed farming is already growing and research suggests the ingredient can absorb more carbon dioxide than land plants.

(Image credit: Heami Lee)

Buckley, who tried and tested her recipes, says she looked at things from a “plant-human” perspective of what people would want. Wist, who says Buckley’s recipes are “realistic,” calls the recipes and photos a “projection of adaptation that’s supposed to inspire people to think differently about cooking in a realistic way.”

The dishes include burdock and dandelion root hummus with sunchoke chips, jellyfish salad, roasted hen of the woods mushroom, fried potatoes with chipotle vegan mayo, salted anchovies, and oysters with slippers. The takeaway is how our dietary choices will evolve with the changing climate.

“There’s a Caesar salad recipe that’s made with preserved eggs,” says Buckley. “Is that how I really want to eat those things? Absolutely not. Given the choice, I would not want to eat any of these things. I’d rather eat the things we have available to us now, but the reality of our future is that we’ve made choices that mean we won’t have that much choice.”

(Image credit: Heami Lee)

The goal of the series, says Wist, was not to make a political statement or point fingers. Instead, by focusing on research and science, the quartet wants to help make climate science accessible without addressing policy.

“There’s a sense of urgency to climate change with people not seeing what’s going on,” says Wist. “It’s been politicized; making it unable for a lot of people to connect with it and see the reality of it.”

As for what’s next, they’re brainstorming how to cover a sequel on drought.

See the whole project: Flooded