Superfood sardines, omega three and the ultimate brain food… fish are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, but overfishing is putting them at risk of destruction, and the local people who rely on them, says environmental social scientist Christina Hicks in the latest episode of the Climate Curious podcast. Tune in with co-hosts Maryam Pasha and Ben Hurst to explore why this topic feels so icky (hint – it’s a wicked problem!), why we need to open our eyes to the inefficiencies of white environmentalism in order to save the planet, and how to recognise when simple climate solutions are being pedalled to you. From what insiders are really saying about that infamous fish documentary (you know the one!), to why fish are crucial to our first 1,000 days of mental and physical development, dig into the real deal around the troublesome topic of oceans, seas, and fish.
Episode six, Season two of the Climate Curious podcast is now live with our special guest, Christina Hicks.
“It’s as close as 2025 that the nutrients available in West Africa are really going to start dropping off. It’s really urgent,” says Christina Hicks, an environmental social scientist, on the latest episode of the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon. In our fishiest episode to date, she debunks the little known, but incredible role fish play in the world’s ecosystem, and our nutrition, opening our eyes to the negative impacts of heavy industry and overfishing.
A British/Kenyan environmental social scientist, this professor in the political ecology research group at Lancaster University spends her time researching the relationship of nutrition, food security, economics and climate change in West Africa. With up to 80% of the calcium or the iron needed missing from people’s diets in Namibia, and 80% of the protein in people’s diets coming from fish in Senegal – it’s clear that fish in West Africa are hot property – not only for local people, but for the fishing industry. As Christina puts it:
“There’s a massive inequality between who’s able to catch the fish and who’s able to eat the fish, and where the fish is needed most”
What’s so special about fish?
Fish contain micronutrients – minerals that our bodies need in tiny quantities – things like itorn, zinc and vitamin B. They’re really important for mental and physical development – particularly in people’s first 1,000 days of life.
It’s in small fish like sardines that you find really dense concentrations of micronutrients – think of it as a superfood. And in many places in Africa and in rivers in Bangladesh, these small fish, or pelagic fishes are the most affordable for poorer communities and populations – providing a lifeline for getting the nutrients they need for healthy development.
Why does the fish and oceans conversation feel so confusing and emotionally heated?
Thanks to Netflix’s recent documentary, ‘Seaspiracy’, the topic of how overfishing is killing our oceans has hit the big time. But Christina points out the main issue with the show: most people’s energy has been channeled towards giving up eating fish, however the real focus should be on the one-sided, white-saviour-esque narrative that pervades the story, which has gone under the radar in mainstream media.
“I think it was the worst form of white environmentalism […] It painted a picture of white journalists and white environmentalists coming in to save the day […] to rescue these black helpless victims, which I think it’s problematic on so many levels, because it completely undermines all of the fantastic work that’s being done by people of colour all over the world. […] It turns West Africa into this place that needs saving, rather than this place that has its own policies, is developing its own solutions, and is resisting these challenges themselves. […] – Christina Hicks
So how do we make it better?
Overfishing is hurting people and planet, but going vegan isn’t the answer. We need to think more carefully about where our food comes from, as we discussed in our conversation with Dee Woods – act like global food citizens.
Christina’s view is an uplifting story about how we can enable the nations that are already being hit hardest by climate change (and will continue to do so) protect themselves, live sustainably, and work with their local environments. Heavy fishing industry, Western diets which plunders expensive fish from foreign waters, and food scarcity (and thus food poverty) need a united policy-driven approach which gives dignity back to local communities.
But we need to act now.
In this conversation, hosted by TEDxLondon’s Maryam Pasha and advocate and expert in toxic masculinities Ben Hurst, Christina debunks what’s going on in our oceans, why we need to protect the rare and vital micronutrients found in fish and why we need to open our eyes to the inefficiencies of white environmentalism in order to save the planet.
Including simple things such as engaging with where your food comes from and being aware of when overly simplistic climate solutions are being pedalled to you.Ultimately, Christina urges us to open our eyes to what’s going on around the world, not just how it affects us.
“We’ve come to the end of the age of white environmentalism. We’ve moved beyond these simple Tarzan stories. The movement has moved on. But not everyone in the movement has.”
Until next time – stay curious!