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A Fruit in Crisis
Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world. They are exported from Central and South America, often traveling across oceans in shipping containers, and end their journey in our grocery stores. Over half of bananas sold are blended, mashed and sliced into people’s breakfasts, and in the UK, the average person eats 12kg of bananas every year. In the US, that number is closer to 14kg.
But this global dependency on bananas is soon to be at risk...
The current variety of banana most commonly sold in the US and Europe is called the Cavendish banana, is coming under threat from several diseases. Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a fungal disease, is one of the pathogens endangering the Cavendish. The fungus grows in the roots and xylem (veins) of the plant, blocking the passage of water and nutrients, causing the slow starvation of the banana. It is impossible to treat TR4 with fungicides and soil fumigants, and has already eliminated bananas in southeast Asia.
Experts estimate that bananas as a commercial enterprise have only a decade of survival left.
We are connected to this problem, through our consumption and love of bananas. To keep bananas in our fruit bowls, our packed lunches and on our grocery shelves, we as consumers must advocate for new banana varieties and new banana products. If we do this right, we can demand products which also ensure our beloved tropical forests remain intact and thriving, through advocating for sustainable farming practice.
As a consumer though, finding information and connecting with the farming innovation happening in banana production can seem nearly impossible.
Our mission is to give you, the consumer, an idea of what banana production could look like if we follow this path of a better future for bananas, biodiversity, and people.
We will be travelling to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Central American powerhouses for the production of bananas, to show you that this is already being done. By documenting agroforesters and farmers who are growing brand new, delicious banana varieties in amongst tropical forests, we can show the world that bananas can be farmed in a way that works with nature, and means that bananas can remain in our lives. During a time where food security and climate breakdown are serious concerns, surely bananas are the place to begin? If we can find a way to keep bananas on the table, even with all the challenges they are due to face, we can keep any food on the table.
Through storytelling and through building a community of people invested in the future of bananas, we want to give you the power to advocate to your grocery stores, and to other consumers alike, for a banana future we can all believe in.
By plunging into the science underlying bananas’ oncoming extinction, we want to show you how and why bananas came to be in crisis.
But more importantly, our team has set our sights on creating a documentary about the future of bananas. If bananas as we know them are doomed to extinction, what are our options?
We want to focus on sustainable methods of banana production that promote biodiversity, and we want to hear about it from the farmers themselves. In February and March of 2018, we want to film such farmers in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and give them a platform to share their innovations, love of bananas and commitment to the environment.
In turn, we hope to show you the possibilities. Not only for bananas, but for the workers, the environment and the biodiversity. We can do better, and we want to show you how.
We have already received some funding from the Imperial College London's Expedition Board, but we still need help. Costs like airfare, camera rental, and accommodation must be met before we can start documenting this vital chapter in banana history.
We will soon be posting a Kickstarter campaign with more information about how our friends, family and supporters can help us make this a reality. We invite you to join a community of people invested in creating a new future for bananas.
Jackie Turner, Team Leader
Following her dual degree in environmental studies and film studies, Jackie spent four years in Los Angeles, working in the television industry before returning to the world of science and academia this year to complete her masters in applied ecology. The main inspiration behind her return to education was undergraduate experience living on a banana plantation and the imminent challenges bananas are facing in the next decade. She deeply believes in the power of storytelling to change hearts and minds. When she doesn't have her nose in a book or a impending deadline on the horizon, Jackie enjoys hiking, climbing, yoga, trail running and watching the digital koi fish swim in circles on her computer. Breathe in, breathe out.
Nick Dunn, Treasurer
Nick has been co-treasurer of the Imperial College Silwood Park Union for the past year, and is a keen footballer, squash player and climber. He has previously achieved a Zoology degree, though at heart he is a marine biologist and if given the choice would spend all of his time in the ocean chasing sharks and nudibranchs (colourful sea slugs)! His research interests lie in the impacts of human lifestyle on biodiversity and ecosystems, and as well as investigating alternative agricultural systems, he would like to contribute to reducing ocean plastic pollution and better understand the effect of plastics on biodiversity. For the filming of Bananageddon, Nick is most looking forward to documenting the species present across different types of land use, including banana plantations, primary forest, and agroforestry plots. He hopes that this will show how we can work with nature rather than against it to put our favourite foods on the table.
Sara Middleton, Project Coordinator
Sara is passionate about people and plants! In between her plant ecology research at Oxford Brookes and Imperial College London, she worked in primary schools, where she ran gardening and science clubs. She enjoys sharing her love of science and the natural world with others. In her spare time she enjoys nature photography, yoga and knitting. Sara hopes this documentary will inspire people to make small meaningful changes to help create a more sustainable future for people and the planet.
Oscar Lozada, Logistics Coordinator
Oscar has a background in agroecology, rock climbing and dessert-eating. Having worked with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations he has experience in food security management and working with farmers in developing countries. He is most interested in meeting the plantation workers affected by the cultivation issues, hearing their views and understanding how this project can help improve their lives.
Mollie Gupta, Assistant Creative Director
Mollie is an aspiring conservation biologist, and is optimistic that we can find ways to preserve the world’s incredible biodiversity whilst ensuring that peoples’ livelihoods prosper. Her previous research has focused on human interactions with ecosystems at the landscape level, including through forest restoration in Brazil and the introduction of an invasive newt species in the UK. Mollie’s childhood was spent stalking her friends pets, sifting through rockpools, and watching tadpoles grow into frogs in her makeshift tank. Having grown up in London, Mollie is at home in the hustle and bustle of busy city life, however she is always happiest by far when she is surrounded by trees and the quiet rustle of birds and squirrels. Apart from tree-hugging, you often find Mollie eating cake, doodling on scraps of paper or playing basketball. She hopes that Bananageddon will empower people to make small changes in their lives which will help contribute to a healthier world for everyone.
Julian Perez-Correa, Biological Survey Manager
Julian is an environmental engineer graduate from Ecuador, a banana paradise. Finishing his master in Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution at Imperial College London in 2017, he is interested in trying to understand the relationship between native remaining ecosystems and productive areas in the neotropics. Birdwatcher by day and diver by night, he hopes that Bannageddon helps to make a better world for birds and local workers in banana plantations.
Marina Papadopoulou, Equipment Manager
After a masters degree in ecological programming, Marina still remains enthusiastic about biology and in love with anything that has to do with nature. Her interest for conservation was born on the Greek islands, while protecting sea turtles from drunk tourists. Bananageddon is an ideal opportunity to get away from her beloved computer and contribute to a great cause, while combining her past working experience as a photographer, her passion for cinema and her conservation consciousness. She wants to experience the problems of the workers on banana plantations and try to spread their story to the rest of the world. Apart from biology, Marina loves music, books, fencing, coffee shops and nerdy programming jokes.