For cultures of the past facing the vagaries of an unpredictable environment, wastefulness was often dangerous. It invited death. Modernization has largely enabled us to turn our backs on that mindset. We’ve created a decentralized waste machine, easy to overlook at the local scale, but devastating from a larger perspective. Starvation may seem impossible when there is a convenience store on every city block, but if we as a species ever forget how to stretch our food—particularly as our global population multiplies and lives longer than ever—the danger is very real.
This blunt message accompanies the up-to-date infographics about global food waste that the World Policy Journal just published in their Food Fight issue. The new stats provide some astounding insights – let’s have a look, shall we?
The report highlights the now well-known fact that eliminating food waste is probably the easiest way of tackling our challenge of growing more food with less resources.
It also showed visually that food waste is a significant issue everywhere. While Americans and Aussies do waste the most, many other regions are about equal in food loss and waste per capita and day. I was particularly surprised by comparing European figures with Asian or African ones – I would have guessed the European count would be even higher. However, digging a little deeper, you realize that there are very different origins to these figures…
As Helena already discussed, food ‘loss’ and ‘waste’ are not the same issue and require two very different solutions. Looking at a regional scale, the level of industrialization is almost perfectly correlated with a shift from food loss, stemming from supply chain and infrastructure inefficiencies, to food waste at the household level. One requires a centralized development perspective, the other a return to menu planning, thoughtfulness and appropriate valuation of our crops. And, as we can see, in many contexts we need both.
Also, have a look at the resource use – despite similar caloric waste scenarios, it is astounding how high the CO2 impact and water use of North Africa and Central Asia is when compared to Sub-Saharan Africa (CO2: 1’102 lb vs. 397 lb; water: 24,304 gallons vs. 3,698 gallons). Comes to show, once again, that not all calories are created equal.
The World Policy Journal’s special edition has many more interesting insights around our upcoming battle to feed the world. It’s an interesting cross-section of politics, anthropology, sustainability, culinary science and some haunting poetry – all freely accessible. I’d encourage you to have a look! My top five quotes from the other articles:
“Yes, things progressed a little at Bonn. But as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, we need to accelerate. And the traditional methods of the U.N. are no longer adaptable to the challenges of global warming. I said this, and it created a small stir, but Ban Ki-moon then said that it was true in an interview with the French press.” – Ségolène Royal, French Minister of Ecology, on climate change progress ahead of Paris.
“For Izbeh’s head chef, Habib Daoud, the discussion over national ownership of food is complicated and multifaceted. Food, according to him, does not always fit into clear national boundaries. “Food belongs, more than anything else, to those who cook it and to those who eat it,” he says solemnly.” – Ronald Ranta, on the new gastronationalism and culinary globalization
“I think it’s also important to teach people how to make everything delicious because everyone wants to eat a really nice steak or a really nice tomato. Naturally, you want to eat the best thing. But if we teach people how we can make just the most humble root vegetable or a grain something delicious, if they learn how to make a porridge taste really, really good, they don’t feel like they have to get things from other places.” – 16-year-old star chef Flynn McGarry on the greatest challenge in haute cuisine
“Our biggest challenge is to connect people to a place, let’s call it northern Europe, to connect them to the seasons or have them experience that eating “the now.” We need to feed the moments, and have them take the time and realize that eating is one of the most enlightening and enriching and also life-necessary acts to do, and they go hand in hand.” – Rene Redzepi, owner of Copenhagen’s NOMA restaurant
II. Damascus 2012
We ate grass we ate nothing but grass
and sparrows’ feet the name of a weed
our grandmother’s knew to boil
after the gas we sucked its green marrow and lived
Amineh Sawwan 9.7.90-