I have simply no words

Food Waste

If the amount of food wasted around the world were reduced by just 25% there would be enough food to feed all the people who are malnourished, according to the UN.

Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food, about a third of all that is produced, is wasted, including about 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat. Meanwhile, 795 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition.

The environmental impact of food loss and waste is high. The carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2, meaning that if food waste were a country it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. About 1.4bn hectares, or close to 30% of available agricultural land, is used to grow or farm food that is subsequently wasted. And more surface and groundwater, or “blue water”, is used to produce wasted food around the globe than is used for agriculture by any single country, including India and China.

War and Famine

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A top HRW official discusses the humanitarian crisis in Syria and how the Saudi Arabia-Iran feud affects the country.

I have simply no words.

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I helped my stepson with a paper he had to write for his Ecology course on water usage waste. I was utterly shocked to learn how much water is needed to produce animal protein especially beef. Many of my relatives from Eastern Europe never ate beef until their 20's. Cows were simply too expensive to maintain other than for diary products. Nobody slaughtered them for meat. The amount of saved water would be vast if we moved away from certain foods, or produced them locally. (BTW, I only got a B-grade for the paper).

But in terms of America. We can thank Bill and Hillary for food insecurity in the United States as their so-called welfare reform act paved the way for cutting food assistance through food stamps. In fact the democratic controlled Senate under Obama cut food stamps by $4 billion before sending it to the House, where the gop wanted to totally gut the program. Which I suppose illustrates the difference between gop and dems. The gop wanted to eliminate food stamps, while the dems wanted to make cuts to the program.

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thanatokephaloides's picture

LaFem, what you are documenting here is an ancient battle as old as humankind itself.

Most other species have made no progress against the waste of their foodstocks. Predator species, for the most part, cannot store their food at all, but must kill immediately when they are hungry and eat as much as they can before the carcasses start to rot. Likewise, most herbivores need their foodstocks alive and growing until the second that they eat them -- which pretty much guarantees starvation during the winter for the non-hibernators.

Although humans, in their 5-digit-years' history on this Planet, have made large strides against the problem of food waste and spoilage, the battle is by no means over. As can be expected, fresh fruit and vegetables top the list (but I didn't know the waste rate was as high as 45% myself!) because a very short clock indeed starts ticking away the instant the plant is picked. Either one eats it right now; converts it to a non-fresh form such as frozen, canned, or dried; or it is lost to spoilage. Indeed, much of the carbon footprint represented by the waste of both fresh meats/fish and fresh fruit/vegetables is due to the carbon burned to keep refrigeration units running.

The losses which occur strictly by choice are relatively small, and mostly unavoidable. Examples include leftover food from already-served restaurant meals which are not reclaimed by the purchasers. (I don't understand that at all; the "doggie bag" is an ancient and noble custom which should be encouraged everywhere!) But the remainder of the background behind the facts you stated is still more the losses in the ancient battle against spoilage than anything else.

As for war-based famines, it's yet another of the myriad ways in which "war is not good for children and other living things".

Obviously, we need to redouble our efforts to reduce food wastage and spoilage. But other things need to be done as well. We need to devise better ways of getting the food to the people who need it. And, of course, we need to dismantle capitalism with its taste for unending universal war. People living in places humans shouldn't be living in should be allowed to migrate to places actually able to sustain human populations.

And, of course, we need to get our numbers down to levels we can reasonably hope to sustain with legacy crops and animals -- with a reasonable margin for loss and spoilage, as I frankly don't think that particular battle will ever be completely won. And the more of us who are growing significant parts of their own food on their own ground, the better. (For one thing, this will re-open the "leave in situ until needed for eating" option, which is the most carbon-effective one by leaps and bounds!)

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"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite

Alligator Ed's picture

Crops go unharvested in war-torn countries making them rot in the field. Unrefrigerated meat and produce rot because of natural processes. Large surpluses of food sometime exist in areas adjacent to other areas beset by famine. Much of the food waste in the US is as pointed out, due to lack of distribution (via food-coops or food stamps) to people in need. That we have so much malnutrition is a crime. (Some of it is due to poor dietary habits as well--a topic for another day). Republicans don't give a shit about people unless they're rich. However DemonRATs will say "tsk, tsk, isn't that too bad" before going to lavish spreads put on by lobbyists and do nothing themselves to help the starving.

Being without words when confronting these horrors is a natural reaction in empathic people. If more people had empathy, maybe we could go from mute to instead mutate this malign social system into something better. But does anyone here see the way forward?

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studentofearth's picture

@Alligator Ed We could start with the right to grow food for ourselves. No city, state, county, landlord, financial institution or homeowners association should be able to prohibit growing vegetables, fruit or berries. The US needs to recognize the right of citizens to grow their own food. No trade agreement should harm or disrupt a foreign country's ability to feed itself.

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My top political priorities: 1) Healthcare - Medicare for All, 2) The right to grow food, 3) copyright & patent reform (especially PHARMA)
Live for today, you may not be here tomorrow. Plan for the future, you may live to a 100+.

thanatokephaloides's picture

@studentofearth

We could start with the right to grow food for ourselves. No city, state, county, landlord, financial institution or homeowners association should be able to prohibit growing vegetables, fruit or berries.

This is spot-on -- and alone makes the case for banning apartment dwellings, condominial tenure, etc.

People who aren't otherwise involved in each others' lives should not share buildings. The harms inflicted are many. You point out the food angle really well; disease is also exacerbated by stacking households like cordwood in over-huge cities.

Humans need landed space of their own for myriad reasons. It's biologically part of us. When we have landed spaces of our own, we live better, all of us. Even those who can't grow their own food live better because of less disease and real crime. (I don't consider most drug use as criminal at all, even though Ownership has forced there to be laws passed against it.)

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"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite