BY MARJORIE STEWART
Sept. 29 is now designated International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.
A third of the food raised or prepared globally is wasted. Seeds, water, energy, land, chemicals, work hours and money were wasted while generating about eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, destroying forests and depleting soils.
Sir David Attenburgh has just told us “In the long run, population growth has to come to an end” and it looks like emerging stabilization “is apparent at a rather higher level than the Earth can really accommodate.” Global population is currently increasing annually by about 83 million people. Asked what he would advise people to do, Attenburgh urges us to stop our wasteful ways which are destroying planetary resources.
At the same time as the topic of over-population is finally reaching public attention, a member of the Canadian financial establishment has just released a book titled The Expendables: How the Middle Class Got Screwed by Globalization. The book by Jeff Ruben, former chief economist at the CIBC, is a full-out attack on global fair trade agreements, arguing that the emergence of the one per cent of super-rich is at cost of eliminating the middle class. The increasingly discredited neoliberal economics which decimated pension plans and public services while moving jobs overseas is the culprit. The tool is the FTA. Now that Ruben has stated it so bluntly, we see the convergence of climate change, economic disorder and human over-population in the spotlight of COVID-19. Like Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, the pandemic reveals how wrong we were to permit the common good to be sacrificed to financial and consumerist greed.
The pandemic has created patterns of social isolation which increase stress for people with a wide variety of challenges, including pre-existing ill health, domestic violence, drug and/or alcohol use disorders, caretaking responsibilities, unemployment and lost income, loneliness and lack of support networks, mandatory quarantine, young people without alternative activities and refugees and more.
In our community, various services exist but finding them when needed is not easy. Part of the social disarray we are suffering comes back to the damage done to common or community well-being by economic ‘efficiencies’ now revealed as deficiencies. Instead of a community of care, we have an unco-ordinated mixture of public and non-profit programs, adapting and evolving largely in isolation from each other.
All around, people are reaching out to help wherever they can, often to provide help with meals. Food is more than the filling of a daily physical need. Sharing food and eating together knits together social well-being and makes good use of resources for nourishment.
The worst outcome of the pandemic would be that people fall back on the junk food and cheap takeout of over-processed belly-fillers while at the same time further enriching corporations with the money to build to the new take-out specifications. As much as possible, we must search out those local food businesses which are providing genuine nourishment within health guidelines and brush up on our cooking skills.
Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.