The big picture
Let’s start with a big picture – And also with the most fundamental survival tactic of humankind- the ability to find, scavenge, grow, harvest, cook food that helps us survive every day, and keeps our body from running out of energy. All of us as humans on this planet collectively cook more than 2 Billion+ meals every day, which is a massive human endeavor that shapes us as individuals, families, and societies. Unknowingly, it also has a much wider impact than what meets the eye.
Challenge 1: What we buy as food
When looking closely at our “Food”, we all are witness to the prevailing health crisis in our societies- obesity in the developed countries and malnutrition in the developing countries are only symptoms of the bigger problem we as humanity face. The food systems we all depend on are unregulated, broken, and optimized to maximize financial returns for the intermediaries (and not the producers and consumers). It may sound controversial- but it’s not.
Food systems evolved over the last 50 years to serve the massively growing human population (and appetite), and most of it was needed to make food available across large geographic distances at competitive prices, making food into a global “commodity” and “Industry”. While this aggressive approach has helped us have more offerings on our plate, it underestimated the public health and environmental impacts. The current food system makes producer farmers financially stressed, deteriorates our natural resources, destabilizes the ecosystem, and produces low-quality health outcomes for us. Hence, this is more alarming than it seems. That’s the first challenge with our food system.
Challenge 2: The “dirty” act of cooking
While most urban populations like us use fossil fuel-derived LP gas and electrical power conveniently for cooking our food, a majority of the rural population uses other fuels like firewood, biomass kerosene. Either way, we have more than a billion meals everyday made on fossil fuels (like LPG, natural gas, electricity derived from fossil fuels), and the other 1 billion meals every day made using wood, biomass in this world.
Irrespective of context, culture and region, the act of cooking food creates direct and indirect pollution of our environment, impacts our health in addition to depleting our nonrenewable reserves. That’s the second challenge with our food system.
Hope and light!
What if there was a way to produce food that is healthy for the planet and our own health? What if we could make cooking “Cleaner” with renewables? for example with biogas. What if all of this could change? The answer is yes, although the problem may seem daunting, the solution to it lies in our own “Plate” and choices we make every day.
Food systems have the phenomenal power to nourish us and our environment ( toxin-free, chemical-free, disease-free, residue-free). And this “goodness” can be embedded in how we grow, supply, cook and consume our food. This can happen by changing our perspective on food, and our “Platter” choices that have such a humongous impact on our social, economic and environmental harmony.
Lets “bite” it
We need to really keep it simple. Food that is nutritious for us and regenerative for the environment is the only “Food” that is sustainable. Nothing else. And making that happen is a simple choice. Here are few practices we all can do to make our food systems virtuous:
- Know our farmers, farming and our food. Whether it is grown locally and using sustainable techniques (to keep it fresh and direct from farm to your plate).
- Support climate-smart technology for food. More than 80% of the food we eat is grown by small farmers. There are some really cool appropriate technologies (water/ waste/ energy) including a biodigester which have the highest Impact on small farm sustainability.
- Cook with renewables. For cooking our food, let’s try using renewables like biogas, solar and truly clean sources.
- Talk about “food” the same way we talk about space science, electric vehicles, or any “Cool” technology. Food systems are filled with the most impactful technologies that affect our everyday life, our health, and our environment. So it definitely needs a larger share of our intelligence.
Everyone knows the butterfly effect, and our current food systems are a visible demonstration of the same. They are a cumulative effect of our unharming “consumption” choices which has created an unsustainable butterfly effect on our social, economic and environmental surroundings. However, we also have the power to dismantle, breakdown and improve these systems for our own health, our children and our home- this planet. Humankind has always been known to move forward with creative imagination, and this time the same creative energy needs to be focused on our “plates” on the table! The fork, and what we eat with it are mightier than any weapon in the current world! Let’s use that weapon to change the future one bite at a time!