This archived article was written by: Carlie Miller
If the world is divided into continents, continents divided into countries, countries made up of societies and societies built upon the family, then the family is built around food; therefore food powers the world.
In the time of the hunter and gatherer, food dictated where people went and when they went there. When the mammoth and mastodon herds migrated, they migrated; when roots and berries and other gathered foods became scarce, they moved on. Food controlled early man’s life until around 10,000 years ago when they decided where and when food would be planted and where herds were to graze.
The tide has turned and man is now the master of food. Or is he? Believe it or not but food still has the upper hand on humankind. From economies, to politics and even our own bodies, food has more control over the world than the most powerful people, shoved into one room.
Humans require food for the energy and nutrients it provides for every function of the body and for its development and growth. Food, especially vegetation, controls every environment on Earth. Where there is no food, there is no life.
Economies can take a devastating turn, if food becomes scarce or over-priced. When the food goes, farms, factories, supermarkets, restaurants and caf s go, which in turn causes money to leave the economy and non-food producing businesses begin to fail, while populations disappear. This is why countries with limited food resources never develop past agricultural states, unless they have something to offer the world market and then must be dependent on imports to base their economies on.
Over the years, with the development of commercialized food products, factory farms, and refrigerators and freezers, most of us have forgotten the role food plays in our lives, except maybe when you gain 10 pounds over Thanksgiving holiday. But food has not forgotten us, and it is getting its revenge in a surprising way. Our food waste has put our economy and the world environment on a death list.
People of today have been wasting food for so long that this excessive trashing has inspired a whole new branch of anthropology called garbology, the study of garbage, more specifically modern or urban garbage. Many of these “garbologists” gathered together with the University of Arizona and began the Garbage Project, which may extend to today. This project has proven that people throw out more than they think and most of it is in food waste.
Food waste includes uneaten portions of meals as well as undesirables such as intestines, hooves, snouts, tails, etc., and trimmings from food preparation in cafeterias and kitchens. Americans trash 1.3 pounds of food everyday, or 474.5 pounds every year, according to the University of Arizona Garbage Project. Low percentages of meat, beans, nuts and processed foods are thrown away compared to the higher percentages of fruits and vegetables, grain and dairy products that are disposed of.
Anthropologist Timothy Jones of University of Arizona estimated that the average family of four dumps $590 per year in meats, vegetables, fruits, and grain goods. Near 15 percent of that waste includes produce still within their expiration date and were never opened, Jones said.
Nationwide, household food waste adds up to $43 billion, which Jones explains, is a serious economic problem. Some surprising finds from the Garbage Project: five percent of American’s leftovers could feed four million people for one whole day. Disposing of food waste costs the United States $1 billion per year.
The United Nations World Food Program says that the total surplus of the U.S. alone could, “Satisfy every empty stomach” in Africa, meaning over 670 million people. It is said that we do not send our surplus to Africa but instead, Americans throw away 50 percent of its food produced per year, University of Arizona’s Project claims that the country’s convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants alone trash 27 million tons of food every year, $30 billion down the drain or, in the garbage.
You may be thinking, “Wow, that is a lot of money,” but food’s revenge is just getting warmed up. To add to our problems, environmentalists say that food waste is a greater enemy to the Polar Bear than your car. When food rots, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains is 20 times more damaging to the environment that carbon dioxide.
Have no fear, or at least less fear, for there is a solution to this that will benefit us all. Methane can be used to create clean, efficient energy for heat, light and fuel.
“How,” you ask? Biogas, which is a by-product of a process where organic matter, rotten is just fine, breaks down in an environment without oxygen, creating a natural gas made of 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide. It is the same process which happens in landfills except, it is in a closed and controlled setting, which makes it harmless to the environment.
A study by the National Society for Clean Air explicates that biogas-fueled cars can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 75 to 200 percent compared to fossil-fueled cars. After hearing about the corn oil-fueled bus I expect you to be skeptical of biogas cars but, biogas is no longer a university student class experiment. Many countries, including the U.S., are starting to put a bit of effort into a biogas future, one county even has it down to an art.
Sweden is leading the way in biogas technology, with more than 7,000 biogas cars, 779 biogas buses, and even a biogas train under its belt. Sweden is planning to eliminate diesel and petrol automobiles from its streets by 2020 while powering and heating many of its houses with biogas. That is taking global warming seriously.
If you want to play a part in saving the penguins but you don’t want to take it as far as Sweden, then go to www.stopglobalwarming.org. Go to Take Action and then, Action Tips to learn about the small ways you can help out.
The University of Arizona believes that if Americans cut food waste in half, it would reduce the country’s environmental impact by 25 percent. The United Kingdom’s Waste and Resources Action Program says that if we stopped throwing out edible food, the impact it would have on carbon dioxide emissions would be the equivalent of taking one in five cars off the road. That would be more than 46 million cars in the U.S.
Food may control lives but, we can stop it from destroying the planet. Keep your leftovers for another day, there is this wonderful invention that can help you do just that, the refrigerator. And remember, lettuce is supposed to be green, it is okay to eat it that way.