Friday, April 22, 2016

Minimizing the Impact of Our Food to Wildlife

Written by Puspita Insan Kamil

For this third article, I worked it without my editor because he is going to have his Master's thesis defense by the end of this month. His thesis is about renewable energy, the topic that brought him and I sat together for the first time in a dining table at campus cafeteria, let’s hope the best for him!

Source: Instagram

I make this special writing for 2016 Earth Day as food is something that we need without exception every single day. The saying of “you are what you eat” now is being used by people in Instagram to post with hashtag “foodporn” – whatsoever. This is what Marketing Scientists would say as “Conceptual Consumption”. Dan Ariely explained it as human consumes something broader than its physical attribution – for example, we do not drink coffee because it is coffee anymore, but because the café gives us free wifi with beautiful scenery and a super-kind barista on the bar. It then goes to a larger concept: experiential consumption – where people nowadays are looking for more than a thing, but what the seller of the “thing” can give them more than the “thing” itself.

The condition I just described affects us and environment in many certain ways. The most importantly is still; food. We are now becoming picky consumers and it becomes one of the biggest threats of wildlife; the loss of major habitats of endangered animals, which is caused mainly due to mining or cultivation. How these things correlate to each other? Slow down. Let’s start with my fetish: data.

Based on FAO 2015 Report, in Indonesia the forest area has been declined since 1990 to 2015. In 1990 we have 118.545.000 hectares forest area, declined to 99.409.000 hectares in 2000, to 97.857.000 hectares in 2005, to 94.432.000 in 2010, until 91.010.000 hectares in 2015. The degradation of our forest is not always due to plantation, but the number of planted forest has been increased from 2000; from 3.322.000 hectares area in 2000, to 4.659.000 hectares in 2005, to 4.803.000 hectares in 2010, to 4.946.000 hectares in 2015. Should we blame the farmers for this? Obviously no.

Source: National Geographic
As one of my concentrations is Consumer Psychology, I honestly think all problem starts from our consumption. Farmers, I can say, are the unlucky ones when it goes to food industry. They really depend on somewhat unpredictable due to climate change: season, rainfall, humidity, pest, and else. The uncertainty forces them to use fertilizers and insecticides instead of going organics, but that is because the demand. Recently National Geographic March 2016 Edition talked about food, specifically on ugly food which people don’t want to eat. Let’s be frank: you were taught by your mother to pick the beautiful fruits and vegetables when you shop on the market, weren’t you? No, I don’t want to blame on our mothers – they are angels of our life. But this habit makes our earth suffers. The Natgeo Magazine wrote on how urban consumers (especially in Europe) demand for a well-shaped fruits and vegetables and it caused wastes – farmers throw the ugly ones away and suffer big loss on their crops. The impact? They use fertilizers, chemical insecticides, and cut more forests to get their crops bigger so the possibility of getting good fruits and vegetables risen. So you think that the sin is on our farmers’ back? Think again.

Now let’s talk about solution. I have heard about Waste Bank concept thousand times since I was in college. But here’s the thing – we digital workers have three terminologies for kind of solutions available: painkiller, vitamin, and antibiotic. Waste Bank concept is good, but it only serves as a painkiller that will just resolve your pain but not your core problem – Waste Bank is just curing the end-consumer problem, when it also misleads consumers that “oh, I can consume and produce waste as much as I can – there is a Waste Bank!”. The core problem is that we consume too much. We buy things with too many wrappers, too far (I bet you understand how imported goods cost more carbon footprint than a local one), or too perfect.

I am much inspired by my best friend from Vietnam named Lucia, who found the campaign of Hà Nội Đủ or The Better Hanoi. They collect food or things (recently they collected used warm jackets) that are still good and give it to the ones who need it. This kind of movement has been started all around the world; I witnessed it by myself in Missoula and Washington DC. In Missoula Food Bank they collect good canned food or else that are still edible, and redistribute it to those who need. In DC Central Kitchen, they also collect leftovers or unused veggies and fruits and re-cook it for people who need it. This kind of solution I call it as a vitamin, because they usually collect from big parties like supermarkets, restaurants, or hotels, who already prepared food supplies with certain numbers to avoid bad things, but they will throw away when it exceeding of what they need.

Missoula Food Bank
When the other vitamin is to support local farmers with only buy what local farmers sell (I started to support them by co-founding Ladang Nusantara), the antibiotic is to stop our greed. We need to stop to over-picking in the supermarket; that we will only cut them the same and throw into a pot when we make a soup, or falling in love with a food just because its wrapper. Or if you already bought a canned food in supermarket that you don’t want it anymore when you arrived at home – give it, don’t throw it away. If you think you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Your shopping cart is really important on affecting the producers to calculate on how much they should produce. If you think “if I stop consume, the poor people can’t consume my leftovers”, please stop it. We can help them by giving them education along we reduce our overconsumption. With education they can earn for living. I also watched of how PEAS Farm in Missoula helps people with small income: they give lower price for the seniors.

DC Central Kitchen
There is no single solution for a big problem, but I always do believe that solutions to any problem in this world can be started by curing ourselves.

As every day is an Earth day, let’s start to love this Earth and the wildlife by thinking about our food.

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