This is a series of posters by UNEP for today’s World Environment Day campaign
Tag Archive: future
June 5th is World Environment Day, and this year the theme is food waste: Think.Eat.Save. Check out this series I wrote for UNEP’s Blogging Competition.
Tristram Stuart is an activist on global food systems, an author of the book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, and a founder of the Feeding the 5000, an awareness-raising campaign which organizes free public lunches from discarded foods.
He did a talk on TED on the subject of food waste and the global food supply systems. Here are the most fascinating bits if you don’t have time to hear the full talk, otherwise head here.
The following are direct quotes from his presentation:
Most of the food that we throw away is, in fact, fit for human consumption, and that’s only scratching the surface because right the way up the food supply chain, in supermarkets, greengrocers, bakers, in our homes, in factories and farms, we are hemorrhaging out food.
Some supermarkets don’t even want to talk about how much food they are wasting – they lock bins full of food and truck them off to landfill sites.
Freeganism is an exhibition of the injustice of food waste, and the provision of the solution to food waste, which is simply to sit down and eat food, rather than throwing it away.
Food waste is a problem: not rotten stuff, not stuff beyond the pale, but good, fresh, edible food that is being wasted on a colossal scale.
There is no direct data on food waste. It is estimated by taking in the food supply of every single country and comparing it to what is actually likely to be being consumed, based on diet intake surveys, and levels of obesity.
As a country gets richer, it invests more and more in getting more and more surplus into its shops and restaurants. Most European and North American countries grow and produce twice as much food for nutritional requirements of their populations, or twice as much actually required to feed their populations.
The world needs optimists. Optimists like Rob Stewart: writer, director and narrator of the new documentary Revolution about the state of the world’s environmental health.
Revolution premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012, and has been received well. In fact, it had the highest opening weekend of any Canadian documentary. Rob and his team are heading to Cannes in a few weeks to try to get wider international distribution.
They want the movie to be seen by at least 1 Billion people.
As opposed to just another droning eco-lecture, Revolution is a great travelogue, and thus adventurous and relatable. It still contains a lot of unique wildlife and marine life footage, along with powerful messages throughout.
It covers a lot of important topics: coral reef destruction, species extinction, the loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification, air and ocean pollution, and tar sand refining – all incredibly important and urgent matters. But is that enough? Don’t we have all the information we can take?
Of course, that’s not all there is. Rob founded an organization called United Conservationists, working to mobilize the public, and especially inform, educate and engage children and young people to take action and participate in conservation efforts on a number of issues, including overfishing, habitat loss, extinction, deforestation – basically, any leading destructive activities that are contributing to the environmental crisis of our generation.
The documentaries and the campaigns have had other positive effects, such as creating a positive and caring global community of people who are dedicated and focused on education, networking and activism. A community of the future. View full article »
“Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.”
This is my article that went up on TravelCultureMag.
All the predictions have materialized and there’s no escaping the realization that the face of the world is changing. The Earth is evolving and going through natural cycles, but it is more so apparent that the growth of population and our living habits are influencing this change.
But before you start to cheer for noticeably less precipitation, warmer winters and scorching summers, think about adapting to extreme weather conditions: desertification and rising sea levels, droughts and floods, and the loss of biodiversity (because animal species are not as adaptable to these new patterns).
Ok, maybe you don’t care about the animals. But what about us? We are blaming past generations for not considering the implications of their actions and burdening us with saving the planet, but we are exerting even more pressure on the environment, and the future generation, which doesn’t really have a future, the way things stand now. I envision my children’s children wearing gas masks and living in domed cities. View full article »
Although I wrote this article a while ago, it was just picked up by Escape from America magazine. Click the link for the full read.
Many labels come to mind when I think of Venice: magical, mysterious, one-of-a-kind, legendary – it’s not an easy place to define.
On my first visit there I wondered: could I ever live in a city where I wouldn’t be able to ride a bike? On the other hand, I loved that it is car-free: no fumes, no traffic, no road rage. Instead, all the essential city services were carried out by boats: ambulances, garbage men, firefighters, police men – all sailors!
One late-September day few years ago I found myself knocking on heavy gates of Palazzo Zorzi, hoping to call the palace my new office. And a few days later, I also began calling Venice my home.
Palazzo Zorzi houses UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and I joined the environmental science team to contribute to, among other things, the Venice lagoon conservation and tourism management projects.
Soon after I moved there, my colleague Giorgio – one of those mysterious prototypes that wears a cape and a fedora and looks like a phantom stealthily cutting corners of narrow street corridors in thick misty winter fogs – taught me how to circumnavigate the maze of timeworn streets like a pro. Then, a very important sense of belonging to the community, he taught me how to give directions: ‘just keep going straight (‘sempre dritto’) and inquire again at the next bridge!’ The phrase ‘sempre dritto’ is the most common and commonly-acceptable instruction to navigate Venice.
| Last post in the anti-consumerism World Environment Day sequence |
Remember Ryan Bingham’s “How heavy is your backpack” lectures in Up in the Air (2009)? He says:
How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things …. the backpack should already be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger …. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living.
I agree, in part. But life and experiences teach us new things all the time.
And some lectures come from curiosity and actual research. A few years ago I read a book called ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ (1977) by Elgin & Mitchell, which is about people who are living a simpler life, and why they are doing it. What’s the appeal there, hello, it’s the Millennium! NOT to be confused with the back-to-nature movement that entails moving to a rural community, living without electricity, and milking own cows. Instead, voluntary simplicity is about incorporating sensible practices into an ongoing – and very urban, in my case – lifestyle and creating new habits. And it made sense to me.
I don’t like labels, but sometimes when I am asked I say that I’m a minimalist, and I think that pretty much covers it. Still, the most common question I get is “what is minimalism, anyhow?”, and it’s a fair question.
There are movements in art and music, but what about minimalistic lifestyles?
Let me just preface this by saying that I am not a radical minimalist, and I don’t live off the grid, obviously, although, I admit, it has intrigued me at times. I am curious about radical minimalism and I do admire some people’s determination and purpose, but I think there is an achievable balance for all of us, and that is what I will be addressing here.
There are more and more collaborative and shared consumption projects in North America and the EU, and more people embrace them, or, at least, are curious about them. And some examples are really creative and fascinating!
A reminder: collaborating consumption is a model of economy and culture based on the concepts of organized (mostly peer-to-peer) sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping principles. It connects people who own things they don’t use much, and are willing to share them, while reducing the need of the borrowers to purchase things and incur additional costs and the burden of ownership. And guess what, that helps lower the environmental impact and we hoard less stuff.
In the beginning, when the concept was still a novelty, it worked best for items that people need occasionally and infrequently, for example power drills or lawn mowers. But soon it became apparent that, as long as there is awareness about the service, there isn’t much that shouldn’t be shared (beyond underwear and toothbrushes?).
Make no mistake, collaborative consumption is not a niche trend and it’s not a reactionary blip to the recession. According to Harvard Business Review, it’s a socioeconomic groundswell that will transform the way companies think about their value propositions—and the way people fulfill their needs.
HBR categorizes it into three different systems: View full article »
“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f’n khakis” (Palanhiuk. Fight Club)
Why do we accumulate ‘stuff’?
One side of the argument is that we have intrinsic identities that we build upon using various cultural and social factors, the other – that we already know what kind of identity we want to take on (we have an image in mind, an image usually supplied by popular culture and mass media) and we are constantly pursuing it. We can acquire it through consumption, personal development, education, culture, career, community, and assorted lifestyle choices – which all carry a label so that we can be more easily ‘defined’ by the rest of the society.
But does this continuous consumption, then, become a method of substitute for the genuine development of self or, on the contrary, is consumption used to reinforce cultural traits, thus making it more difficult for instinctual/ intrinsic desires, if any indeed do exist, to find acceptable outlets? View full article »
. . .
In recent years there have been louder and wider warnings about energy conservation, urging everyone to minimize consumption of resources by reducing the need for excessive energy use. Still, we consume. Still, we demand.
We shop mindlessly, rampantly, grabbing sales items because they’re on sale, or seasonal items because they are ‘limited time only’ (these are all, by the way, marketing ploys). All that without stopping to ask ourselves ‘do I need this’? And it’s done without care or concern about the consequences of those purchases – personal, social, economic or environmental..
We create market demand for products, driving up the supply and the resources necessary for production, thus affecting the goods offered for trade and sale. Producing more and more means that we are using up more and more of non-renewable resources.
Our choices – consumer choices – have a significant impact on the environment.
UNEP/ Treehugger’s World Environment Day campaign is already under way, and I made it to top 10. The winner, determined by voting, is going to Mongolia to cover the WED Conference on June 5th.
Please VOTE here for the article
Re-published, for greater awareness, by the Living Green Mag.
How Can This Generation As a Whole Make the Shift from Conspicuous to Conscious Consumption?
The richest sentence I’ve ever read said that “wealth is not the possession of abundance, rather it’s the freedom from need”. Unfortunately, as long as the pursuit of money drives our society, and is synonymous with success, recognition, and even respect, we will continue chasing materialistic goals.
Lately, green consumerism and eco-conscious movements have been gaining more publicity, although not because of our belief in their ability to improve environmental outcomes, but because we are ashamed of our consumption practices. As we should be.
But just as we individually and collectively drive the forces of supply and demand (into overdrive!), we should also be able – and willing – to step on the breaks.
We need SOLUTIONS.
The problem is not that people are unaware, the problem is that they don’t care because this is ‘normal’, ‘everyone is doing it’, and also, environmental changes are not personal. We are selfish creatures.
Deep and lasting changes can occur on local, community levels, such as showing support for cooperative, collaborative and sharing principles. A slice of it resulted from reduce-reuse-recycle campaigns, but sadly, the rest was due to people’s financial constraints.
Because we are conditioned to think and behave according to what our social circle approves of, the only way to reverse the scale of conspicuous consumption is to shame the people who flaunt their materialistic means by disapproving of their behaviour.
Realistically, while in the developed world we may be getting a bit bored of trivial luxuries, there are millions of people in the emerging economies that are just coming to their means and learning how to channel their newly acquired powers. And it is a horrifying image.
For change to happen on a large scale, to become a movement, something has to drive it, something radical. The Occupy movement was a movement because 1) it was pro-active, 2) it provoked everybody, and 3) it was cool, in a rebellious kind of way.
So, conscious consumption has to become a lifestyle, not a trend, but it should start like a trend because trends help propel ideas. Can ‘moderation’ suddenly become cool? For it to reach a critical mass, the general public has to see a benefit. An immediate benefit. We are spoiled creatures.
Still, the most gratifying activities in life are completely free: a laugh with friends, a morning swim, sex… Instead, we go for a higher ‘high’ and a more intense adrenaline rush: base jumping, heli skiing, swimming with the sharks – all incredibly thrilling, but also incredibly expensive adventures. They are addictive because they create an (artificial) escape from an ordinary routine, eventually becoming a very pricey lifestyle that needs constant upkeep. We are creatures of bad habits.
The fundamental question is: how to find gratification in non-material things, making them equally appealing, and simultaneously dispel the myth that purchasing things make us happy?
Let’s establish a Ministry of Happiness and put it in charge of maintaining a level of contentment by helping the public balance personal development, relationships and career.
This Ministry will ensure that the use of phrase “retail therapy” is aborted. It will lobby for 3-day weekends and 6-week annual vacations. Not to worry, no company or organization is that productive, businesses will survive. Alternatively, they can hire people as fillers, thus reducing unemployment rates: win-win.
It will decrease our salaries accordingly because the aim is simply more leisure time to devote to creative pursuits, not more time to acquire possessions.
On a more serious note, its ‘mindless to mindful consumption campaign‘ will address the fundamental underlying issues: vanity, passivity, the need to escape from ordinary life, irrational consumerist behaviour – in other words, the lack of interest, motivation or energy for a fulfilled life.
It’s a thin line between a problem and a solution, and this line is:
‘no, I don’t need it, I’m content‘.
World Environment Day is JUNE 5th.
It is the single biggest day for positive action on the environment worldwide.
This year’s theme is Think.Eat.Save in support of a campaign by UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reduce food waste and food loss.