Write for Change Over 18s Winner
Elnaya Mahadevi Pillian, Indonesia
I have lived in areas of extreme weathers, in lands where the sun's heat cracks the deck beneath my feet and thunder shatters my bedroom windows for me to be flooded with acid rain. Despite the harsh conditions, I have, too, seen the beauty of the desert, the magnificent folds of sand only obedient to nature's command. I have seen the sky in its darkest hour, solemnly accompanied by millions of constellations gazing back to me from above. On the other side of the world I have explored the labyrinthine paths of the rainforest and marvelled at the gems hidden in its every corner.
For 20 years I have breathed the same air, yet inhaled dissimilar particles. The fog that covers my tracks on a mountain climb is now exchanged for carbonic mist as a result of forest fires, and the wilderness that once had challenged me with its mystery no longer exists due to deforestation. In only a decade the sounds of macaws and sights of toucans become foreign while silence is familiar to the ears. What once was a boundless land that stretches far and wide, a place of home for many creatures, is now replaced by towering skyscrapers. My skies of cosmic proportions are now shoved into framed views.
Life, the one we once knew, has changed. While progress is inevitable, think of the cost to the Earth. We may call it home, but it is one that is borrowed and is not promised. Take a look around, have we truly made this world a better place or have we selfishly made it inhabitable with our greed and constant need for change? My mother has always taught me to leave a place better than I had seen it when I first got there, and I think there is no better advice for the way we should treat this Earth. We came here in awe of its beauty, let us leave it with more love and wonder than when we found it. If not for us, then at least for the generations to come.
Write for Change Shortlisted Entries, Over 18s category
Preeti Sharma, India
HOPE AND COPE
COP has partners who can cope
The ever emitting carbon
The tragedies of development
The vices of hidden ambitions
COP has partners who can cope
The dilemmas of progress
The challenges of sustenance
The results of transforming nature
COP has partners who can cope
The presence of conflicting interest
The depressing mood of air around
The challenges of green progress
COP has partners who can cope
The raging forest fires
The eroding land and water resource
The downfall of human health
COP has partners who can cope
The unequal ability to manage
The imbalanced response
The disgraceful episodes of human life
COP has partners who will definitely cope
The carbon menace with genuine Hope
Steve Elsworth, UK
COMMUNITIES CHANGE THINGS
For the last hundred years, people have been coming to our local beach. Sandcastles were constructed, complete with moats, turrets, and flags. Mums sat with their kids eating sandwiches under the shade of the goat-willows. Then the council took the steps away, and no one could go there any more. The usual excuses were wheeled out – financial crisis, austerity, public danger, lack of interest. We are accustomed to public words that carry no meaning. These were sprayed around in an attempt to create a smokescreen, designed to hide an uncomfortable truth: they had taken our beach away. And it wasn’t coming back.
The community sat up and said, “Excuse me?” This part of the world is small-town Britain. We take our kids to school, go for walks, meet in pubs and cafés. We are normal people leading normal lives. Politics doesn’t feature very much in our everyday existence. But they had taken our beach away.
So it started: the campaign to reinstate the steps. The sleeping giant of community woke up. We started organising: leaflet drops, music nights, fancy dress competitions, kids’ treasure hunts, games, race evenings, quizzes, Punch and Judy shows: a money-raising operation that solidified into a driven campaign: give us our beach back.
Five years later, after 100 print articles, 5,000 leaflets, 70 radio interviews and three TV broadcasts, it happened: we raised £40,000, built the steps ourselves, and had a party for 1,000 people on the beach. Two years later, and we still have a strong community locked around us. A charity was formed to protect the cove: 20 people give £10 a month to pay for the charity’s costs; dog walkers and sea swimmers clean the beach every morning; there’s a WhatsApp group designed to keep an eye out for problems: we have developed a sea protection policy to look after the eel grass.
The community is binding itself together around our shared asset. Local landowners are supportive and council officers deliver paint to our doorsteps. We’re having an open gardens weekend, and a stand-up comedy night: we had to turn people away after 40 volunteered to take part in a beach clean; and we’re trying to reopen a public right of way leading into town.
Communities work when people feel they belong. In a strange way, the council’s removal of the steps kickstarted us into life. We now live in a community that thinks about other people, looks after the environment and has the interests of our area at heart. Our message for the climate change conference? Communities change things. If you don’t get the community involved, change won’t happen. Sweeping statements don’t fix environmental problems. What will work is getting money down to grassroots level, so that people can organise for themselves. When they feel they belong, they will start to look after their shared heritage. That takes money, and empowerment at the most local level possible. If you feed the grassroots, the forest will follow.
Sarah Hunter, UK
I closed the lid of my laptop, hit the off button on the TV remote, and sighed. Why did everything feel so pointless? The endless scrolling, the endless repeats of daytime shows. Heaving myself off the sofa, I noticed how the cushions had moulded to my shape. The coffee table was awash with dirty coffee mugs, empty crisp packets, and a plate with the crusts of last night’s pizza. I told myself I’d tidy up later, and instead turned to the back window. Warm, golden sunlight streamed through. My garden was a barren wasteland, the ground a sea of grey stones, broken only by a discarded set of pans, a rusty bike frame and a seatless chair. Things I’d put off taking to the dump.
A robin landed on the fence, an unusual spot of orange on the top of its head. It tilted its neck, watching me through the glass. “I’m sorry, you won’t find any food here.” The robin, as if hearing me, flapped its wings and flew away, leaving me alone once again. The company had been nice, even if just for a second. And the sun felt good on my skin, even through the glass. I stretched my arms above my head, my muscles creaking, and groaned. I’d had a garden all this time, so why hadn’t I been using it?
I opened my laptop once more, but this time with a plan. The next day they arrived: a spade, bags of earth, seeds, a bird feeder. And I didn’t open my laptop once, or turn on the TV, as I instead worked at clearing away the rubble and rubbish in the garden. I lay the earth, sowed the seeds, and hung the bird feeder. Then I watched, waiting for the robin to return. As the weeks weaved on, the seeds began to grow, small shoots of green at first, winding upwards. Next came the caterpillars, their squidgy green bodies clinging to the leaves. Then butterflies, bright beacons of life flashing by.
I watered and pruned and turned the earth. I read that if every garden in England transformed into a green and wildlife friendly space, they’d cover an area four-and-a-half times that of our national nature reserves. I spotted slugs and woodlice, bees, and these brilliantly green, shiny flying beetles. But still there was no sign of the robin. Then one day, as I was enjoying the breeze on my face in the morning sun, I heard the now familiar patter of a bird landing on the fence. It was a robin. It tilted its head, watching me, and I froze, meeting its gaze. I knew it was the same, for it had the unusual spot of orange on its head. Only this time, rather than flying away, it came to join me in the garden. I smiled.
“Thank you,” I said.
Jane Vosburg , US,
What will it take to rouse us from our deadly slumber? Nature nudges us awake, and we open an eye to see Katrina bearing down on New Orleans – where rooftops float on dark-grey waters, and dancing flames of oil mock the cries for help...as the acrid stench of sewerage insults the nostrils, and throngs of the old, sick, poor, and disabled swelter in the Superdome; while the Governor orders the National Guard, to ‘shoot to kill’ the left-behind looters.
Rescuers on inflated dinghies plead with the tears of a weathered face, from a second-floor window who refuses to abandon his sole companion. But sleep beckons us once more to dreams... Where we proud grandparents post pictures of sleeping babes in egg-cozied beanies and smiling angels undaunted by the gap of missing teeth rescued by the tooth fairy. Oh, the innocence tugs at our unfathomable love whose cradling arms, snuggle-ready shoulders and soothing lullabies would sacrifice all for the children of our children. Gramps feels the world melt away as he holds his precious bundle... But will he wake up in time? Meanwhile the world does melt away... Houses and bridges ride the raging river as Irene scoops them from their foundations light as feathers. Water gushes down subways as Sandy settles her score. And we are awakened again by its roar as Typhoon Haiyan rips the Philippines apart, and the UN gives Yeb Sano a standing ovation as he sobs, "We must stop this madness!" But the news grows repetitive and we tire. We tire more easily than the polar bear who perches precariously on ice as he scans the vast ocean in search of his next frozen platform now hundreds of miles away, and we drift off to sleep.
Hundreds of miles away. Why should we care about hundreds of miles away? Where super-storms rage, droughts and wildfires ravage, rising oceans displace islanders, tensions mount as crops wither, wars for fresh water wage on; where oil profits vie for the rights to drill their melted Arctic waters, and ancient forests are bulldozed and burned to bring us our happy meals. What will it take to rouse us from our deadly slumber? Where we dream of winning the Superbowl or World Series; where we idolize stars and their rocky relationships; where we fret about fashion and fawn over selfies; where we pair the perfect pinot noir with fresh-farmed fish; where the demands of our daily lives distract us from the imminent danger and leave us too drained to do more than watch another episode of Bachelorette or a re-run of Survivor. But wake up we must, to take action to prevent the nightmare that our children and their children are destined to suffer if we do nothing. Let’s not hit Snooze – the climate alarm is sounding!
Michael Noonan, UK
HOPE IS ESSENTIAL IN DARK TIMES
The human race has been living through some difficult and challenging times of late. The Covid-19 worldwide pandemic has caused huge disruption to social and economic life, and its recurrent variants can cause further lockdowns and restrictions. And of course we have the looming threat of global warming, which, if unchallenged, will represent an existential threat to the whole of humanity. It's small wonder that many people, in these grim circumstances, feel increasingly hopeless, powerless, isolated and vulnerable.
But where there's life, there's hope. And there's an old saying that every crisis, however profound, also carries with it opportunities for renewal and reform. Humans, both as individuals and as social animals, can take wrong turnings in life, and can be swept up in extreme belief systems and dangerous ideologies, as history has all too graphically shown. But humans are adaptive and inventive creatures as well. We've survived previous pandemics like the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague and the Spanish Flu. We got through two terrible World Wars that killed millions of people and did appalling material damage; and we saw off the malign menace of Nazism and Fascism in the process.
We can look to the past to see how we got it all too wrong, but we can also see vivid examples of how we got it right, and how good and positive things can come out of dark circumstances, if there is sufficient goodwill and imagination. In America they had the New Deal after the Great Depression, which gave hope and employment to millions. And indeed there is an echo of the New Deal in some of the spending and investment policies of the Biden administration in Washington. After the Second World War, and despite rationing and economic hardships, and bombed-out towns and cities, we in the UK built the modern Welfare State and of course the National Health Service, which has become the most loved and revered institution in the country, and which performed miracles during the pandemic.
Horrible things, which were once almost taken for granted, like slavery, the oppression of women, and absolute monarchy, have been eradicated in most of the civilized world, through campaigns of reform and emancipation. Perhaps similar good and lasting things can come from the crises and threats we are now facing.
Indeed, in tackling climate change we might combat other ills and evils as well. It might put an end to some of the intractable wars and conflicts we have had around the world. After all, why fight each other when we have a far bigger enemy to contend with? Pandemics and global warming don't respect any borders and don't give a hoot about what politics and foreign policy objectives a nation has.
This could bring the whole world together. We all have the common objective of defeating these threats, and they can only be successfully tackled if we all come together as one human race.
Jacquie Sumner, France
Amisha brushed the tears away, but there was no doubting what she could see. A tender swollen lump about the size of a chicken egg was obvious in her son’s armpit. She wiped Sagong’s forehead and encouraged him to rest. The plague had brazened its way into her household again.
Outside, the village chieftain was holding a public meeting. The Russians had launched Sputnik and the Suez crisis was raging, but in 1957 in this part of Sarawak, deteriorating roof thatch was the predicament. The longhouse that accommodated over 50 families was no longer weather-proof. Straw munching caterpillars were everywhere. Sagong could see the sky as he sank into his bed.
Out in his small orchard, Nesh was facing a different problem. Rats had spoiled all the fruit of his carefully nurtured trees. He noticed, not for the first time, many more dead geckos and wondered how the gods might be placated. Two years earlier, a world away in Mexico City, it had been agreed that the World Health Organisation would start a malaria eradication programme in Sarawak. Based on past successes, interior walls would be sprayed with a solution of DDT. The programme was very successful, with the percentage of mosquitoes carrying malaria falling from around 35 to very low single figures. Health improved. Complete eradication of malaria was expected soon.
Ten years later, a Blackburn Beverley transport plane flew out of RAF Changi in Singapore and dropped, along with a cargo of stores, baskets of live cats in the hills of Sarawak. All landed safely and the cats were let loose to help control the burgeoning rat population. Elsewhere, cats were transported by more conventional means for the same end.
The WHO initiative to spray DDT to kill malaria played out in unintended ways. The parasitic wasp population, which controlled the thatch-eating caterpillars, suffered. Roofs collapsed. The chemical leached through the system. Other insects that ingested the chemicals were eaten by geckos, which were eaten by cats. The cat population plummeted. Rats thrived and typhus and sylvatic plague replaced malaria.
The whole process took place over ten years and culminated in the repatriation of cats by air and road to help redress the balance. Lives and economies in Sarawak, as in the Covid 19 pandemic, were wrecked and shattered. Yet these events give us a unique opportunity to pause. For the first time we truly understand the volatility and complexity of an interconnected world and the implications of failing to grasp how the system works, just as the WHO underestimated the knock-on effect of DDT in Sarawak in the 1950s and ‘60s.
It takes courage to pause. In a technological world that spins faster and faster, we fear that we will miss out if we stop. Our opportunity for renewal is counter-intuitive. Instead of acceleration, we need to slow down. We are forced to re-evaluate our lives. This restoration depends on doing the same for our magnificent, powerful, breathtakingly complex planet.
Stephen Nottingham, Wales,
Welcome to today’s village tour. As you know, all the other villages in this area have been abandoned following extreme weather events. Here, worried about government inaction, we instigated one of the first local climate change adaptation programmes. It has served us well. Looking down from this viewpoint, you can see the tree-lined streets and the white buildings, with their solar panels and green roofs. Thousands of native trees were also planted to stabilise the hillside, and to provide more shade in parks. Our green spaces incorporate ditches leading to water storage tanks or water-purifying artificial wetlands. Captured storm water is recycled in our attractive cooling fountains and for irrigation during the dry season. We also replaced many impermeable pavements with permeable surfaces as part of our extensive SUDS – short for sustainable urban drainage system. These types of adaptations helped the community to survive during the series of devastating floods that swept away so many homes in the region in 2028 and again in 2030, and the awful heat dome event that led to the deaths of hundreds of people in 2035.
Walking down this road we see the greenhouses, the beehives and wildflower meadows, and over there are the new and old orchards. The village now grows much of its own food. And in that building is the hub of the local energy network, based on the electricity generated by solar panels around the village and the wind turbines on top of the hill. The building contains state-of-the-art batteries. As you can see, everyone uses the community car park, shaded by an extensive solar-panelled canopy, where electric cars can be charged for free. Last year, of course, during the devastating four-day national grid outage, the local grid was, literally in some cases, a life saver.
Any questions? Yes, climate adaptation is an ongoing process and we continually make improvements. The interesting thing is that most of these adaptations also enhance our quality of life in other ways. We now have less air and water pollution, more biodiversity, and I believe we are all healthier and happier for it.
Ruth J Culbertson, US,
The young maple in our front yard gets thirsty in the now-chronic drought, so we put out the old brass water-ring today. On goes the spray and, as we turn to see if we have the flow strong enough, our breaths catch in our throats. Three sparks of iridescent hummingbird have materialized to take a shower: tiny stars that shimmer only in daylight. Nearby, our resident garter snake has taken cover from the dryness but has left her old transparent skin in the grass under the front window. We are grateful not to be on fire, or again to be choking on the smoke of other people’s fires. We are even more grateful for our messy garden that draws in ladybugs, butterflies, and honeybees. One yard out of a hundred is not enough, of course.
I have a sign to post: Forgive the weeds, I’m feeding the bees. The property-value-conscious neighbours will not appreciate the sentiment; neither can they see my point of view. We are surrounded by their sterile, manicured lawns, overfed and overwatered and then punished for growing by being buzz-cut. Tense plant beds, rigidly curated and covered with chemically saturated bark chips, line the sidewalks. Plastic lawn ornaments spin in the wind; they cannot be composted or recycled. Weekly yard services arrive in loud, overpowered trucks to spray and straighten. I am the neighborhood wild child whose lush garden dreams were dashed by historically irresponsible disposal of construction waste in our front yard, and by the field of enormous glacial debris in the back. So we grow what we can and do our best by any wild refugees from this barren town. The back 40 – our nickname for our tiny meadow – provides cover for transient natives like mink displaced by near-constant clearcutting and aggressive over-development. In the summer sun, a fleet of dragonflies rises over the grasses and ferns; hover, dart, hover, settle. Ever mindful of the ongoing shortage, we parse out water to the younger trees back there, too, and let the volunteers fend for themselves. A westerly breeze, our cherished miracle after an early heatwave, challenges the towhees, chickadees, and goldfinches.
We are constantly refilling our much-visited birdbath, the only source of clean water within walking distance. Squirrels scold us from the firs, crows watch us silently from the sticky-sapped alder, and at night the house is caught in crossfire arguments between great horned owls. Again, what we can offer is not enough. One yard in a city of thousands is never enough. We cannot even see the night sky because of the city lights mandated to keep us safe from other humans. We hear rumours of astronauts defying gravity, trying once more for the stars. As they and their wealthy patrons point their mechanical eyes upward, searching for other earths to explore, I want to ask them, “And what are you doing for the planet that is already here, that nobody seems to want?”
Daphne Larner, UK,
THE PRECIPICE OF NOW
Hell, no and Hell, yes
I can dip my brush in any mess
And draw across the world
A line to divide the lost among us
Leading by the nose
We trip up daily on obstacles
And unseen forms
That breed self-doubt and division
So, when everything seems against us
We cling to a mast of self-reform
No matter where it goes
Slowly and with careless abandon
Our selves are led
Into the abyss of no return
Punctured by the naysayers
So the truth sinks too far below
The young rise up
To avoid this fate
To save the world
No hell of fire
No high water
Breathing in a fresh agenda.
The bad ones quelled
No time to weep
Over the already vanquished
Without hope, trust erodes
Hold up…support the change
Like Atlas in the universe.
Joshua Bennett, US
They say the most valuable treasure is often hidden in plain view. This rings true for the world around us. Earth is unique in that it is the only known planet that sustains the environment capable of humanity to have a chance at life. It is the only planet in our solar system that has the animals we live alongside, the nature we wake up to, the materials and minerals necessary for our survival.
But people seem to think there is an infinite amount of this stuff. They fail to understand that taking all this for granted puts us in danger of losing the only place we call home. If we do not renew our efforts to take only what is necessary to survive and thrive, we are in danger of destroying Earth’s uniqueness and placing ourselves in a position of extension. For most of our history, we have been good to the Earth and it has been good to us. But during the past two centuries, we have become greedy about wanting more and taking far more than we have received. It is no wonder things are chaotic as we have violated the natural order of things. It does not have to be this bleak, though.
We live in a unique world that is filled with undiscovered gems waiting to come into the light. We always learn something new about the place so many of us call home, a vast mystery that will continue to reveal its secrets long after we are gone and the next generation comes forth to continue the work we have started. As I have gotten older, I have become more interested in the world around me. I remember always being fascinated by Earth’s place in the Solar System, but the childhood naivety of this remaining unchanged has worn off. Now I see that we are about to see the consequences of our actions first-hand and the wish we had never done this will take centre-stage.
Not all is lost because this treasure can be replenished like never before. We can get rid of the unnecessary aspects we see in the world around us and try to live a modern life confined to what we need. Not what we want from the Earth, but what we need from it. If we return to the mindset of taking what we need and nothing else, then we can allow Earth to heal. It may take centuries but it would heal and replenish itself so that we can go on thriving longer than we may under current circumstances.
What is the type of Earth you want? The depleted one? Or the replenished? The final choice is up to you.
Neil Kitching, UK
Close your eyes and imagine a better future, not too distant. Children can walk or cycle safely to school, streets are designed for people, not cars. People live in warm homes and know their neighbours, perhaps meeting under the shade of a leafy tree, sitting on a street bench and talking about their communal heating system or whether one of their friends really saw a lynx in the local woodland. A community where every house has solar panels or a green roof, with energy stored from the day to use in the evening. Strong communities where people want and choose to live. Electric cars are available locally to hire when needed. Children are playing safely outside once more with access to parks, wild spaces and water features. Fruit and vegetables are grown in community orchards or allotments, supplemented by access to a wide range of healthy and low carbon foods, easily recognisable by colour-coded labels on every item sold by supermarkets. A world where products such as washing machines are built to last and can be repaired, perhaps upgraded, backed up by a 10-year manufacturer's guarantee. Perhaps a world where flying on holiday is considered to be a treat once more, something to save up for. Yes, the old nightmare vision of floods, droughts, destruction of nature, political upheaval and mass migration has been averted. Replaced by a world where you can sleep comfortably, knowing that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is falling and the climate crisis is receding.
Jim Morrison , Canada
So you would have me justify the continued existence of humanity, eh Sun God? Al right, let's get to it. The primary reason I'd offer to keep us around is fairly simple: to see what we do next! Humanity has always been a species able to move beyond its limitations and now is no different. The lion does not fish in the ocean, the shark does not fly above the clouds, the raptor does not move mountains: but we do. We do all these things and more, in the blink of eye. There was a time when we were just another great ape species, only as remarkable as our kin. Over time we sought to be more than that, to push beyond our limitations, to strive for something greater, and in doing so reshaped the very world itself. Has it always been for the better? No, but it has trended upwards all the same, so “better comes eventually, even if it's later than we might like. Are we in a detrimental state now, one brought about by our own hand? Of course we are, but we usually are, that's the part that's frequently overlooked. We're always in uncharted waters, we are well beyond our natural borders and constantly beset with uncertainty. But we're also in the best place we've ever been, further ahead than ever before, and never better equipped to deal with the challenges in front of us. We have fewer active wars, and fewer deaths in those wars, than in almost any time prior. We have more food, greater resources and better systems to move them where they need to be. Invisible threats like rampant disease, which were at one point capable of decimating if not annihilating a population, can be brought under control with focused effort and stable leadership. Even death itself has been diminished: more of us live longer, healthier lives than at any other point in history, and we're better equipped to aid those who need it. Once these were foes who haunted and hounded us, and they do remain a threat to be certain, but they are not the constant horrors they were because we learn, we adapt, and we overcome. For every challenge we find or create on this tiny blue marble, even the boundaries of the Earth itself, we eventually succeed in conquering them. We have been here before and we will be here again: there is always a newer, greater challenge than ever before, requiring humanity's greatest skills to exceed it, and rest assured we will exceed it. We will work together, conceive of a better, brighter future, and bring it into reality. That's why we're worth keeping around, Sun God: because you never know what we're going to do next and if we stick around, we will amaze you!
Anuschka Smeekes, The Netherlands
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Do you see how beautiful life on our planet actually is? And how everything is interconnected? Nature, animals, and us, humans. We may think we are above nature, but we are part of it and our lives are intertwined with its fate. For food and a liveable climate, we need nature to catch and store CO2, and forests for our air and a climate that is good for the plants we need to grow, and for us. The forests need the animals to keep them healthy. Then why do so many still not see how we are destroying the very things that keep life on Earth sustainable? We pollute, use and produce unsustainably, and think everything will be all right. We really need to see that our actions - and inactions - can either make or destroy our future. And we need to act now.
It is not as simple as making some dumb and greedy monsters that destroy and abuse for their own gain change their ways. A large majority of us are just as much to blame, by not actively making sure to know what the actual cost is of our actions and the products we buy. Was yet more rainforest destroyed to make our shampoo, or more plastic used that will end up making a plastic broth of our oceans, thus entering our food chain, or local people exploited? We have to do better and we can. And the good news is, we can all be this change that we need to survive as humans. Demand proper labels on products, so we can choose not to buy products with any palm oil in them and so forcing companies to produce sustainably without destroying any more rainforest. Buy a tree online and give it to a local farmer in Guatemala for instance, to help green the planet and help eradicate poverty in all forms. Support organisations that protect forests and wildlife. Adopt an orangutan (virtually of course). Turn your garden into a bee restaurant. Sign petitions to stop animal cruelty. Decide what future you want for us, then act accordingly and inspire others to do the same. Let us show we deserve our name ‘homo sapiens’, by living responsibly and taking care of our precious home and all life on it. So, wise up and lead by example!
Mark Cowan, UK,
Degrees, no distinction
So many nations
Stop Stop Halt.
Sea level rise
We're up to our eyes
Rising Sea Salt.
Degrees, no distinction
All Our Fault.
Time to now act
Not opinion, fact
Timely Reality Jolt.
Plant, yes plant more trees.
All, no factions
For 1.5 degrees.
To rise less quickly
All, yes all take heed.
We can stand still
(or slow things down)
If we stress the
Need For S p e e d
Hajra Saeed, Pakistan
Reducing Food Waste
‘Food’ is accountable for 26% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, making it one of the leading reasons for global warming. It was in 2011 that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) produced its very first report that brought this global issue to everyone’s attention. On broad evaluation it stated that if food waste was a country, it would be the ‘third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China’. This is because 30% of the food (about 2.3 billion tones) ends up in landfill. As it rots, methane gas is emitted which is about ‘86 to a 100 times’ more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20- year period.
Research has established that the main reason for food waste is that we buy too much. Therefore every individual must realize the role they are playing in global warming, by honestly evaluating the amount of food they waste; as most of them deny that they do. By changing our attitude and habits, food waste can be reduced considerably. Here is what we can do:
• Before going out to shop, check all your food supplies. Also try planning your meals for the week and make a list. Then you will buy only what you need.
• Don’t be tempted into overbuying due to discount offers.
• If you have certain eatables that you can’t finish before the best before date, freeze them well in time for later use.
• Don’t feel reluctant in donating fresh items such as milk, bread, meat, fruit and vegetables to food banks, shelters, or even poor families living nearby (the option would depend on which country you live in), as so many people go hungry every day and any food is welcome. • Instead of throwing away vegetables and fruit that aren’t as fresh as you would like to eat (if you feel you cannot finish the packaged ones within their expiry, it is better if you buy them loose) as well as plate leftovers into the bin; mix them with bread and give to animals and birds in your garden or a nearby park.
• With practice it is possible to cook the quantity that would be all consumed by the family. However, when you have leftover food, there are many websites that show you how to utilize it by making tasty dishes.
We CAN tackle Climate Change. Only if every person makes a genuine effort and acts responsibly, then we can definitely look towards a secure future.