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food waste_opt
As a whole, the global population produces more than enough food to ensure that no one goes hungry. Unfortunately, much of that food never reaches those who truly need it, and the results of constant over-production have devastating effects on the environment; effects that only increase the difficulty of cultivating crops in the future.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Word Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Germany, and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) partnered to create a short film in an effort to instigate conversations that could change the way the world handles food. Titled Waste, it provides a comprehensive view of how wasted food is detrimental to the environment.

Waste discusses the environmental cost of food loss and waste; food loss refers to food that is spoiled during transit or storage, while food waste refers to food that is thrown away before it can be consumed. The FAO estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food was lost or wasted in 2009. Today, one out of every four calories produced by the world’s farms is lost or wasted. It is estimated that the world will require nearly 60% more calories in 2050 than it did in 2006 as a result of population growth. Continued food waste will severely hinder efforts to end world hunger.

The benefits of reducing the excess production and waste of food would be incredible; we could feed every hungry person in the world, reduce food costs, and conserve water, land and energy.

  • Effects on Food: If all of the food wasted annually was laid side by side, it would take up an area one and half times the size of the United States. Nearly 56% of global food loss and waste occurs in the developed world as a result of absurd cosmetic standards for produce, confusing labeling, insufficient preparation and storage information, and exaggerated portions. The remaining 44% is lost in the developing world because of harvest and storage issues. Essentially, only a fraction of the world’s food fulfills its purpose of nutritional consumption.
  • Effects on Water: Water necessary to produce the food that is lost and wasted annually could fill 70 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Each apple that is thrown away requires enough drinking water to flush a toilet seven times. The meat for a single hamburger demands enough water to fill 16 bathtubs.
  • Effects on Land: If the farmland exploited for wasted food was concentrated into one region, it would account for a land mass the size of Mexico. Several billion tons of fertile soil is lost each year to produce food that is wasted or lost in outrageous proportions.
  • Effects on Energy: Food waste is responsible for the release of two times the climate-relevant gasses of the world’s air traffic, causing it to rank as a top emitter of greenhouse gasses. According to a yet unpublished estimate by the FAO, if food loss and waste were a country, it would qualify as the third highest emitter of such gasses, after the United States and China.
  • Effects on Money: The FAO calculates global food waste at 750 billion US dollars; 6 times the amount spent on developmental aid. In the US, the average family of four spends $1,600 on wasted food annually. Anything that contributes to a shortage of resources ultimately makes food more expensive, so reducing water, land and energy consumption will unequivocally save consumers money.

Waste, and also a study from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the UNEP offer relatively simple and inexpensive solutions to the environmental, financial and humanitarian concerns of food loss and waste. For food loss in the developing world, potential solutions include building up food distribution and storage capabilities and introducing the use of sturdy plastic crates rather than sacks to transport produce. In the industrialized world, potential solutions include eliminating irrelevant produce cosmetic standards, ceasing the use of confusing dating codes which can cause consumers to throw away food that is still safe to eat, educating people in proper food storage practices, downsizing portions in some cafeterias by introducing a “pay by weight” system, and limiting excess purchases.

Attacking the global food loss and food waste crisis needs to be a top priority in the fight to preserve the environment, end world hunger and eradicate global poverty. These issues and their root causes are so closely related, addressing them separately will never solve the entire problem.

– Dana Johnson

Source: SIWI, Trust
Source: Everybody Eats News

climate_opt
Poverty and climate change are related problems, says World Bank president Jim Yong Kim. The World Bank has doubled its spending on researching adaptation to climate change to $4.6 billion, but it is also calling for the world’s wealthier countries to invest in similar research. The organization also recently released a report on the subject, which presents some shocking scenarios that the organization feels are likely to occur if global temperatures continue to increase. The Thai capital of Bangkok, for example, could experience floods in as much as forty percent of the city if temperatures rise by just 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is expected to happen within the next three decades. Those who live in slums, the report suggests, will be the most affected by a natural disaster. But this hypothesis has implications not just for the poor or for the people of Thailand, but for the world over. Jim Yong Kim, the president of World Bank has said that it is “impossible to tackle poverty without dealing with the effects of a warmer world” for the following reasons:

1. Access to food. Many crops have a difficult time thriving in extremely hot conditions. While agricultural scientists are working, sometimes controversially, to create versions of popular crops that can adapt to such climates, the World Bank’s report estimates that as many as ninety percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa could be malnourished by 2050.

2. Access to clean water. The report also suggests that extreme heat may lead to droughts throughout South Asia, reducing the availability of clean drinking water in places like India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

In addition to research, the World Bank spends $7 billion per year (not including the $20 billion received from other banks and partners dedicated to this issue) in helping developing countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Samantha Mauney

Sources: The Saudi Gazette, Counter Currents
Photo: IFAD

Students Stand Up For Clean Water in Kenya

For years Kenya was one of the world’s success stories. They had the beginnings of democracy and unprecedented economic growth, things were looking up. That was until violence broke out in 2007 after a presidential election and 350,000 people were displaced. Now 46% of the 38.3 million people are living below the poverty line.

The Star, a Nairobi newspaper, details how students at the AIC Girls Boarding Primary School in Kajiado came together during this year’s Day of the African Child to make an appeal for help getting clean water in Kenya, one of the biggest challenges for Kenyans. This day is celebrated annually on June 16th in remembrance of the school children who marched against inferior education in 1976, hundreds of whom were shot down by police. It also serves to draw national and global attention to the lives of the current generation of African children.

This year’s celebration called attention to harmful social and cultural practices against children and discussed what the current stakeholders can do to help. This included highlighting the negative consequences of harmful practices against children, reviewing legislative and policy frameworks, and undertaking advocacy. Lanoi Parmuat, a local philanthropist, stated, “The occasion is for promoting rights of children with disabilities in Africa and creating awareness among the people in the communities.” The school chose to mark the day by bringing attention to their over 700 students, a number of whom were rescued from forced marriages and female circumcision, and their need for water.

Students came before sponsors and made their case, pleading with them to help them get water. There is no borehole at the school, as attempts to sink one failed, and the only water available is salty making cooking and cleaning difficult. It becomes even more of a problem as the resources are stretched thin from a steadily growing number of students.

But household chores are not their only concern according to teacher Lucy Itore, “Some of the girls are already menstruating and when they are in that stage they require a lot of water to keep themselves clean. All the water we get in the school is bought by the headteacher, Ms. Catherine Kipury.” The work of providing so many girls with water is too much for one teacher alone. She and the students need assistance from people willing to donate in order for their needs to be met.

Even with the new economic growth in the last couple of years, Kenya is still among the 30 poorest countries in the world. As a result, more than 15 million people do not have access to clean water. There are stories like this all across Africa, it is simply a matter of someone stepping in and doing something. The girls at the school are not just students, they are a voice for their generation. They will not just stand by and suffer without water, but they need help reaching their goal.

Chelsea Evans

Sources: allAfrica, UNICEF, HREA
Photo: Global Giving

El Salvador Fights to Protect Water
The Central American country of El Salvador fights to protect water. Twenty-five percent of the rural population do not have access to potable water, and an estimated 90% of the country’s surface water is believed to be “heavily contaminated.” A preliminary report released last month on the effects of gold mining on El Salvador’s water supply reveals that in areas where mining was conducted, local populations experienced high rates of cancer, kidney failure, and diseases of the nervous system. A 2012 study of the San Sebastián river by a government agency showed that the river contained 9 times the acceptable level of cyanide and 1,000 times the acceptable level of iron. The river is now famous for its unnaturally orange-colored contaminated water.

Water Contamination Sparks Environmentalism in El Salvador

Much of this contamination is the legacy of large-scale industrial metal mining in the resource-rich country. Such mining both uses and contaminates large amounts of potable water. Many citizens of El Salvador also argue that multinational mining companies that claim to bring jobs and economic growth in fact extract resources but contribute little to the local economy.

These negative environmental and economic effects have galvanized Salvadorans in a grass-roots environmental movement, a fight to protect water from mining contamination. Local residents, led in part by those from the canton of San Sebastián, have teamed up with international NGOs to protest mining contamination, publicize the issue internationally, and conduct scientific studies to support their claims that industrial mining endangers the nation’s environment and people. The movement has reached to the top levels of government, with strong national and international repercussions. In 2008, then-President Antonio Saca stopped issuing new mining permits, and the government is currently debating a bill that would make El Salvador the first country to ban industrial metal mining altogether.

International mining companies are fighting back, however. Commerce Group, an American company that operated the mine near the San Sebastián river, and Pacific Rim, a Canadian company, have filed complaints against El Salvador before a World Bank trade tribunal based in Washington, D.C. The companies are suing the Salvadoran government for $400 million dollars for violating their rights as investors. Decisions on these cases have not yet been reached. In the meantime, Salvadorans continue to debate the best ways to preserve their water and devise a model of development that is both sustainable and economically beneficial to all sectors of society.

– Délice Williams

Source: The Guardian, Mining Watch, StopESMining
Photo: Mesa Nacional

Fragile But Not Helpless
Rates of acute and chronic malnutrition are estimated to be 50 percent higher in countries marred by conflict than in more stable places, according to a new report by World Vision U.K. entitled “Fragile But Not Helpless.”

Because war-torn and violent countries often allocate all efforts toward the alleviation of conflict, the issue of malnutrition is often sidelined. The progress in these countries is in danger of reversing if nothing is done. While the pursuit of peace in conflict-torn countries is extremely important, the alleviation of life-threatening issues such as malnutrition should not be neglected, according to David Thomson of World Vision UK.

More children worldwide die from malnutrition than from conflict, even in violent countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Though significant progress has been made in the alleviation of malnutrition, 2.3 million children still die from the condition every year. And yet, war-torn countries divert an average of 60% of their budget to the military and only a fraction of that toward malnutrition.

World Vision UK suggests that “donors simply need to re-prioritize if we’re to ensure the benefits of this progress reach a generation of children in the world’s most fragile states.”

The organization is calling on donor states to encourage conflict-affected states to join their “Scaling Up Nutrition” movement. This movement is a global collective effort involving governments, the United Nations, private donors, civil society, businesses and researchers to improve nutrition.

Their approaches include making nutritious food more accessible, improving access to clean water and improving access to adequate healthcare services. Recently, they have expanded their initiatives to focusing on nutritional development in what they call FCAS, or fragile and conflict-affected states.

With their new report, they aim to encourage G8 leaders to provide funding and technical support to FCAS that have demonstrated a concerted effort to tackle malnutrition. With consistent funding and political attention, Thomson is hopeful that malnutrition can be addressed and alleviated in fragile states.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: World Vision UK, TRUST
Photo: The Guardian

2 Reasons Urbanization Helps Curb Poverty

In light of the U.N.’s Millenium Development Goals ending in two years and its own goal to end global poverty by 2030, the World Bank has published its annual report on the issue: the Global Monitoring Report 2013. In it, urbanization is strongly linked to alleviation of poverty. Jos Verbeek, the leading economist on the report, cites the following reasons.

  1.  “[Cities],” he says, “are centers of economic activity, growth and job creation; consequently, poverty is significantly lower in urban centers than in rural areas.”
  2. Due to their superior infrastructure, he says urban areas are also better at service delivery. For example, access to sanitation [such as toilets] is about 80 percent in urban areas and about 50 percent in rural ones. In Africa, about 40 percent of the population in urban areas have access to a toilet, while only half that amount have access in rural areas. Verbeek also states that due to their size, it is easier for urban areas to extend services such as health care, education, and clean water.

Verbeek does warn, however, that unchecked development can lead to slums. He implies that the institutions within a developing region are just as important as the cities themselves. For instance, urban planning is vital to increase the efficiency of buying and selling land. He says, “If there is uncertainty [over land ownership], then public providers will not come in and extend water pipes into the slums – because no one knows for sure if the slums will still be there a year from now. Government might [decide to] empty them out, which in certain countries has happened in the past.”

– Samantha Mauney

Source: Voice of America
Photo: Goway

What the Wealthiest Could Do

If the bank account of every billionaire on Earth were put into one big pile, that pile would total $5.4 trillion dollars. Sounds like a lot, but that figure is dwarfed by the sum total of each American household combined which totaled $40.2 trillion. Tackling the problems of impoverished nations seems like a task too huge to comprehend, but when you look at the total capital of citizens in the United States and top earners around the world, the problem seems within reach.

World Vision estimates that it would cost roughly $50 million to provide clean water to each needy household in the entire world for a year. Seems like a lot of money until you compare it to the combined earning power of each billionaire in the world. It would cost a single percent of that total wealth. This would take much less than one percent of the total annual earnings of US citizens and would save 1.6 million lives annually.

Clean water is one problem, but food is another. The World Food Program estimates that it would cost $3.2 billion to ensure that children stay alive and nourished until they are grown. This would cost 1/600th of the total earnings of the wealthiest in the world and would save 4.2 million lives annually.

Contributions that already exist from governments and nongovernmental organizations are indeed helping to solve the problem. Extreme poverty is predicted to be solved by 2030, but some help from individuals could be the most powerful force in the fight against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post
Photo Source MSN Now

Get Water: A Game That Tackles Global ProblemsGet Water is a touch-screen game with the objective of helping Maya collect clean water for her family. On the surface, players are swiping their fingers across the screen, shooting boomerangs at peacocks, and dodging turtles. But the true spirit of the game lies in its ability to literally put the discussion on these issues in your hands.

The main character is Maya, a young girl who wants to go to school but can’t because the need for clean water for her family is more urgent. Players collect clean water and avoid touching the dirty one, running through a village until a peacock, turtle or football breaks their pot. Rather than trade in coins or cash, players trade in pencils symbolizing education for abilities such as Hyper Hydration, Fancy Filter, and Purification Tablets. The game is not just a testament to the need for access to clean water; it also compels us to ask questions concerning human rights and social justice issues, education and gender rights. Through our phones and devices, we get a glimpse into the life of those who are without access to clean water.

This is the first game made by Decode Global, a Montreal based startup founded last year by Angelique Manella. Manealla’s goal with it was to develop a fun and engaging game that would spread awareness on social issues and prompt global change.

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Forbes

World Water Day at The Borgen Project HQsOn 22nd March, World Water Day, some of us at The Borgen Project HQs in Seattle, took to the streets to raise awareness about the scarcity of clean water around the world.

Healthy lives with access to clean water are the motto of World Water Day.

As we distributed free water bottles, we informed people about the 800 million people who don’t have access to clean water in the developing world.

Some people stopped to listen – and that’s what we enjoyed most.

The more people pay attention to the global issues we at The Borgen Project campaign for, the more important these issues get and chances improve of them being addressed at the political level, internationally.

Enjoy the video and join our cause!

Mantra Roy

Photo: Flickr

Drop4Drop
Buy one get one free, limited time sales, 20% off; these are all common sales terms that we see everyday. Promotions, something to give a customer that extra incentive to purchase a product, simple sales strategies. Well, what if that promotion involved saving lives? Drop 4 Drop is doing just that.

Drop 4 Drop is a non-profit that teams up with businesses and individuals to help balance their water use by creating innovative business offers. One example is the upcoming promotion that has been organized between Drop 4 Drop and Airconergy. March 22nd was International World Water Day, a United Nations created day, that encourages people to focus on the importance of fresh drinking water and water security in the world.

Airconergy has pledged that they will give the funds needed to build a new freshwater well for every 100 of their HVAC chips that they sell that day. Each well would be able to provide water for an estimated 2,000 people. Conscience marketing has been done before, and it is huge. Fair trade product like coffee and jewels are good examples, but this sort of promotion takes that one step further. Some may say that this sort of “promotion” is simply good advertising and business savvy. Granted that it may not be the exactly the same thing as simply building a number of wells, but it is a fantastic move within the for-profit world to help people living in severe poverty. So, if you need any HVAC chips…

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Beaumont Enterprise
Photo: Twibbon.com