by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Pope Francis denounced on the occasion of World Environment Day 2013 the what he called a “culture of waste” in an increasingly consumerist world. He said that throwing away good food was like stealing from poor people.
“Our grandparents”, he said in his speech, “used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value”. This, alas, is so very true indeed.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he continued.
Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations' food agency, and some estimates are even as high as 50 percent.
In the industrialised world the majority of waste is by consumers, often because they buy too much and have to throw away what they do not manage to eat.
A U.N.-backed study released on the same day said simple measures such as better storage and reducing over-sized portions would sharply reduce the vast amount of food going to waste.
The Holy Father said that the “culture of waste” was especially deplorable given the prevalence of hunger in the world. According to the United Nations hunger affects some 870 million people, while 2 billion suffer from at least one nutritional deficiency, and that not only in the Third World. We have serious hunger at our very own doorsteps
The Argentinian-born pontiff warned that too much focus on money and materialism meant financial market dips were viewed as tragedies while human suffering had become normal and ignored. And that in this way people are discarded as if they were garbage.
Since taking office Pope Francis has made great efforts to get the Roman Catholic Church to defend the poor and to practice greater austerity itself. He, himself, has decided on a much more austere lifestyle than all of his predecessors and has also made several calls for global financial reform.
We are in a culture today that could well be described, as the Pope did, as a culture of waste and it is an absolute throwaway society in almost all regards despite all the recycling claims and supposed efforts.
We don't need to recycle more; we need to consume less, make do with what we have and reuse things on all levels.
As far as food waste is concerned it is true that much is wasted by household in the developed world where people buy too much stuff and then throw food that is going rotten away. At the same time they do not know what to do with leftovers either, as many people today, in the modern developed world appear to be unable to cook properly.
On the other hand much of the food waste occurs between field and store and in the stores too. In the first instance it is food that is being rejected by the buyers because of shape, size, etc., and in the second instance stores throw out perfectly good food because of blemishes and such like.
In the days of old a greengrocers would be allowed to give such fruit and vegetables that he could not sell at the end of the day away to needy folks but the litigation culture put an end to that too, as did other laws.
Through our culture of waste we steal not just food from the poor, so to speak, but we steal from the Planet also, and that too is a tragedy.