Food is central to our human existence. Historically, food has always been a commodity which binds our families together, features in celebrations, forms part of our cultural identity and unfortunately, the source of many conflicts.
Given the unprecedented population growth in the past 50 years, food has become more instrumental to who we are and how we live.
A compelling report from Oxfam in 2011, contested that Niger is the epicenter of world hunger. In Niger, hunger is chronic, corrosive, structural and systematic. Over 65 per cent of the people survive on less than $1.25 a day. Tragically, nearly one in two children is malnourished. One in six dies before they reach the age of five due to food scarcity.
Farmers and families across the world are fighting a losing battle against soil depletion, desertification, water scarcity, and unpredictable weather. They remain exploited by elite powerful traders who set food prices at predatory levels.
Population growth is intrinsically driving up demand on top of a depleting global resource base. With a world population of approximately 6.981 billion, at the start of 2011, there were 925 million hungry people worldwide. By the end of the year, extreme weather and rising food prices drove the total back to one billion.
The dominant global agri-food system is characterised by severe ecological problems and social inequalities. Ecological problems include: the chemical pollution of land, waterways and foods; soil degradation and erosion; the loss of seed and animal diversity; the energy and resources consumed in the long-distance transportation, processing and packaging of foods; and a range of human health impacts and risks.
Socio-economic problems and inequalities include: widespread hunger and malnutrition in the context of an abundance and oversupply of food; health problems associated with the over-consumption of particular types of foods; the squeezing out of small-scale farmers in favour of large-scale farms and the undermining of subsistence and local forms of food production and consumption; and the expansion of the corporate ownership and/or control of the entire agri-food system.
A range of oppositional and alternative forms of food production and consumption have emerged to challenge the dominant agri-food system. The general tendencies of these movements are towards more environmentally sustainable forms of food production including the preservation of traditional farming practices and communities and for more local and equitable forms of food distribution and consumption which involve forming more direct links between food producers and consumers. Examples of these initiatives include: organic agricultural production, seed saving networks, Community Supported Agriculture, farmers markets, fair trade movements, and food co-operatives.
So what does this mean to each and every one of us? Well, put simply, our lifestyles are unsustainable. In Australia, we consume (and importantly, waste) too much food. It is time for every individual to become beacons for sustainable consumption. Food groups like Organic Empire (organicempire.com.au) and Honest to Goodness (goodness.com.au) offer farm to door service which directly connects communities to the source of food production. Let’s face it – our demand for food is shaping and dictating the future sustainability of our human race.
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