Sunday, 20 September 2015

Feed, not Fight!

About a month ago in the final few days at my summer workplace, I googled something on a Mac. (Back at home on my Windows laptop, I'm prone to alt-c-ing and alt-v-ing now. Thank you, command button.) Now that my contract for the summer is over, I contacted ads for second-hand textbooks (Who's up for some thermodynamics?), I plugged my ears to loud frosh chants which weren't made for the neurodiverse, I cheered that I can use last year's Calculus textbook for this year. Now why I was googling at work is protected by a non-disclosure policy. (I'm not ready to face a lawsuit and forget the salary I just earned. I do agree, just as Tony Turner, that work and personal life need their distance.)

I'm allowed to tell you what Google resembled, though, as long as I don't include the specific curves of which letters the search box met. So here I go trying to create a blog post entirely based of what I saw on Google.

The Google sign was draped in red-smeared cartoons. Quickly moving my mouse over a drenching red logo confirmed that rather my first thoughts of something much inappropriate for a Google doodle, the company was celebrating La Tomatina, a large food fight in Spain.

My mistake - rather than my first thoughts of something much inappropriate for a Google Doodle was something much inappropriate for a Google Doodle.

Up to one third of food is lost annually according to the FAO at the United Nations. I have a friend who is struggling to pay for food. Campus food banks are increasing in number, and I know that my campus has a food bank. (Federal politicians, if you are reading this, please add reduced tuition fees to your platform and glue yourself to your promise.) Edible food is deliberately tossed before getting to your shopping cart if it doesn't look perfect (round apple, untwisted cucumber, straight-protruding carrot) despite being edible. (Look at @UglyFruitandVeg on Twitter, I used to think all naturally-grown watermelons were round.) Yet there is an entire festival dedicated to litter the streets in tomatoes to be later cleaned, squashing the red onto one's shirt only to dispense it with some Tide, Arm and Hammer or your favourite laundry detergent and plunging a tomato at someone's face for the tomato remains to be washed down the bathrooom drain with amphipathic (water-and-oil attracting) soap molecules clinging to to the debris. There is an entire festival to keep food from the plate. La Tomatina does nothing to end food insecurity.

What could we have done with the tomatoes instead? We could have cooked meals for those that cannot afford them. Welcomed refugees with extra food. Handed them out to hungry, tuition-drowning students. Handed them to the friend of mine struggling to feed herself. Fueled yourself for a human rights demonstration. Fueled yourself to speak up for the food justice movement. Anything but wasting tomatoes.

By wasting food, we downplay its value. We ignore those struggling against food insecurity or those seeking to make a living by farming. We ignore the impact of food waste on the deprecating climate, or the fossil fuels and water used to plant them. (What could we have done with the water used to grow them?) We ignore the work put into maintaining agricultural conditions to produce them when not all crops make it and when climate change is rendering farming harder. If at least one person is hungry in the world, there is no excuse for a food fight.

We need to take action to end food waste. We need to prevent it. We need to stand up to those that promote it. As for a Google Doodle? There is a library of ideas besides a food fight. If you want a food-related Doodle, create one for cantaloupe season and tempt me to head to No Frills. If you want a fight, consider the annual pillow fight at Nathan Phillips Square. (No, I did not attend.) The food system need not be exploited for leisure.

- FA

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