Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day, October 16, 2011 - World Food Day


When I was a child in the 1960s (my own children teasingly ask me if the world was in Black & White then), my parents would often admonish my brothers and I about the “starving children in India” if we did not finish our dinner.

Sadly, despite a burgeoning middle class, there are still plenty of starving children in India nearly half a century later. If only they were confined to India, we might feel we were winning the war on poverty, malnutrition and starvation. But that smugness is denied us because, despite the world producing enough food to feed all its inhabitants[1], “almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day”[2] and of those, one billion are children which is nearly every second child on our planet.[3]

On the flip side of the coin, we have a growing problem with obesity in the developed nations with the USA topping the OECD charts at 30.6% of its population and our own little nation of an estimated 4,415,730 people coming in at 7th at 20.9%.[4] That is about 922,887 obese men, women and children living on the sunny shores of Aotearoa!

How did we get into such a globally Lewis Carroll-ian situation? It’s an upside down, topsy-turvy situation that would appeal to the Mad Hatter. Huge numbers of our fellow planetary citizens cannot get sufficient calories to lead a healthy life and yet many of us here in the West are getting way too many calories and are leading unhealthy lives. But it is not simply a matter of us privileged folk in the West posting our excess calories to our starving brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Malawi, Niger, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Myanmar, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, East Africa, Tajikistan, Sahel and the many other countries that have experienced famine since the turn of this century, a mere 11 years ago.[5]

Why? Because we in the West are getting obese from eating shit! Shit fobbed off on us by multinational advertising companies in the pay of multinational fast food companies. And it doesn’t matter how many salads they hide behind on their menu boards because they know damn well customers don’t suddenly have an automotive-enhanced epiphany and turn to their families and say: “I just have a craving for a fresh green salad with capsicum and tomatoes! Let’s pop in to MacKentuckyPizzaWendys and grab some yummy nutritious food.”

It is easy to think, “I’m just an average Joe/Josephine, I’m not Bill Clinton or Bono. What can I do about world hunger?” But YOU can do something! And in the age of the Internet, we can harness it for fairness, equity and social change for good. Hell, why do you think Tim Berners-Lee, recognised as the inventor of the Internet said: "Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them."[6]

And if you don’t have a computer, you can write letters to people in power. “I haven’t got the time,” I hear you say, but, let’s face it, there’s a powerful lot of crap on TV so why not do something useful and life-affirming instead of blobbing out in front of Top Models Spend 24 hours in A&E looking at Embarrassing Fat Bodies.

Or you could just think, “I’m alright, Jack, I’ve got food in my fridge, an OK job, a car to take the kids to the beach and a 150-inch Flat Screen TV.” But you might cough and shuffle and turn red-faced when your children ask you: “Dad/Mum, why are those chickens in those tiny cages?” “Why are those cattle kept in those crowded pens?” “Why is that pig so distressed in that tiny crate?” or the ultimate squirm-making question: “Mum/Dad, why is that child so tiny and why are his eyes so big and his body so little and bony?”

Are you going to look your children square in the eyes and say: “Jemima/ Patrick (substitute children’s names here), it is because I am too apathetic, or possibly just too pathetic, to care about my world and its inhabitants despite knowing that “the world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.”[7]

I encounter or read about children everyday in all parts of the developed world who genuinely care that children in other parts of the world are starving. They raise money, they donate their own pocket money, they lobby adults and they use their digital native savvy to illuminate their concerns. They do everything THEY CAN because they identify with other children; they empathise with other children even though they may never meet those children. Our children want all other children to have what they have: good health, good, nutritious food, clean water, the chance to go to school and the chance to play. Above all, our children want all the world’s children to have the chance to FULLY ENJOY their childhoods.

Are you going to stand by and let your children shoulder the burden of eliminating world poverty and hunger? It’s too much for their little shoulders, believe me.

Check out the #BAD 11 tag

[6] "Ordnance Survey offers free data access". BBC News. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2009.

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