It’s blessed to give, but safe to waste.
Published 30th September 2009 - 3 comments - 1702 views -
In his office, Michael is king and media are the bad guys. Obviousy, he didn't regard me as media, in spite of my best efforts... Outside, when I asked his customers, the sound was different. Scandalous, was the most common opinion, when I asked how they felt about supermarkets throwing edible food. In a world where people starve we should send the food to those who need it in some third world country - this seemed to be the standard response. The Swedes might feel bad about throwing food away, they seemed to feel just as bad about getting it themselves for free... There are Swedes that need food, though, whether we like it or not.
Sweden does have homeless people, even in a small and rich town like Lund, where I live. Why not give the food to them? In deed, this is a solution to the waste problem that has been proposed both on this blog and elsewhere.
I can't do that, said Michael. If I give away food to homeless people, and one single of them gets sick, can you imagine what it would lok like in media?
Yes, I can imagine what it would look like. A greedy capitalist who poisons homeless people with old food. I can imagine what i would write myself on my blog if the story came to me on the radio... Media has a great responsibility, and in the internet age we are all media in some way, broadcasting quick opinions on our Facebook statuses. But the bigger the media outlet, the bigger the responsibility, of course.
Our media is excellent in covering crimes, wars and revolutions. It's like when I studied history - our teacher told us to write our paper about a strike, because it is easy. It has a beginning, an end, and usually a sensmorale. But this... when did this enourmous waste industry start? Don't know... When will it end? Don't know... Who is guilty? All of us. Who is the hero in the story? Eh... don't know. All of us?
Environmental issues are not really fit for newspaper journalism. To think about them requires time. To live the solution requires an endless patience, changing the world step by step. An maybe the supermarket is exactly the place where those steps can be taken? Because it is exactly there that we throw away costly resources, but also there we cans top throwing them away.
Michael didn't dare to give away the food to homeless, and the strict rules for food safety actually tries to prevent that from happening. Who knows what happens with the food later? The authorities are afraid to creat a second hand market for food, which is obviously pretty bad. Like the 27 years old meat that was served in Polish restaurants... It was treated in someway to be good for 10 years (!), but after that it was not be sold within the EU. But well outside.
In fact I have witnessed myself a vivid second hand market for Swedish and EU food. Just go into a super market in the Republic of Moldova. In the shelves you will find plenty of food aimed at Swedish, German and other west European markets. How it got there I dont know. But there is something utterly immoral in considering the food that is too old for Swedish, or Poles since 2004, fit for Moldovans to eat.
I was afraid that this thing about sending the food to Africa was something people said because they were expected to do so in front of a camera (I did bring my Flip, of course). So I went to the homeless guy selling Aluma, an NGO magazine outside, to see what he thought about it. He agreed that it is a scandal to throw away food, but did not want it for himself. In stead we discussed about the possibility of sending food by airplane to Somalia. Very humane, but not so climate friendly... He was an intelligent man and I profoundly appreciated our chat, that ended in deep pessimism. All of the problems in the world today - poverty, wars, ecological issues, have been discussed for the last 40 years. And what has actually happened?
It is a weird world. Consumer society is rapidly consuming the resources we need tomorrow. Fresh food gets thrown away but old meat is sold abroad... is there any way out of this? Actually Michael had a couple of ideas, and so do I. I will take a short break, and discuss this in the weekend. So get prepared to post your own solutions to the waste problem as comments then.
About the author
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- Burning our future part 2 - interview with doctor Stefano Montanari
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- Burning our future - part 1
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- Do we really care about our planet? Think twice before answering.
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