Updated: Nov 14, 2022
It is a known fact that the world produces more food than we need, yet almost half of the food is thrown away, causing methane gas in landfills while one-third of us don't have enough to eat. This is killing our planet, killing our people, absolutely maddening and frustrating. Why is this happening and what should we do about it?
This is the challenge the students are trying to answer in the Zero Hunger Zero Waste Online Forum. The kick-off sessions over the weekend started with us taking a peek at MIT's FoodCam, hearing ideas from consumer psychologists and business solutions from CSR entrepreneurs. We then asked questions to our guest speaker, Mr. Zack Abdi, a specialist in circular economy, who promotes the methods of turning food scrap into water and fertilizer.
To understand the issue from a global perspective, each team is assigned a country different from their own to represent, and each team consists of students from 4-5 countries. You can imagine the richness of perspectives and approaches! However, before they can start brainstorming solutions, the students must figure out how to work with each other, from logistics challenges to cultural and language barriers, not to mention verifying their findings and negotiating their differences.
This week, the students will investigate the landscape of their assigned country: what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their assigned country when it comes to hunger and waste? One student found out that the majority of the food loss takes place during the harvesting and processing stage in developing countries, while developed countries generate most of the waste in the world during the consumption stage (Maggie Tao). Another student found out that large-scale hunger such as famines is often the result of irresponsible human behavior (Jana Makki). Having the political will to do the right thing is not as easy as it seems - will our inquiry make a difference? Here is a reflection from one of the participants, Tristan Lu:
"... we must be careful not to make realism equate to apathy. Those who cower at the sheer scale of a problem, who lament our inability to cross a hurdle, who speak only of tragedies and never solutions or accomplishments, contribute nothing to finding an actual solution...This is why I joined this forum. What is most likely to happen is that our final project will be forgotten in a few years' time, dismissed as naive ideas. But it is also possible that our work can help one person, two people, a hundred, a thousand, even a million. Is change not what Malala achieved, when she fought for women's rights at the tender age of 15? And what of Greta Thunberg, who began school strikes for our climate in 2018? The chance to do what they did makes everything worth it. And even if I end up making no significant contribution, I can take comfort in the fact that I tried."
Please keep us on your radar screen and cheer for the students who are willing to take the time to move the dial. Join us for the next challenge!