Youth and food security – The Manila Times

This is dedicated to the Filipino youth as we celebrate International Youth Day on August 12, 2021.
AFTER centuries of finding ways to make use of the Earth's resources, we have not realized that we also made the planet a place to die of hunger because of unsustainable practices and the mindset is that we can use and abuse these resources all we want.
Many of life's comforts happen at the expense of sustainability. We live in a world with finite resources and yet generations have lived like there is no tomorrow. Despite the preponderance of laws, we continue to witness unabated environmental decline. People need to understand that there is a price to comfort, safety and convenience.
The world has made significant progress in improving agricultural productivity yet food systems are still out of balance. Hunger, obesity, environmental degradation and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance.
Food security
The theme of this year's celebration – “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” – is crucial as we grapple with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and food security challenges. How can we push for sustainable consumption and production during and beyond the pandemic, which will entail a lot of remodeling and redesigning of food systems as millions of fellow Filipinos go hungry?
Although Covid-19 has drastically disrupted our systems and the economy, access to safe and nutritious food should continue to be an essential part of the pandemic response, particularly for poor and vulnerable communities that have been hit the hardest. We must improve food systems by adopting innovative solutions based on scientific evidence to build back better and make things more resistant to shocks.
It is also important to recognize the need to support the farmers and workers who are making sure that food makes its way to tables. We need to have solidarity to help all populations recover and to make food systems more resilient and robust so these can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets, and decent worker livelihoods.
Urban agriculture is a good local strategy to address food production and food security issues. It is an alternative that can help manage and stabilize prices as it can ensure sustainability with minimal costs. It helps low-income urban dwellers grow their own crops and save on food purchases, and is a less costly solution to prevent the food crisis from worsening.
Urban agriculture can also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases and climate change mitigation. It is also a solution endorsed by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
Today, many have discovered the joy and the value of growing plants and vegetables at home. Having been locked down for months, more and more people, especially the youth, have a newfound appreciation for planting their own food, maintaining gardens and greening urban spaces.
People have been made to understand the importance of sustainable food production in ensuring that the environment and human health progress. This will help the country to transform for the better and foster a more livable, healthier and sustainable society. While programs and laws are important, our individual commitment and uncompromising attitude to promote the broader good ultimately define the outcomes of our advocacy.
Aside from food production, we need to tackle sustainable food consumption. Food is both a victim and a cause of the climate crisis, ecological collapse and other global dangers. Food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tons of primary product equivalents globally. Filipinos waste about 308,000 tons of rice every year and in Metro Manila alone, an estimated 2,175 tons of food scraps end up in the trash daily, much of which comes from restaurants. Food wastage's carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere annually.
We need to acknowledge the opportunity to rethink our approach to development. We need to correct the hyper-consumerist mindset that is killing the planet. There is a need to recognize, rediscover and continue the practice of sustainability.
We may not be fully aware that our food consumption is related to energy use. When food has to travel great distances before it reaches the table, more energy for transportation and preservation is used, leading to greater carbon emissions. Low-carbon living means patronizing local, plant-based and in-season foods. As individuals, we can purchase fresh food from farmers and supplies from local markets.
Globally, an estimated 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption. Eating lower down the food chain can reduce this. Likewise, communities can try to be self-sufficient by producing food and organic fertilizers as well as promote home-based food industries. Many of us may not realize that the kind of food we eat matters when it comes to CO2 emissions.
We know how hard it is to convince people to protect the environment. People act when there is threat and fear but that is not how we should live. People need to be inspired and feel part of a shared cause. It will not be hard to live sustainably if we think that whatever actions we take today will affect not only the children of the next century but our very own children and grandchildren. Even if we give them all the money in the world, they will not survive in a polluted and degraded Earth.
When we talk about sustainable consumption and production, we need to talk about resilience. We need to discuss how we can make food systems inclusive and resilient, not just from the threats brought by the pandemic but also from the dangers of climate change. And as citizens and leaders in communities and organizations, the youth should start embracing the principles of food sustainability and climate resilience on a personal, household or community level.
We should be more mindful of our carbon footprint as our decisions and actions have a corresponding impact on the environment and society. Everyone has a role to play, including the youth, from increasing demand for nutritious food to not letting sustainable habits fall by the wayside. Do not think that little contributions will not go a long way. This is precisely the very same mindset that has enabled a culture of waste.
The youth, constituting the majority of populations in many countries and having increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, should have the power to transform societies toward a low-carbon and sustainable future.
The author is executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a nonresident Fellow of Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University. You can email him at [email protected]


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