Is population control overrated?

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In my very first blog post, ‘Major Challenges to Sustainability‘, puts the population on the top of the list. In such a case, if all of us stopped consuming like we do, will we still run out of resources? Will we have alleviated poverty and famine? Will we have eliminated all other issues just by tackling this one? Is population, the most significant challenge in the world?

I’m pinning two works of thoughts that go against the grain to try to answer these questions. First is from a review of a book called Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation by Amartya Sen and second is from a book It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook.

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This is a JSTOR article. You can read 6 articles for free for every 30 day period when you sign up.
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Visit your nearest library to read thought-provoking books.

Are we running out of resources? We have a lot of resources, but we are not managing them well. Are we running out of time? When it comes to climate change, yes we are. Climate change could cause a lack of access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Above all, is population control the panacea? I don’t think so. If we could only manage our time and resources well, we could do a lot better. Just think about how much time and resources we waste and how much we could save by working together – through efficient management and knowledge transfer.

What are your thoughts?

Is exposure to chemicals making you gain weight?

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Jarmoluk

Since we were kids, we have been told to eat certain foods even if we’ve found them kind of icky. This is because it’s good for us. Out of fear, we’ve gulped it down, hid it, avoided it, cried over it. As we’ve grown older, some of those things have grown on us. Some, let’s just say – we never got over. We’ve always had a love and hate relationship with our food. Most importantly, we’ve grown to understand the effects of the food we eat on us.

There may be certain kinds of food that might affect you in a way that you don’t want them to – for example, rice. People who are conscious about weight gain tend to avoid rice. But, have you ever wondered, why after all the trials and tribulations, you can’t win over weight gain. It can be because of your genetic makeup or your physical activities. There might be something else lurking around you that you may be missing, that nobody is really telling you or talking about, not even the doctor. It is so because we’ve not yet fully understood the adverse effect of all the chemicals on human health.

With changing times and lifestyles, what we eat and the way we eat it has changed. Even healthy food comes sprayed with pesticides and packaged in plastic that if you heat in a microwave or run through a dishwasher with hot water, can leach out chemicals into the meal. If you are wondering if there is any evidence that microwaving food alters its composition or has any detrimental effects on humans or animals. No, there is not, but yes it does if you heat it in plastic containers – clear, styrofoam, any kind of plastic for that matter.

A recent study links fluorinated chemicals to more weight gain and slower metabolism in people dieting. Weight gain is only one of the many health problems that certain chemicals are causing – other issues include cancer and hormone disruption. Another research links obesity to cancer, the point being weight gain can trigger other health issues, which is why people hold obesity so dearly in their daily worries., besides the stigma of looking fat.

It can be hard for a layman to really keep up with this kind of information. Fortunately, there are non-governmental organisations out there who look into it, who keep things in check, although there are governmental entities that do it too. You can follow both – governmental as well as the non-governmental organisations, to keep yourself abreast of findings and reports.

Examples of non-governmental organisations:

Examples of governmental organisations:

Want to start protecting yourself? Don’t want to wait until you read those reports? Let’s not freak out. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stop microwaving food in plastic containers
  2. Stop storing warm or hot food in plastic containers
  3. Do not drink out of plastic bottles that have been baking in the sun

Alternatives:

  • Microwave safe ceramic containers and silverware
  • Microwave-safe glass containers and silverware
  • Steel containers for non-microwave heating

Easy-peasy? If yes, you can take it up a notch and grow your own food – start with herbs or spring onions. There are also things other than food that can introduce toxic chemicals into your body, but we will stop this blog post with food. Until next time!

Why waste food when you can feast on it buffet style

This blog is not a food blog, but I occasionally write about healthy eating and food waste as a part of my green living adventure. Today’s blog post is about how my husband and I feasted on leftovers – buffet style. 😎

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Leftover food buffet style

I tend to be creative with limited options. I like false scarcity in that sense. When I had a chance to do something with the leftovers today, not just cooked leftovers but leftover vegetables too, I ended up creating a buffet style menu for lunch and dinner.

I not only saved food from going to waste but also relished some memories. Sauteed cauliflower is my mom’s invention. Cauliflower butter masala pasta over rice is mine, although I built it upon an existing cauliflower butter masala recipe taken from somewhere else.  I tried Parsi omelette for the first time today, and it tasted delicious!

For those of you interested in the recipes:

  • Parsi omlette
  • Chole and pattice (aka tikki) from here
  • Gobi (cauliflower) butter masala
  • Sambhar, you’ll find plenty of variations  and videos of this item
  • Cabbage pattice: Mix different kinds of flours + onion + cabbage + turmeric + coriander powder + cumin powder + salt + red chilli powder. Shallow fried.
  • Moong sprouts salad: Moong sprouts + onion + tomato + salt
  • Sauteed cauliflower: Butter + mustard seeds + red chilli powder + cauliflower

What do you do with your leftovers?

Grandpa kitchen

Do you like to cook? Ethnic or fusion? As a job or at home? For yourself or others or both? Spicy or mild? Takeout or home-made tiffin? Beginner or an expert? Do you need motivation or guidance? Do you sell or distribute food? Are you into healthy cooking? Do you recognize food as an environment issue? Do you turn food waste to compost? Is it a human rights issue? Do you donate food? Are you grateful for the food you eat, for the hands who make it? There’s so much one can do around food. This blog post introduces a personality who not just cooks but also donates the food he cooks to charity. Introducing Grandpa Kitchen.

Grandpa Kitchen is a YouTube channel whose goal is to provide basic needful things such as cloths, books, school fees, birthday celebrations, and food to orphan children. Grandpa’s real name is Narayana Reddy. The channel is operated by his son Shrikant Reddy. They are now able to feed children two days a week and may be able to do more with everyone’s support. On similar lines in another Youtube Channel called Village Food Factory, that went viral last year.

To watch him cook food, out in the open air, among the trees, is such a delight. Reminds me of the times when as a kid I relished open air wood fire roasted burnt potatoes. Last year when I visited Sangli, a place in Maharashtra, India, I enjoyed roasted corn, on the road, lined by fields of sugarcane. Eating outdoors has its own charm. When was the last time you had such an experience, or rather created one?

International Year of Pulses 2016

Food security is a huge concern worldwide. By 2050 it is estimated that global food production would need to increase by 60% in order to feed the entire world. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses are a kind of grains. Terminologies can be confusing sometimes. Especially when you say grains, pulses, cereals, oilseeds, legumes and beans in a single sentence like this. I’ve made the following infographic to better understand these terminologies.

GRAINS

Events such as the IYP 2016 raise awareness among the people. What’s special about pulses is that compared to other crops, pulses already have a low food wastage footprint (as shown in the chart below), requires less water as compared to other sources of protein, requires minimal processing and no refrigeration. However, in spite of this, we still consume stuff that requires the a lot of water, consumes a lot of energy and gets wasted a lot. Hence, this year IYP 2016 intends to raise awareness for more consumption and production of pulses.

Figure 1. Total agricultural production (FBS) vs. food wastage volumes & food wastage volumes for edible part only.

A friend, Sumit Tated, alumnus of Institute of Chemical Technology Mumbai, runs SoFood Private Limited. SoFood is a start-up which aims to work with farmers to provide sustainable solutions to India’s agricultural & food industry. Their Solar Conduction Dryers dehydrate fruits & vegetables thereby imparting longer shelf life and ease of consumability. One such innovative product from the team is “Ready to Cook” Sprouts (shown below). Unlike conventional sprouts which undergo a tedious process of production, these sprouts rehydrate in just 20 minutes in lukewarm water making it ready to eat or cook. This product offers a purely natural and healthy solution to those seeking convenient eating options in stores with a shelf life of 6 months. In the coming week, I’ll be interviewing Sumit to know more about this, so stay tuned!

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What’s your favorite recipe with pulses? Mine is Misal Pav, a popular dish from where I come from.

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Misal Pav

Further Reading:

Grain

Green pickle of agriculture

Amidst climate change, oil crisis and the rest, I’ve been recently reading a lot on food and agriculture. Or may be it is just the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon wherein I’m unusually affected by issues in the agricultural sector and everybody else is talking about it too. Take it from the conferences that are held by Planet Forward. I’m going to talk about this conference a bit later in this post. I’m not going to mention the fuel vs food debate here but some of the issues which really caught my attention and they are:

Nitrogen dilemma:

Nitrifying soil bacteria  convert ammonium in the fertilizer to nitrate. This washes away to cause algal blooms. May be we need agricultural techniques that not only view the agricultural woes on a global scale but also locally. ‘Fertilizer trees’ Faidherbia albida, reintroduce nitrogen to the soil, have been shown to quadruple African maize yields in soils with no artificial fertilizer added.

Phosphorus crisis:

From my share of experiences, nitrogen has gained most of the attention, in a good or a bad way. This most definitely has changed for me when I watched a TED talk by Mohamed Hijri who explains how we are running out of phosphorus reserves, that our modern agriculture is thriving upon and offers a simple solution that includes phosphorus fixing mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms, not bacteria unlike the ones we’ve heard that fix nitrogen.

Water pollution in North India due to agriculture:

It’s saddening to see so many people sick and dying of water pollution from agricultural effluents that take the largest share of the wastewater effluents discharged into the Indus river, a whooping 90 percent. The Green revolution is not green anymore. A personal experience exemplifies the ignorance of common people who are not so affected by the contamination. While interacting with a gardening expert in a village, I learnt a few tips for gardening from him. While my dad contemplated on including him in it, I requested the expert to not use any pesticides or insecticides. As I expected, I wasn’t taken seriously. Luckily, we still haven’t started with our garden and I intend to keep it pesticide-free or incorporate natural alternatives like the one used in The Coop Forest. “Use of matka ghat, a very efficient bio-pesticide made from buttermilk and crushed neem, pongamia, and clatoporis leaves replaces chemical toxic pesticides and the cost is less than Rs. 30 rupees a litre,” says Piyush Manush of The Coop Forest in India.

Overdrafting:

Overdrafting is the excessive use of groundwater. Subsidence is caused due to overdrafting. It is when the floor beneath us can’t bear the weight on its surface. Due to removal of the water that makes the ground stable, it collapses and whatever is on it does as well. Subsidence may be avoided with careful mining, but that doesn’t free us from other consequences described in my blog, ‘Water mining and its consequences‘.

Greenhouse gas emissions:

One-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. How do we reduce the agricultural eco-footprint? Are GMO crops a solution? Arcadia Biosciences, based in Davis, California, has taken a gene for an enzyme called alanine amino­transferase from barley and incorporated it into other crops to encourage them to absorb nitrogen before microbes do. Even if it looks like a solution, scientists are worried about biodiversity. If such monocultures are planted on a large scale, an unexpected attack on these can vanish them in a jiffy. Take bananas for example. Nature reports, “A variant of a fungus that rots and kills the main variety of export banana has been found in plantations in Mozambique and Jordan, raising fears that it could spread to major producers and decimate supplies.” It has already affected the 2nd largest producer.

Did you know India is the 1st largest producer of bananas?

People at Peru can exactly tell you why diversity is important and what people can do about it. International Potato Centre in Lima, Peru is all up for saving potatoes, yes, you heard it. Its gene bank has 7,000 potato samples intact. More on this in my blog – ‘GM foods: What’s all the fuss about?

Organic farming:

From a LinkedIn discussion on the blog post on GM foods, I noticed that organic farming, although labor intensive has received greater acceptance than transgenic crops. The very point of it being labor intensive can cure the unemployment woes.

Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control.

Planet  Forward:

Planet Forward is where experts and engaged citizens come together to find solutions to our shared challenges, specifically in the areas of energy, climate and sustainability. Follow this hashtag for more updates: #foodFWD

Further reading:

Indian agriculture: Issues and Reforms

The Eco-Footprint of Agriculture:A Far-from-(Thermodynamic)-Equilibrium Interpretation