Recovered Harvests

by Juan L. Mercado

Wasting  food  is “stealing from  tables of the poor”,” Pope Francis told a UN  World Environment Day audience.. “A culture of waste is despicable when many suffer from hunger”.

Care for the environment and reduce waste, he urged. “Consumerism”  dulls  us  to economic excess.  A 10-point drop in stocks is “a tragedy. But  homeless people is not news”. Francis recalled: ”Our grandparents were very careful not to throw away leftover food.”

“You can play after  you finish everything on your plate”. That edict, from parents long gone, still resounds in our ears. “Other children have nothing to eat,” they drilled  into us four kids. We’re  grandparents now. And we cheer whenever Kristin, 9, and Katarina set  rice-cum-sardine packs for slum kids.

Over 3.9 million Filipinos went hungry, the March Social Weather Stations survey found.  Worldwide, one  in seven  doesn’t  get enough to eat, although the world  can  feed all. “There are people so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread”, Mahatma Ghandi wrote.

Ironically a  third of harvests is squandered. That’s a staggering 1.3 billion tons. Each American  scraps  400 pounds of food in a year — “the weight of a young male gorilla”, Wall Street Journal reports. Consumers in rich countries junk  as much food as sub-Saharan Africa  produces.

Yearly, the  Philippines  loses a million metric tons of already-harvested rice, from slipshod processing to shabby storage, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala estimates. Cabbage spoilage exceeds a third of the harvest, UP at Los Banos studies found. Fish, losses crest at 40 percent.

A world of abundant food, cushioned by surplus stocks, large reserves of  forests, fishery grounds and cropland, is  history. We razed forests, eroded  vital top soil, and decimated wildlife. Our profligacy  handcuffed our grandchildren to a world where scarcities could be permanent.

Recovering what is frittered away crucial. Five thousand ate and were filled from five loaves and two fish, shared by a young boy, then multiplied by the Galilean. ”Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost”, the Master told his disciples. And they “filled twelve baskets.”*

Even in a good year, we just about produce enough food to meet consumption needs ““We will need to produce 70 percent more food, by 2050, to feed the world’s expanding population.” Worldwatch Institute projects.

We must decisively curb onslaughts against systems that nurture life. Today’s fishkill  replays the ravaging of critical top soil. Erosion blights over 52 percent of our croplands. We need to recover post-harvest losses. “Ang hindi mapagtapon, ay hindi mangangailangan, “ He who saves will not want.”

Many local governments could support projects, ranging from cereal  drying sheds to fish processing.   Instead, many blow their Local Development Fund in pork barrel frills.   Innovative post-harvest systems  can put food on our tables.

Population here declined far slower than in other countries. Come 2020, population will surge to 111.7 million.  Every one, however, is entitled to adequate food. “To the hungry child, you can not say tomorrow. His name is today.”  Sea levels meanwhile are rising from warming. Artic ice sheets. Altered climate regimes will bug our world.

Pope  Francis  plea for more efforts to curb waste is welcome. He excels at the symbolism  that spurs action, New York Times notes. He lives in a two-room apartment, dresses in simple white and speaks in direct, colloquial language. “His symbolism has begun seeping into substance. He seeks a simpler church, more closely identified with the poor.”

“I left the flock decades ago” writes Jack Persico of Guardian. ”But this  Pope Francis has been impressive from the start.  He even had a kind word for atheists, calling us allies to “defend the dignity of man”, fellow seekers of truth, goodness and beauty. Amen.

“If Francis continues to lead by example, not by fiat, he can show Catholics, Christians and non-believers alike that faith can deserve respect and even make a difference. If not, he’ll blow his chance to speak with such conviction that even heathen might hear him. And that would truly be a sin.”

Francis seeks to be shepherd, instead of overlord. That  caused  left and right set aside old arguments for now.  “The result is an outbreak of patience and generosity of spirit. This guy seems trying to be like the image of  Christ,.” says Stephen Schneck of Catholic University.

“Whatever your view of Christianity, the example of Jesus remains one of history’s most surprising constants”: writes . Michael Gerson in the  Washington Post . He never wrote a  book. Instead,  spent three years teaching in an obscure corner of a vanished empire. “

(Yet, he)  still stirs the deepest longings of the human heart. When we see his image even partially reflected in another human being, it appeals beyond every political division…and. true authority returns”.


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