Wednesday, March 13, 2013

EARTH: Population vs Food vs Health

Today, I will be talking about the facts that we, human race, are facing without actually realizing what is happening on this earth. This post that I am writing today is inspired from a Documentary Movie I watched last night, called Food, Inc which is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

We often go to the supermarket seeing the frozen food which is available and somehow in the back of our mind, we know it is not exactly what we want because at least Generation X and Generation Y, like myself, have grown with the notion that food materials are supposed to be fresh from the market. I personally grew up with the notion that fish, meat, and poultry products are still fresh in the traditional market. I grew up with the notion that tomatoes are not always in uniform shape and color. I grew up in the notion that spinach did not look like plastic leaves without one single hole created by the caterpillar or whatever the bugs that might eat that spinach in the farm. Can you imagine how the food revolution could be seen so clearly and distinctly by the Baby Boomers like our parents or our grandparents?

Why is this happening? The only answer is “the speedy growth of human population who needs to be fed”. It has been predicted since centuries ago that the doomsday would actually come due to famine instead of catastrophe. One of the people who has proposed this idea was Thomas Robert Malthus (I still remember his name from a class during my Junior High School study long way ago) who said that while population grows exponentially, food grows linearly which would cause the insufficient food to feed the people which eventually would ended up in massive famine.

BUT there was another breakthrough by Gordon Moore who has created a possibility of having more number of transistors in a chip while at the same time minimizing the size of the chip for the computer which eventually increase the speed of computer system (I am trying to put it in a simple way). It's then called Moore's Law. This same law has been applied in agriculture where the exponential growth of population could be balanced with the same exponential growth of food. And this is what I believe has become the root of Food Industrialization, GMO (Genetically Modified Food) in order to keep the sustainability of Food Security to the human race.

The concern of extreme poverty and no access to food at all have been great concerns over the time. Even there was a movie in the year 1973 titled Soylent Green (I haven’t watched this movie, but I have read the review) which was based on the novel titled “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison, which depicts human race whose culture had to turn into cannibalism by 2022 due to lack of food BUT it is an amazement that in reality, the growth of human population has decreased over the years. It is estimated that the current growth of population is 1.1% which has decreased substantially from 2.19% in 1963. Why? There is no precise reason to explain this phenomena but in my opinion, it might happen due to the increased rate of death which compensate the growth, it might happen because most human has self-realization that having many children is not an option on this compact world which makes them restrain from reproducing. Whatever the reasons, the growth is decreasing and it is a good thing.

Even though the population growth is decreasing, it is still indeed “growing”, which means world is going to be denser as the days go by. The gap of the well-fed people and the extreme poverty has become too wide.

Now, I shall come to the common phenomenon which is happening in our surrounding. I am not a Nutritionist and that means I cannot give detailed elaboration on this issue. But from the way I was raised food-wise, there are certain things that I could share.

We are living in the world with super-speed pace. We are moving as fast as we could. We work from morning until evening with a short period of lunch and we have to chase certain deadlines and for that we have to eat fast as well. We have to eat fast but at the same time it has to make us feel satisfied and hence we have the tendency to consume food that contains more fat, more sugar, and more salt. Eating a bowl of fresh green salad will not help us survive until the evening. It would require us to keep eating again after sometime and that is not efficient for us as we have to work. We are too tired when we reach home in the late evenings to cook complicated food and we end up cooking processed food.

This kind of life style has actually led us to a lot of troubles and illness. We can’t blame it. We can’t blame the system because that is how it works and we have to adjust ourselves. But to what extent should the adjustment be done?

I grew up in a family whose food-concern is high, especially my mother. In her tight schedule of taking care of the household issues and her own job, I never find her giving up and compromise in food matters. She has always said one thing when it comes to food “Once it goes in, it will stick inside your body for good so if you love your body, then make sure you chew and swallow the food that your body would feel happy about”. I am a bit stubborn at times. I love food which content high level of sugar, salt, and preservatives, but thank God, I have a mother who keeps nagging at me which eventually made me realize that my eating pattern would determine what kind of body and what kind of health I would have in the next 20 or 30 years which would lead to the kind of life that I would have and that has led me to eat healthy as well. Risking my long-term health for short-period of tongue-bliss does not sound that catchy to us.

And for that, my mother is always trying her maximum to cook the food that we eat. She would cook food which is rich in vegetables (and the vegetables would be washed in salt water in order to minimize the pesticide level) balanced with protein intake such as fresh meat, fish, poultry product, beans, nuts. Rather than giving me factory-made juice, she would prepare natural fruit juice which would be varied from juice, smoothies, or simply fruit milk-shake. Does it mean that we would starve ourselves when we don't have access to kitchen and cook our own food? NO. We are flexible enough in that. Does it mean that we don’t enjoy the delicacy of food outside our home? NOT at all, we do enjoy, especially when we travel. When we travel to new place, we would be like unleashed dragons going for food-adventure, especially me. I always enjoy dining-out, but the frequency is very low in our family. When all members are gathering, we would cook our own chicken pie, we cook our own pizza, our own burgers and sandwiches, our own French fries, our own chips, our own cakes, our own cookies. It has been more like a tradition that we eat the food that we cook. It makes us feel more comfortable because we know at least what we put in the food.

Some of my friends know this pattern at our home and they would ask “You eat home cooked meal but still you are as thin as ply-wood. How come?” Well, eating home-made food doesn’t have to make me buxom though. It makes me feel good about my own body, isn’t that enough? It’s not that I lack nutrition.

Of course it is IMPOSSIBLE to make sure that all the things you eat are actually welcomed by your body. It is impossible to trace back every single ingredient in our kitchens that we are using in daily basis. We would go crazy if we do that but at least we could try our best to give our bodies the best they could take, right? There is no harm in trying. Having to face the worst without trying and having to face the worst after trying has a lot of difference and I opt to try my best to take care of my health so that if one day I have to face certain disease (which I definitely do not want), I could accept it better without regret because I know that I have given my best and that whatever comes beyond my control is the willing of God.

Food for Thought

What should we do to improve our health? Should we stop eating processed food? Should we stop reproducing so that we have sufficient source from Mother Nature to provide us with natural food (this option sounds ridiculous as stop reproducing means fighting against the Law of Nature)? Should we build a garden in our backyard to provide good quality vegetables (how about the people living in apartments who don’t have access to garden)? Should we workout in the gym 2 hours a day? Should we cook the food we eat or just simply buy it? With mom and dad working from 8am to 8pm, what kind of food would you provide to your children? With the myriad choices of food items in the supermarket, which should we choose to feed our bodies and our children’s bodies? Can we guarantee the Food Security for our next generation? What should we do?

Certain articles which have been the source of my today's post are as follows:
World Population Watch (this website scares me actually, from the beginning writing this post until the end which took almost 1 hour, the predicted population has increased by almost 100,000)

Source: Antimicrobial Resistance Learning Site

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