The Water Scarcity Problem That’s Destroying Countries

The Water Scarcity Problem That’s Destroying Countries

Clean water. It’s something almost all of us take for granted. We turn on the tap, fill our cup, let some spill over, and then guzzle it down. It’s a privilege we fail to recognize.

There is a colossal water scarcity problem in the world. Millions of people struggle to find enough clean water to survive.

In order to move toward a solution, we need to first understand the problem. In this post, we’re going to help you understand the how, what, and why of the water scarcity problem.

The Staggering Lack Of Clean Water In The World

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Over 884 million people worldwide live without clean water.

In order to better comprehend that staggering number, that’s the equivalent of:

  • 1 in every 10 people on the planet’s surface.
  • Twice the population of the United States.
  • The whole of Europe.

And as the years fly by and overpopulation becomes an increasingly difficult problem to solve, that number continues trending upward, inflating and growing, but never going down.

Water scarcity is a harsh reality.

By the year 2018, some 1.1 billion people worldwide will lack access to any sort of water, and a total of 2.7 billion will find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

Out of those figures, 2.4 billion will have inadequate water sources and have to deal with a series of life threatening diseases. A vast majority of the world population will regularly experience outbreaks of typhoid, cholera, malaria, zika, and dozens of other water borne illnesses and parasites.

In the year 2014, two million people died from diarrheal viruses and the ensuing complications. Out of those numbers, 43 percent were pre-adolescent children, most under the age of five.

Access to basic sanitation and clean affordable water, can save over 17 thousands folks a week.

The majority of people afflicted by this problem live in desolate, isolated, poor regions. These are often rural places that in often find themselves embroiled in some sort of political challenges.

In many cases, water, not oil, is the most precious commodity for these disenfranchised citizens, with warlords and local mafias using the resource as a means of power and political pressure.

Access to clean water is of paramount importance for those without it. There are millions of people risking their lives and spending hours just for a clean gallon of water. Children go without any education, their sole responsibility trodding dozens of miles a day and fetching water.

In essence, a community without a viable source of clean water is destined for extinction. Clean water means economic growth, education, better income and healthy neighborhoods.

And the outlook isn’t any better:

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Although the surface of our planet is covered mainly by water, over 73 percent to be exact, only 3 percent of it is considered drinkable. And, to complicate matters, only ⅓ of that scant number is accessible to humans (the rest is tucked away in glaciers, and remote regions). Finding fresh water sources is an incredibly rare thing.

Overpopulation and consumption has put a strain on an already depleted ecosystem. Many water systems, like lakes, rivers and aquifers are drying up an alarming rate or, due to our meddling, becoming far too polluted to use.

Agriculture, above all other practices, consumes enormous amounts of water, more than any other industry. These precious resources are consumed in an ineffective manner.

Additionally, in impoverished regions, such as Africa (where thousands die from a result of having zero access to clean water) or in Pakistan (where the shortage has claimed ⅓ of its population), a different set of problems assaults the region: economic water scarcity.

In most of these districts, water treatment plants and “soluble” wells and aquifers are nothing more than open holes in dry river beds. In Tanzania, this last practice led to devastating epidemic that slashed their population by 75% in the late 2013.

What Is Economic Water Scarcity?

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In order to understand the water crisis, we need to understand the concept of economic water scarcity.

Economic water scarcity is a term that begun having a wide range appeal in mid-2007. It was defined, after a rather long and investigative essay, as a condition caused by the lack of investment in water infrastructure.

The concept first came into play after researchers and policymakers, overseen by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, conducted a 50 year study to determine the viability of sustaining life on Earth with the growing population problem. Their findings were less than hopeful.

One on the prime symptoms of economic water scarcity is a region’s capacity, both technological as well as human, to satisfy the area’s demand for drinkable water. It is a critical and typical manifestation of underdeveloped countries.

The main aspects of economic water scarcity are:

  • A lack of infrastructure with poor sanitation policies. The population has no other choice but to rely on rivers and lakes for their hydration.
  • Much of the water is used for agriculture and domestic chores. Evidence suggests that in many cases the water is “recycled” for different uses. Bathing, laundry, livestock, cleaning and cooking water not only comes from the same source but is oftentimes reused from one chore to another.
  • Large parts of the world, particularly in Africa, suffer from economic water scarcity. Developing the right infrastructure would lower the poverty line.
  • Terrorist groups and local warlords use their own wealth and resources to create the needed infrastructure, the major caveat being that they control the pipeline and in turn use it for their own goals – mainly recruitment.
  • Developing infrastructure in these areas not only requires funding but a complete overhaul of socio-political doctrines.

Consequences of water scarcity:

  • Using unclean water, in many areas, leads to an upswell of different disease, some of which are fatal.
  • In Africa, women spend half of their day walking and hauling up water from a clear source. The same goes for sections of India and Latin America. It is estimated that in the remotest parts of Africa, the female population spends a combined total of 40 billion hours a year walking to and from a well.
  • Communities don’t have the time to grow. Most families waste a great deal of their productive hours dealing with the problems that arise from water scarcity. Access to clean water gives families time to go to school and earn an adequate income, helping them fight off poverty.
  • It takes an enormous amount of water to grow crops, maintain livestock and ultimately feed a nation. Less water means a rise in endemic and localized famine.
  • Less water means less sewage flow and more stagnant water. These pools, particularly in tropical and subtropical environments, often become fast breeding ground for insects and parasites. One of the most far reaching and prevalent insects is the mosquito, a known carrier of West Nile Virus, malaria, zika and other infections.
  • Economies that, due to their natural landscapes could easily increase their gross income and national wealth through a busy tourist trade, have had no other choice but to closethis venue of revenue. Hotels, restaurants, shopping stores and other attractions no longer are able to maintain an adequate level of sanitation for visitors.

Countries with a high degree of water scarcity:

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All countries suffer from water scarcity in one way or another.

For example, the United States, a nation that takes for granted the gift that is drinkable tap water, is in the midst of a major water crisis. The Western States, among them California, are having to cut back on water delivery to certain areas. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region’s water supplier, will deliver 15% less water to cities in the greater Los Angeles area starting in July 2018.

Nonetheless, the US and other first world nations have the advantage of a growing and confident economy, one that can acclimate itself to any sort of natural woe by investing heavily in infrastructure.

Others are not so lucky. 3 countries standing on the brink of complete water related collapse are:

  • Yemen: According to UPI, Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is expected to be the first major city in the world to experience full water scarcity, a direct result of the many turmoils and local military brews of the area.
  • Libya: Another war torn country that’s facing a full sanitary cataclysm, the constant regime changes and wild political upheavals are taxing the nation’s capacity to create a viable water policy.
  • Jordan: The country of Jordan finds itself in one of the driest geographical latitudes in the planet. Its only source of water is the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Transforming saltwater to fresh is a financial hurdle that’s hurting their weak economy.

Conclusion

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The United Nations considers water scarcity to be one of the most detrimental and crippling crisis attacking struggling economies and communities.

The Millennium Development Goals (8 fundamental objectives established by a committee of different nations within the United Nation) established the necessity of making water scarcity a key problem to eradicate. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, following the Millennium Summit, aimed by 2015 to “halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.”

While we may not have solved the problem of water scarcity, we’re certainly making an effort to minimize the problem in as many ways as possible.

Audrey Hepburn said, “Water is life, and clean water means health.”

She knew what she was talking about.

8 Critical Factors Behind Every Food Crisis

8 Critical Factors Behind Every Food Crisis

From the beginning of time, their have been food crises in one form or another. Ancient books such as the Bible have records of various famines devastating portions of the world.

And while it’s easy to attribute these crises to a single cause, such as war or drought, the causes are usually much deeper and much more complex.

Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice.”

In order for us to achieve the kind of justice envisioned by Mandela, it’s essential that we first understand the underlying causes of food crises. Only after we have understood can we then begin creating meaningful solutions.

With that in mind, here are 8 primary factors behind almost every global food crisis. While not all 8 of these will be present at a time, you will almost always find several of these at work.

Factor #1 – Poverty

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One of the greatest factors in every food crisis is stark and abject poverty. This isn’t surprising. With enough money, anyone can ensure they have enough food. But with many developing nations sitting well below the poverty line, the population simply can’t afford the food they so desperately need.

Additionally, poverty has a distinct effect on food output. In Africa, for example, many farmers can’t afford proper irrigation and fertilizer. This, in turn, leads to lower yields, which then reduces the overall amount of food available to the population.

The population of the Sub-Saharan region of Africa is expected to grow at an astronomical rate, topping out at 2.4 billion by 2050. This will continue to exacerbate the poverty issue, which will then continue to drive the lack of sufficient food in the area.

Factor #2 – Drought and Desertification

Widespread droughts, leading to the desertification of particular locations also causes huge disruptions to food production. For example, leading up to and during the global food crisis of 2008, 110 countries experienced significant droughts. This caused even the most well-irrigated, fertile areas to become arid deserts, making it impossible to grow crops.

As Mark Hughes noted:

Australia is normally the second largest exporter of grain, after the U.S. The continent, though, is experiencing an ongoing drought that has been described as the worst in a century. Grain yields have shrunk and many silos remain empty. Australia’s drought is a major factor in global wheat stocks being at their lowest since 1979. In fact, many wheat and rice farmers are switching to crops that demand less water, such as wine grapes.

Additionally, farmers often let animals over-graze on their land, reducing the amount of vegetation and increasing desertification. If the soil becomes dry enough, it is ruined and unable to support any crops at all.

Finally, as populations grow, deforestation occurs at an increased rate, which then leads to less vegetation and more desertification.

Factor #3 – Political Pressure

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In the past, the International Monetary Fund has pressured small farmers, particularly in impoverished African countries, to abandon agricultural farming in favor of industrial work. The money generated from this practice would be used to pay off debt and import food.

While it may sound like a working strategy, it has created catastrophic results.

As Eric Holt-Giménez noted:

The urban population increased seven-fold, swelling from 18% to 33% of the population. Millions of poor and unemployed workers have swelled the cities—with two-thirds of them living in slums. The manufacturing and industrial sector did not “take off” in African countries; the percent of the GDP coming from industry was 30% in 1961 and 32% in 2000. In the countryside, as plantations for agro-exports expanded, food production plummeted and poverty grew. Though the rural population, density increased by 180% as more farmers were crowded onto smaller plots.

Factor #4 – Increased Consumption of Meat and Dairy

Many countries have begun adopting a more Western diet, which includes eating significantly more meat and dairy. To make this happen, farmers have been forced to raise more cattle, and more cattle means more grain being consumed.

The problem, however, is that this causes a significant deficiency in terms of calories consumed versus calories available. A cow consumes approximately 700 calories worth of grain to produce a piece of meat containing only 100 calories. When this happens on a massive scale, an enormous shortage of food is the end result. The longer this deficit continues, the greater the imbalance will become.

Factor #5 – Increased Oil and Transportation Costs

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When the price of oil goes up, the energy cost for planting and transporting foods goes through the roof. When food costs more to grow, it then costs more to sell. These rising costs then make it more difficult for the local population to purchase crops as well as for farmers to export their crops to industrialized nations.

Additionally, increased oil costs has led many countries to invest heavily in the development of agro-fuels. More agro-fuels always means less food available.

As Esther Vivas helpfully puts it:

The increase in the price of oil, which doubled in 2007 and 2008 and caused a big rise in the price of fertilizers and transport related to the food system, has resulted in increasing investment in the production of alternative fuels such as those of plant origin. Governments in the United States, the European Union, Brazil and others have subsidized production of agro-fuels in response to the scarcity of oil and global warming. But this green fuel production comes into direct competition with the production of food. To give just one example, in 2007 in the United States 20% of the total cereal harvest was used to produce ethanol and it is calculated in the next decade that this figure will reach 33%. We can imagine the situation in the countries of the South.

Factor #6 – Falling World Aid

At the peak of the 2007-2008 food crisis, food aid was at it’s lowest point since 1961. This is one of the oddities about the national food market. When cereal prices are low, countries look to sell their food through international aid. However, when food prices are high, they prefer to sell them on the open market for increased profits.

In other words, during food crises, when food is scarcest and at it’s highest prices, it isn’t available for international aid. When the bottom falls out of world aid, food crises grow in magnitude.

Factor #7 – International Conflicts

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International conflicts are a particularly visible factor behind many food crises. During conflicts, it’s common for one country to restrict exports to another country, which then reduces the amount of food available to the general population.

Or, even worse, dictators will intentionally isolate their countries, refusing foreign aid that is desperately needed. Aid workers may be blocked from entering the country, making it difficult for the citizens to receive needed help. If foreign aid does come, they seize it for themselves, depriving the population of desperately needed sustenance.

Factor #8 – Disease

If a country experiences a particularly violent outbreak of a disease, it can completely disrupt the overall food supply. For example, the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa has killed farmers, which in turn pushes families deep into poverty.

When a population is undernourished, drugs become less effective and can at times create intense hunger pains. These two factors combined create a vicious cycle of death, poverty, and hunger.

Additionally, certain highly contagious diseases can restrict the amount of aid available to a country. For example, during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, aid workers were restricted from traveling to the region due to fear of spreading the disease.

Perfect Storms

Most food crises aren’t the result of a single factor. Rather, they are caused by a perfect storm of events that coalesce into a deadly storm.

For example, in 2011, Somalia was devastated by a drought that caused widespread crop failure. The food crisis was made even worse by a non-functioning government as well as a national conflict. All these forces combined to make it difficult for aid workers to reach those who so desperately needed help.

The result was that approximately 260,000 people died.

Because the problems are almost always complex and multi-layered, the solutions must be equally multi-faceted. Simple solutions typically exacerbate the problem at the expense of the local population.

The best solutions are those that involve numerous parties working together to create a tangible, workable solution.

There will always be food crises to one degree or another. But as we grow in our understanding of what causes them, we can also grow in our ability to bring them to an end.

Why Don’t The Rich Give More? Here’s Why…

Why Don’t The Rich Give More? Here’s Why…

It’s ironic, really. You’d think that millionaires and billionaires would be some of the most generous people on the planet. After all, they could literally withdraw all their money from the bank and use it to insulate the walls of their palatial mansions. They could heat their houses by lighting bales of bills on fire.

But the crazy thing is that compared to the rest of the population, the super wealthy give away a smaller proportion of their income. In Britain, the uber rich can secure a spot in the top 100 givers spot by donating a miniscule 1.08% of their income.

Transporting these numbers into the U.S., it would mean that average American could have those bragging rights by giving about $400 to charity. That’s hilarious in a heart-breaking sort of way.

The Atlantic puts it this way:

One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.

Of course, this raises one, somewhat huge question: WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?

There is a level of absurdity to the whole thing. If anyone can afford to part with some cash, it’s the men and women who don’t think twice about dropping multiple millions on a yacht of Noahic proportions. So what’s the issue here? Why is it so difficult to separate the wealthy from their money?

In this post, we’re going to lay out 7 reasons why the rich don’t give more. By the end, you’ll probably go one of two directions:

  1. Outrage
  2. Insight into how to approach the wealthy for donations

#1 – Rich People Don’t Give More Because They Plan To Give Later

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Let’s start with the best reason the rich aren’t giving more now: they have plans to give a lot later. A number of the wealthiest individuals in the world – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg – have pledged to give a gargantuan amount of wealth over the course of their lifetimes.

5 Hour Energy creator (and multi-gazillionaire) Manoj Bhargava has said that he’s going to give away at least 90% of his fortune to charity. Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx, has hopped aboard The Giving Pledge, in which the rich pledge to give away 99% of their wealth.

So before you begin gnashing your teeth and foaming at the mouth, at least give credit to those individuals who have a plan to donate huge amounts.

#2 – The Rich Don’t Like Being Bothered

Now on to some of the less pleasant reasons why the wealthy tend to be tightfisted Scrooges. The simple truth is they often don’t want to be bothered. They’ve got things to do, people to see, small corporations to crush. They are empire runners, making deals, running for president, selling huge amounts of stock.

Giving away massive amounts of money can be time consuming. There are tax options to consider and causes to research. Those wealthy magnates don’t want to funnel cash to some guy with an elaborate Ponzi/pyramid scheme. Although their donations could potentially save millions of lives…it simply takes too much time.

Now, to be fair, there are serious challenges in donating large volumes of cash. It’s an understandable challenge. Not all rich people fall prey to this trap, as you’ll see below.

#3 – The Rich Feel Overwhelmed By Choices

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There are an enormous amount of options when it comes to charitable donations. And let’s be honest: many of them aren’t exactly subtle when asking for donations. The hyper-wealthy are often bombarded by organizations asking them to “make a one-time donation”.

Additionally, it can be challenging finding an organization that aligns with their values. As Google’s Craig Silverstein said:

The advice I got as I embarked on giving was: Focus on something you’re passionate about. There are so many worthy causes, but none that jumped out at me; how could I choose? I was paralyzed by too many options.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as altruistic as Silverstein, who is donating 70% of his fortune to women’s education. Many of the rich are more interested in acquiring more houses, Lamborghinis, and hot tubs than in saving the world.

#4 – The Rich Don’t Want To Be Hassled

It’s amazing how many long lost relatives come out of the woodwork when you become rich. That second uncle’s brother Larry and the fifth cousin three times removed. When you make money, you become a target for money grubbers. And, as even us mortals know, it’s tough to say no to family and friends.

Psychologist Moira Summers compares sudden riches to announcing that you like steak…and having someone deliver 200 cattle to your door. She says:

That was very sweet, but what the hell do you do with 200 steer? You need to know how to deal with them and that’s very different than eating a steak.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this is that it can desensitize the rich to legitimate needs.

Some people, such as some of the billionaires mentioned above, are willing to endure the hassle in order to find worthwhile causes, while others simply don’t want to deal with.

#5 – Rich People Are Nervous About Going Broke

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Consider the situation some of the rich find themselves in. They may have once been relatively poor, just trying to make ends meet. Thanks to their hard work and smart moves, they’ve acquired a huge amount of wealth. But in the back of their minds, they always remember what it’s like to not have money. On top of this, there are countless stories of rich people suddenly losing it all when the market crashes or a business deal goes South.

And so they’re uncomfortable with the idea of giving up their hard earned money. They’re worried about something going wrong. About everything going to pieces. About all their hard work suddenly vanishing, like that guy who sells you a lemon used car then never returns your calls. It’s a legitimate, understandable response.

Of course, there are others who don’t have that excuse, either because they’ve inherited huge sums of money or have built up so much wealth there’s no possibility of it going up in smoke.

#6 – Rich People Aren’t Exposed To Much Need

When you’re traveling in private luxury jets and staying at elite resorts, you’re not going to see much poverty or need. You won’t rub shoulders with a struggling family on the 18th hole of the golf course, and you won’t encounter developing world poverty as you sit down to a massive steak dinner.

One of the reasons the rich don’t give as much to the needy is that they don’t see the needy as much. Ken Stern wrote in The Atlantic:

Wealthy people who lived in homogeneously affluent areas—areas where more than 40 percent of households earned at least $200,000 a year—were less generous than comparably wealthy people who lived in more socioeconomically diverse surroundings. It seems that insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.

Implications For Nonprofits and Charities

The above reasons present some interesting lessons for nonprofits and charities. First, they need to be sensitive to the circumstances a wealthy person is in. Are they newly wealthy or well-established? If they’re newly wealthy, they’re probably being bombarded with requests for money and may not be open to helping.

Second, nonprofits and charities need to be aware of plans already in place. As noted, numerous rich individuals already have solid plans for donating a huge amount of their wealth. Their commitment to these plans will, at times, preclude them from donating to other causes.

Finally, the wealthy need to be sold on a cause they truly care about. When you combine their insulation from need and the overwhelming number of options available to them, it’s easy for them to tune you out. To break through, you need to put something in front of them that really matters.

Conclusion

It needs to be stated that, even though the rich may not give as much percentage wise, many still do contribute huge sums to crucial causes. Often times, their lack of giving can be tied to legitimate excuses rather than pure selfishness.

That being said, let’s hope that more wealthy individuals follow the examples of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

5 Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and 5 Ways You Can Fix It)

5 Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and 5 Ways You Can Fix It)

Five Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and Five Ways To Fix It)

It’s the secret shame of many Americans: The half-forgotten (or wholly forgotten) perishables in your refrigerator and pantry that have been overlooked, uneaten, and are now turning pretty colors or else giving off the fragrance of a corpse.

Those of us who feel pangs of guilt and upset over wasted food are sadly in good company: Some estimates reveal that Americans waste as much as 60 million tons of food a year (for various reasons, some simply because of extremely high standards set by American stores)! Given the plight of world hunger, this fact is shameful enough, but what many of us may not realize is that wasted food also has a harmful effect on the environment.

So that we might be better stewards of the earth we have been given, here are five biggest ways wasted food hurts the environment—and five ways we can combat this problem and make it better for millions of people worldwide.

1. It Wastes Water

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Water is essential to life, and it’s no surprise it’s essential to food production as well. Whether from irrigation, spraying, pouring, or some other means, water is essential to the growing of agriculture, not to mention the feeding of animals that give us our meat, fish, and dairy.

But in throwing out millions of tons of food, we also waste uncounted millions of gallons of water that was used to plant, grow, sustain, or otherwise produce it.

Fruit and vegetables are among the most water-laden food products, simply because they contain more water. (For example, one bag of apples is about 81% water!) But meat products are the heaviest water users, simply because the animals drink a lot of water—and more importantly, because so much water is needed for the grain that becomes their feed! It takes about 8 to 10 times more water to produce meat than grain.

All told, if the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted worldwide each year is accurate, most estimates place the water “in” that amount to be 45 trillion gallons—or 24 percent of all water used for agriculture. And remember that 70% of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture!

2. It Releases Methane

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When food is thrown out, it eventually makes its way to landfills (which can themselves be a problem for the environment). As that food begins to decompose or rot, it releases methane gas.

Methane, of course, is a greenhouse gas, which many scientists believe adversely affects the earth’s climate and temperature (i.e., climate change/global warming). Here’s why the millions of tons of food wasting in American landfills should concern you:

  • Methane is more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2—about 25 times more effective.
  • Methane accounts for about twenty percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Much methane, as well as other adversely-affective gases, has already been released in the production process. The wasted food is now adding to that.

Less wasted food means we release less methane gas, which is way better for the environment.

3. It Wastes Oil

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This is another “production” side of the waste epidemic. Here’s what I mean:

  • Oil, diesel, and fossil fuels are required to grow, transport, store, and cook food. Think of the harvesting machinery that has to be powered, the vehicles taking the food from the farm to the warehouse to the store, the further machinery that is used to sort, clean, package, or otherwise prepare the food just so it can be bought. Much of this machinery requires massive amounts of oil, diesel, and other fuels to function.
  • To waste millions of tons (in America) or billions (worldwide) each year also means that all of the oil and fuel that has gone into the production of said food is wasted.
  • Moreover, using that fuel in the first place can release harmful amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment, combined with the other harmful amounts released from the decomposing food already in landfills, and all of the future decomposing food that will yet be wasted.

Wasting fuel and oil both at the front (production) and the back (decomposition) end by not eating the food we purchase has a hidden but costly impact on the environment!

4. It Wastes Land

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Land use as regards food falls into two main categories: The land used for production, specifically the crops and grassland used in the actual growing (or raising, in the case of livestock), and the land used for retaining food that has been thrown out.

Unsurprisingly, the irresponsible use of food products has an adverse impact on the physical land itself.

If you recall your high school science classes, you may have heard the terms arable land and non-arable land. This simply means land that can grow crops (arable), or land that cannot (non-arable). This factor is important for evaluating how food waste affects land.

Most of the land needed to produce milk and meat is non-arable (think meadows, fields, etc.). It’s perfect for livestock, but terrible for growing crops. But most of the food wasted worldwide, regardless of the type of land, is meat.

About 900 million hectares of non-arable land are used in the production of the world’s meat products. Moreover, when you count all of the land needed to produce other foods, like the millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables we waste each year, the use of land skyrockets.

This would not be a problem in itself. However, the problem lies in both the waste of the food (so the land is being used for an ultimately pointless purpose) and the fact that land, if not cared for, loses its ability to yield over time—called degradation. Eventually produces far less than can sustain the people living in the region.

Statistics have revealed (page 47 in link) that when looking at food waste at the production stage, about 99% of the waste occurs on land with extremely high levels of degradation—which puts undue stress on land that has already worked hard to produce food for us!

5. It Harms Biodiversity

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“Biodiversity” is simply a fancy word for the diversity of life in an ecosystem or environment—the full spectrum of life across different species and kinds of organisms. This is a hidden but real cost of food waste: it decimates biodiversity in a number of ways:

  • Deforestation, especially in tropical areas, destroys natural flora and fauna (sometimes to the point of extinction), in the name of creating more land for food production.
  • To increase production of livestock, natural land is turned into pastures, which besides the aforementioned deforestation also impacts biodiversity by the increase of livestock; the more livestock graze and range on an area, the less natural and diverse the area becomes.
  • Marine fisheries are a large culprit in the decimation of marine ecosystems and natural habitats, often resulting in “overexploited” areas or stocks (indeed, the ten most caught species of fish all have been labeled as “overexploited”). Fish are caught with little thought given to how the rapid depletion of population will impact their environments. These fish then get thrown out by the consumer, or rejected by stores for not meeting certain standards, or rot in the truck because of lack of modern refrigeration (in developing nations).

Other ways food production may impact biodiversity have either not been studied or the links between the depletion and the production are not yet clear. Still, it’s one thing to impact the land to create food that is then scrupulously used. It is another thing entirely to impact the land so drastically (sometimes unnecessarily) for food that will be largely wasted.

How can people combat this problem of wasting useable food? Here are five of the most common ways:

1. Use Restraint

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Americans especially have lost this ability (but really, anyone in a reasonably wealthy country can succumb to it). But making the effort to plan meals, to keep detailed and thoughtful shopping lists, and avoiding buying things on impulse will go a long way to not even bringing food into your home that will end up being thrown out.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Disobey the “Sell By” Date

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These are not federally regulated in the United States and do not mean anything about the food’s safety for consumption (unless it’s baby food, in which case it should be heeded). Rather, it is a notation from the manufacturer that denotes the food’s peak quality. “The “use-by” date is more important: eat food by that date or find out if it can be frozen.

3.  Really Use Leftovers

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Some of us are good at doing this already. There are many ways to be creative and ingenious with the things you served the night before. You can turn one meal into a completely different one if you simply know a few things about recipes and common ingredients.

4. Don’t forget scraps

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Did you know there are lots of ways to creatively use the scraps of vegetables and other products (think celery leaves, the tops of beets and other veggies, chicken bones, etc.)? You can use them for flavoring, soup stock, even whole meals. You can read this article and this one for tons of ideas for incorporating the oft-forgotten parts of food.

5. Do Your Research

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Do you have a leftover amount of an ingredient for a recipe? Instead of throwing out what’s left, research ways to incorporate it into further meals (like here, here, or here).

Here are further ways to avoid wasting food.

Conclusion

Food waste is a real problem, and it doesn’t have to be. While the loss of food due to poor harvesting or other methods in developing countries is its own issue, the millions of tons of wasted food in our nation often, though not always, lie with the consumer. Creative, careful, and thoughtful shopping, cooking, and consumption will go a long way to responsibly using the food we have and can even make a path to fullness for the millions of people worldwide who are hungry.

5 Reasons why donations to the poor may bring bad results!

5 Reasons why donations to the poor may bring bad results!

Does donating to poor countries actually help? Keep in mind there is a big difference between disaster response and longer term, more effective and sustainable development.  Much of the time outside assistance and donations do not have much impact and in the long term, can be harmful.

When people see images of impoverished countries and situation, our first thought is, I should donate something.

This is noble  and shouldn’t be dismissed. However, many people fail to realize that donating to the poor often makes them more poor. It creates a vicious, unintended cycle.

This isn’t an anecdotal argument either. More and more research is showing that donations have long term consequences that end up hurting more than helping.

In this post, we’re going to lay out five reasons why donating to the poor often hurts more than it helps, and then pose a possible solution. Our goal is to convince you that there is a better way.

Reason #1: The Communities Can’t Sustain The Things Donated To Them

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It’s an idea that sounds great on paper and makes for ovation-garnering speeches. Go into an impoverished community, help them create life-giving resources (like a well), and then let the community reap the benefits.

It sounds so noble. Enlightened. The wealthy westerners coming into rescue the poor and the impoverished who can’t survive on their own. Knights in shining armor delivering those imprisoned by their own poverty.

This mentality is incredibly shortsighted and even insulting to the recipients of that charity.

It’s shortsighted because it fails to consider one massive problem: how will impoverished communities continue to support and maintain the created resources? A drilled well may function effectively for several years, but it won’t be long before it starts to break down.

Where will they get the parts to repair it? Will they have the necessary technical expertise to maintain the well? These aren’t hypothetical questions.

This does not mean you should do nothing. But it does mean that any solution must involve, at the minimum, the following components: time, education, partnership, a champion, and accountability.

As Jamie Skinner comments:

There is no point an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years. There needs to be a proper assessment of just how much local people are able to finance these water points. It’s not enough to just drill and walk away.

What happens if this kind of support is not offered? Annie Kelly notes:

In 2007, before the African Medical and Research Foundation and Farm-Africa began their development work in Katine, worms were found in the polluted water supply at the village of Abia, next to the Emuru swamp. A badly constructed and poorly maintained shallow well, dug by a charity, was full of soil and animal faeces and was making local people sick.

That well that you helped dig on your church mission trip? How are they going to maintain that? Are you going back every three months to fix it? Are you going to stay in constant contact to make sure they always have the supplies they need? Those parts are probably only available in other countries, so how in the world are you going to get them to those who need them?

It’s easy to feel good about yourself but you probably just made things worse.

Reason #2: It’s Misguided And Doesn’t Solve The Problem

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Too often, remedies and relief are donated without considering whether they solve the problem. Take water disinfection treatments. Many organizations and donors assume that supplying water treatments is an effective solution for polluted water.

And so they distribute water disinfectants in great number, feeling good about how they are fixing the problem.

But they’re NOT necessarily fixing the problem. In fact, there is debate over whether some of (not all) these disinfectants actually produce real, lasting change.

As microbiologist Paul Hunter notes:

Disinfection household water treatments don’t seem to have any public health benefit. I’d be more than happy to change my mind if someone comes up with some good evidence, but it would have to be a large double-blinded study.

In other words, a solution that is taken as gospel by many organizations may not add much benefit at all to impoverished communities.

Don’t assume that every solution is equally good. Sure, you paid for some malaria nets to be given to a village. Is that what they need? Will that solve the most pressing problems they have? It’s easy to feel good about yourself for donating something, but you may be trying to solve the wrong problem.

Reason #3: The Solutions Aren’t Fully Developed

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More and more, tech companies are trying to step into underdeveloped countries and offer solutions that will “solve” all their problems. They distribute tablets and apps and internet kiosks, believing that these will help people elevate themselves out of poverty.

And while this is a noble notion, it fails the majority of the time. Why? Because the tech companies haven’t fully developed the solutions in conjunction with local governments and businesses. If the underlying infrastructure isn’t in place, these tech solutions are like a band aid on a cannon ball wound. They may stop the bleeding for a few minutes, but they don’t solve the problem.

One of the very first learnings a donor agency or new volunteer learns is that poverty issues are never in isolation. Everything is connected, integrated, and often, complex.  For example, lack of adequate income is tied to lack of education, poor infrastructure, public policy, access to capital, inferior quality water which means poor health, community loyalties, and on and on. Every initiative needs to be evaluated in terms of the multiple relationships between other issues.

Speaking of tech companies attempting to “upgrade” India, Eric Bellman writes:

A $40 tablet that was supposed to revolutionize education has not been getting the government orders it expected. The national networks of Internet kiosks that were supposed to empower farmers have largely shut down. The $2,000 Tata Nano minicar that was supposed to allow millions of people upgrade from the dangerous family motorcycle was not popular and anti-rape apps which were supposed to use mapping and automatic SMS to protect women were never connected to the country’s police force.

You simply can’t put high-tech equipment into a country that doesn’t have the infrastructure for it. It would be like giving the Pilgrims automatic machine guns or airplanes. All chaos would break loose.

Tech nonprofits are big these days. You donate some money and they import computers into impoverished countries. But can those computers even be used, or are they going to collect dust in a warehouse? Can the country even handle this type of computer? Can it be hooked up to the internet? This is a ready, fire, aim strategy that usually hits the wrong target.

Reason #4: Donors Don’t Have A Sustainable Plan

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Too often, donors come into help without any real plan for how to sustain things after they’ve left. They assume that their work is done once they’ve implemented the initial solution, not realizing that without a plan for the future things will quickly fall apart.

Too often the support structures for success are not even considered whether it be government policies, ongoing encouragement, mentoring, or something as simple as adequate financial support.  Many of us live in the fantasy world that people who have lived their entire life surviving the harsh reality of poverty, doing what it takes to live with so little, suddenly can embrace and understand the values and resources that make the new intervention possible.

A prime example of this is World Bank’s billion dollar effort to bring improved water access to the country of Tanzania. While it was certainly a noble goal, it generated a stunning lack of success.

The Global Post reports:

In 2007 [before the project], only 54 percent of Tanzanians had access to what is called an improved water source — a water point, like a well or water pump, that is protected from contamination. By 2012, that figure had actually decreased to 53 percent, according to the latest available World Bank Data. Coupled with Tanzania’s rising population, 3.5 million more Tanzanians lacked access to improved water than did before the project began.

The problem? The lack of a sustainable plan. Over time, the water sources begin to fail and become polluted, and the local communities didn’t have the finances or resources to fix them. Suddenly, the communities are worse off than when they started.

Herbert Kashililah makes this damning statement: “If I am from the World Bank, it is easier to count new projects than try to ensure people are running their own systems.”

A problem is not a problem to be addressed by good hearted outsiders unless identified and owned by the local population, and there are champions, local people who are committed, to work and address it.

To put it into practical terms, maybe you financed a cow for a family through a charity. That’s great, but what will that cow actually do for the family? Do they even have the land necessary to pasture it? How will they afford the food? Do the people even know what’s required to raise a cow?

Reason #5: It Kills Local Economies

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Several years ago, Jason Sadler had the idea to collect and donate 1 million t-shirts to Africa. Now, besides obvious questions like, “Is that what they really need?” Sadler failed to consider one enormous factor: the impact on the local economy.

What so many donors fail to realize is that their giving can actually kill a local business.

Disaster response efforts especially must be careful about destroying local businesses.  It would be so much wiser to further develop the capacity of local entrepreneurs to meet the local needs. This is also true when hunger is prevalent. Buy local food first, create initiatives to produce more, purchase relief supplies locally. Organizations need to deeply consider the economic impact of their actions. Will this help or hurt the economy? Will it create or kill jobs? Will it ultimately provide self-generated income for the residents? A failure to weigh these things results in the poor becoming poorer.

Let’s say an individual had a thriving t-shirt business. He makes his livelihood and supports his family by making and selling t-shirts. What happens when a million shirts are suddenly dropped into his country? No one will buy from him. Why would they? They can get shirts for free. Suddenly the t-shirt economy is destroyed and the business goes under.  What happens when the donated t-shirts wear out?  There is no local business to fill the void and another donation is needed; dependency is created.  All this because of the well-intentioned efforts of a donor.

The Solution?

Business Connect embraces the concept that self-sustaining business solutions will have more longer lasting impact for the alleviation of poverty than a thousand give away products. Every donation we receive or facilitate goes through a local entrepreneur, who then gets a commission of the sale. That entrepreneur is then there to support the product for its lifespan, including maintenance and parts.

By empowering entrepreneurs, we are lifting an entire economy and helping build strong local businesses where green, life-improving products can be purchased.  In the process we pay duties and the fees so that the entire economy is boosted.

This is our mission. We’re passionate about helping local communities thrive, rather than simply dropping supplies on them. It’s simply a better way.