Archive for February, 2013

A Young Voice In The Climate Change Debate

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17 year-old Parrys Raines is part of a new generation redefining Environmentalism.She was climbing glaciers at the age of 10 and involved with the UN by the age of 12. At only 17 years old, Parrys Raines has spoken to thousands of young people about reducing consumption, curbing waste, and leaving the planet a cleaner place. She’s travelled all over the world and has friends on almost every continent. What she wants is pretty simple: for people to be safe, to be healthy, and for the next generation to inherit something better, not worse, than what came before them.

Do you feel there is a disconnect between activism and youth?

Being told that you are too young to understand the world’s problems is totally frustrating. I work hard at trying to understand serious social and environmental issues and I would like to be part of the solution.

You’ve been a United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) youth delegate three times, attending conferences in Indonesia, Norway, and South Korea. Any reason you enjoy going, and why might other young people consider it?

I like to hear first hand from other kids about what is happening in their country and what positive actions they are taking to help the issues. When kids talk to each other they don’t tip-toe around the issue; we just explain what we see and what needs to be done. All delegates are selected on the basis of their involvement in environmental projects and it’s inspiring to learn what kids in developing countries are doing.

What kinds of problems have you seen?

Through my travels with my environment work I have seen the shrinking glaciers in Europe, I have been to Borneo to learn about orangutans and see deforestation for myself, I have seen sick turtles that have swallowed plastic from the ocean and I have seen poverty. So much waste and pollution making the planet and us humans sick.

What is the answer? Appealing to high powers? Politicians?

We cannot rely on politicians to do the right things for the future as a political cycle is very short. But we have to keep putting pressure on them to make positive changes for the long term sustainability of the planet. I have found that people doing greater things for the planet are not politicians. The reality is the planet doesn’t need us, but we need the planet!

Why are these issues so important to you?

I care when my friends from Brazil send me emails asking for help to save the Amazon.  I care when my friend from Nepal tells me there isn’t enough drinking water in her village because there has been less snow and ice last winter. I care that my friend from Botswana is trying to raise money for mosquito nets for poor villages in her country so children and pregnant women don’t get Malaria and she knows with climate change Malaria will get worse.

I care a lot about our oceans and marine life, too. In some parts of the ocean there is more plastic than zoo plankton which is really disgusting. Our oceans provide us with so much— we need to do more for them.

Any beautiful moments along the way?

The closing ceremony at UNEP was incredible. Delegates were dressed in full traditional costumes and there were performances from around the world. The highlight for me was that everyone in the hall—1400 delegates, chaperones, media, Government officials, UNEP officials and staff and local organisers—were given a musical instrument called an Angklung. A beautiful Indonesian lady stood on the stage and gave us all instructions on how to play it and then by only using hand signals she instructed us to play songs. The hall filled with music from our Angklungs. The people in that hall came from so many different countries around the world, speaking their own native languages, but for a short time no speech was needed. We were united as one through music.

What are the messages to other people your age?

To young people, I would say be responsible for the impact you make on the planet, everyday. Learn as much as you can and share what you have learned with family and friends. Don’t under estimate your power to influence your parents, your teachers, and some politicians.

One thing I have learned is that you have to find the right person to help bring about change. We have to move away from the “out of sight out of mind” philosophy and that get out of that “someone else will look after it” mode of thinking. That train of thought is old school. As we grow up we must all be environmentalists without exception.

Also, please think about consumption. You don’t need to have the latest gadget or phone. Technology evolves so quickly so there are always new models coming out so wait until you really need a new one and then pass on your old “stuff” onto some who will appreciate it.

Get amongst nature more often. Ride, surf, climb, run: try anything but get outside more and see what great fun you can have.

And the message for adults?

To adults I would say, include young people in decisions so that we may have the knowledge and tools to deal with the problems we are destined to inherit. Young people have lots of enthusiasm and we are generally more optimistic about finding solutions and tackling problems. You never know, we might surprise you and even inspire you!

Check out Parry’s website here or follow her on Twitter.

2nd Food Revolution Day – 17th May 2013

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Jamie Oliver – revolutionizing how we eat, cook, and think about food

Note: First published by MYOO.com in 2012

Chef and food activist Jamie Oliver is not one to mince words. From telling McDonalds to “f*ck off” on late night television to warning parents that “your child will live a life ten years younger than you because of the landscape of food that we’ve built around them,” he is refreshingly blunt in the face of a growing crisis – we’re not eating right and its ruining our health.

In May 2012, Jamie took a moment to answer a few of our questions about his worldwide day of action, Food Revolution Day, which launched on 19th May 2012, with the the goal of bringing people together to share cooking experience and knowledge, and help people start eating smarter.  Never a dull interview, he touched on everything from the importance of teaching the next generation to cook to what he thinks of the government’s role in our diets and the atrocious amount of time we spend in front of the television.

On the Food Revolution Day website, it states: “For the first time in history, being overweight is killing more people than being underweight…This has to change, and it’s down to us. We need to get back to basics and start thinking about where our food comes from.” What is the connection between obesity and understanding “where our food comes from?”

For me, Food Revolution Day is all about food education. I’m so, so amazed and grateful to the people all over the world who are taking part because this is truly a global problem. Every day I’m seeing tweets from places like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Portugal and so many other countries so it’s clear that this is a problem which is affecting people everywhere. The connection is simple; the best way to demonstrate it is to think back to the Food Revolution television series on ABC and the sections where I ask high school students – kids of 13, 14, 15 – simple questions about food and they don’t know the answers. Like the guy who answered “Bears?” when I asked him where honey comes from. It was shocking, but it wasn’t his fault. For him, honey was just something which arrived in his house and tasted good. So if people don’t know the very basic information, how are they supposed to make informed choices about what to feed themselves?

Can you explain what you mean by “real food?” And how do you address the perception that local and organic products are only accessible to the wealthy?

Real food for me is fresh ingredients used to create beautiful, nutritious meals. Not pre-packaged food with ingredients you can’t pronounce and not take-away food every day or every other day. I’m not against take-away food completely because of course it has a role to play, but a big part of the problem is that for too many people, take-away food is no longer a treat, it’s the norm. Because they have no options. As for the other question, throughout history the least expensive products have always been the local ones but it depends where you shop. I’m constantly amazed when people say they can’t afford to eat fresh food because “it’s expensive” and then they’ll spend twice as much money on take-away pizza. I can make a better pizza for a third of the price.

Mark Bittman wrote in The New York Times that “it’s the farm bill that largely shapes [American] food and agriculture policy, and…ultimately supports the cynical, profit-at-any-cost food system that drives obesity, astronomical health care costs, ethanol-driven agriculture and more, creating further deficits while punishing the environment.” What do you think of this scathing critique of the American government’s food and agriculture policy?

I think Mark is right in much of what he writes, but my focus is very much on food education so that people can make informed choices and have the knowledge to feed themselves and their families better.

From banning trans fats to possibly restricting people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  from purchasing soda, there’s a lot of debate about the government’s role in people’s diets. As a healthy food advocate, do you believe in these restrictions or should the goal be to educate people and allow them to make their own decisions?

I understand when people say they don’t want governments “nannying” them, but when it comes to a global crisis like this, I think a bit of guidance is necessary. In the UK, the government’s answers to the problem of our topping the obesity statistics of Europe is essentially to say to people “it’s your fault – go and do some exercise and eat less,” which doesn’t help anyone. I think an amazing start would be to teach all our kids to cook throughout their schooling so that at least this generation has the basic life skill they need.

According to recent statistics, the average American watches 4 hours and 39 minutes of television per day, but most people also say they don’t have time to cook. How do you explain this disconnect?

There’s a huge argument to be made for linking obesity to television habits and you can read research stating that people eat more when they’re watching TV rather than eating at a table talking to their friends and families. But that’s an amazing statistic. It takes minutes to get a beautiful, nutritious meal on the table.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just thanks to everyone for supporting Food Revolution Day all over the world!  The second Food Revolution Day takes place on 17th May 2013.

NOTE:

Read the facts from the first Food Revolution Day here.

 

 

Oldest Living Things In The World

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See Rachel Sussman’s new essay on Art, Science & Story for http://Nature.com ‘s Spot On series now live! 

You can read in full here.