Beans

This is a guest post by Jeffrey Rogers.

A teacher asked her class to make up a sentence using the word “beans”. “Our local farmer grows beans,” said one girl. “My favourite food is beans on toast,” said a boy. A third student spoke up, “Please Miss, we are all human beans.”

Indeed we are all human beings (or human beans if you prefer). And it takes an awful lot of food to feed these humans, all 7.8 billion of us. When I was growing up, every schoolboy was taught that you could fit the world’s population onto the Isle of Wight, though it would be like standing up at a crowded cocktail party. I suspect that today, fifty years later, quite a lot of people would be standing on the Isle of Wight’s beaches with their feet wet. That would be a damp party for any latecomers.

Let’s keep going with this imaginary cocktail party. Who would supply the food and drink?

Based on the total amount of food eaten on Earth today, the party planner would have to supply about 14 billion kilograms of food for every day of the party. That’s almost 2 kilos of food each, but that would be ample. There is enough food being produced today to feed everyone. But it’s not being distributed evenly. I’m sure that few people reading this article will know what real, desperate, chronic hunger feels like. According to bread.org, though, about 10% of the world’s population live in a state of hunger. That’s 780 million people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That’s more than 140 times the population of Scotland.

But hold on a moment, I hear you say; how many people go hungry in Scotland? According to endhungeruk.org, 1 in 10 Scots are in a state of ‘food insecurity’. That’s not quite perpetual hunger, but it’s a perilous state to be in when “because of a lack of money, a person or a household has to eat a less healthy diet, go without food, or worries about doing so”.

Here in Scotland, we need a more effective safety net for vulnerable people, those without regular employment and those living in deprived areas. The growth of Food Banks and similar volunteer schemes is a symptom of this state of neglect. It’s tempting to think of such schemes as hand-outs to the undeserving. But some people work really long hours in low-paid employment and it still doesn’t cover all the household bills. We should honour our fellow “human beans” and help them out in times of need.

Elsewhere in the world, environmental degradation, especially due to climate change, is turning many millions of acres of productive land into deserts through drought, heat stress and salt inundation.

It’s time to rethink our food system. Before we start blaming governments, let’s look to our own households first. Are you food waste savvy? Do you shop carefully so that you don’t have to throw perfectly good food away? And do you recycle any food scraps into the Council food caddy service? This is an excellent way of turning food waste into top-quality soil conditioner for farmers and landscape gardeners here in the North-East.

And I continue to repeat my mantra: the Climate Crisis is real, is urgent and is caused by human activity. To avoid the worst effects of climate change we must stop burning fossil fuels.

Enjoy your beans on toast.

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