Siddhant is a 20-year-old student who plans to be a professional environmentalist. I also asked him about New Delhi gaining on Beijing as the most polluted city: “Delhi is improving. Its one of India’s greenest metros and all the public buses are CNG [natural gas] powered. People are becoming more aware and are speaking up. The newer areas of Delhi are green, at least compared to other Indian metros.” However, I was surprised at how little green I saw in New Delhi and that people don’t use flat rooftops for pot gardening—or in used truck tires. Siddant told me his family has a terrace garden and they’re common in smaller cities. He acts on his environmental goals by writing and organizing tree planting. ”I am basically into cyber-activism [see his informative blog and Facebook page].[i] He is also a journalist for YouthLeader magazine.[ii])
As a high school student, he founded GreenGaians in 2009. The group organized a campaign in schools and government offices to plant trees. Siddhant added, “More than activism, I prefer to lead by example, trying to follow a green lifestyle.” About the role of young women, he said they are some of his best supporters: “They are loyal to the cause and don’t get distracted, that’s what I like about them.” I asked him what motivated him to be a teen changemaker; “I guess my motivation came from my love for the planet. When children used to watch Cartoon Network, I would watch National Geographic or Discovery. I became a vegetarian when I was nine due to ethical reasons.” Being a Hindu is another influence, “The respect I have for other creatures has come from my religion. We worship the elements, and therefore respect them.” His parents are both teachers and “have always been very supportive in everything I’ve done.”
Food waste is an environmental issue, because it decomposes in landfills, its releases methane gases. American throw away 40% of the food they buy. In response the city of San Francisco collects 600 tons of food waste a day to turn into compost for farmers. Globally, one-third of all food produced gets wasted, 1.3 billion tons with a value of $750 a year, according to the UN food agency.[i] This adds to global warming as the food decomposes.
In Greece, the Food Revolution began in 2012 to lower food costs by circumventing middlemen, starting with selling potatoes. Customers place an order and then pick it up from a farmer’s truck, cutting costs at least in half. The movement spread to selling other types of food as well. Workers also took control of factories as described on Vio.Me.org. A global food sovereignty movement is emerging with forums and goals statements like the Nyéléni Declaration written in Mali. The Food Movement and alternative food systems in the Americas are described in Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agriculture in the Americas.[ii] Europeans have done the most to outlaw Monsanto’s GMO foods as hazardous to human and animal health, but marches take place globally and social media reveal new studies about the harmful effects of GMO foods.
The UN Millennium Project report points out that the population in developing countries is increasing while food prices are rising, fresh water resources are drying up, corruption and organized crime are on the rise, and climate change is accelerating. The researchers point out that we know how to solve these problems. They look hopefully to the coming biological revolution to bring answers more profound than even the industrial or information revolutions. This revolution may develop synthetic life forms for food, water, medicine and energy. Information sharing via computers and the Internet could lead to tele-education and tele-medicine to make this information available to half the world’s population that lives in poverty.
The UN report suggests that a simple step forward is eating less meat as it adds more greenhouse gases (18%) to the atmosphere than transportation. It takes 2,400 liters of water to make a hamburger: The average American eats, on average, 200 pounds of meat a year. The livestock industry produces up to 51% of greenhouse gas emissions and requires eight times more fossil fuel that what’s required to produce non-animal protein.[i]