Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Hungry Planet.

For a while now there has been some media coverage about food waste, but mostly the media has been more interested in trying to create an illusion that the world will be unable to feed the expected rise in world population by 2050. When I had the chance to do an online free course run by Reading University entitled 'Our Hungry Planet' I jumped at the chance, I had hoped that during the six week course I would have learned something that I was not already aware of.  The course was interesting and it was a good chance to interact with other students as well as the course lecturers, students were expected to keep a food diary and monitor their food waste, although many were like ourselves,  zero waste households, very few were actually producing any of what they ate. Most were highly dependant on Supermarkets, and that included people who live in so called underdeveloped countries, but nowhere was the blame for major food waste put fairly and squarely where it belongs and that is on the Supermarkets. From the way they treat their suppliers, expecting them to take the hit financially for foods unsold or because the supermarket had cancelled all or part of its order, to the amount of food that they dump daily, food that is still fit for consumption but nearing its sell by date, or in the case of M&S sandwiches, they will not allow their supplier to use the first two and last two slices of bread to be used in the making of these sandwiches, so the four rejected slices are dumped. This amounts to 13,000 slices of bread per day.This is a scandal.
A very good read.
A book that is well worth reading is by Tristram Stuart, simply called 'Waste', it brings the whole issue of feeding  the world into context. There is enough food currently being produced to feed the anticipated increase in world population, but the world has to stop wasting food the way it is currently.
Distance travelled, 50feet.
  Do we need to import Spinach, Mange tout peas,  Broccoli and Cauliflower in the middle of summer from Zimbabwe and Kenya? We are over run with all these crops at the moment, why are the stores not selling Irish or at least UK produce instead of importing these easily grown crops over five thousand air miles? The Mange tout peas were priced at 1.29 euros for a 200g plastic coated packet as was the Broccoli, not what I would call cheap for things that grow like weeds.
Once again at the weekend we headed for the Sligo coast, it was very windy where we live and we had expected to see big waves and a big sea, but it was calm.
We found a little cove that we had never discovered before, very pretty and sheltered, just a few old cottages which have been restored and one larger house which would need at lot of work if not rebuilding.
Maybe a tad to close to the edge now?
We were particularly intrigued by the ruin, not the usual two or three roomed cottage as was the norm, this had been quite a substantial house , with four rooms downstairs, four bedrooms and three chimneys standing on good land,
I could live with that view.
          with views to die for.
 This must have once been the home of a prosperous  family, maybe it is a little too close to the cliff edge though.
This little cove was full of surprises, a fresh water stream flowed into the sea, and three caves,
one of which had a pillar in the middle with what looks like a face,
A natural caryatid.
it appeared to be entirely natural.
We also found fossilized coral in the carboniferous lime stone rock,
these fossils date back some 350 million years,
we had not realised that this coast line is renowned for it's fossils.
Yet more fossil coral.
Again it was a lovely trip out and the little lanes that take you down to the numerous little bays are full of wild roses, honeysuckle, rosa rugosa, fuchsia bushes and oxeye daisies.


  1. Oh my, what a lovely trip you had. Gosh how interesting were those fossils. Keep exploring, its really interesting.

    Food Waste - ugh its criminal. Big dumpsters of food just going to waste. We do have some organisations that take food waste for making into soups and meals for needy but they would be lucky to be getting 1%. It was only a few years ago that all the old Italian farmers in northern Victoria, burnt their orchards because they cant compete with overseas produce. How stupid is that and so heart breaking. Now, we have to buy from overseas.

  2. I agree Lynda, food waste is criminal, so is importing food halfway across the world. Ireland used to have it's own sugar industry from sugar beet, that has now gone so sugar is all imported, we until a month ago were able to buy Tate and Lyle fair trade cane sugar, suddenly it disappeared from the stores so I contacted Tate and Lyle to find out why, apparently the sold out the sugar side of the company to the ASC,( American sugar corporation) so no more fair trade sugar and how can we even be sure that it's not GMO?
    Beans, peas etc. from 5000 miles away, why. The world is just crazy.

  3. I believe there is a move to start growing sugar beet in Ireland again, Anne. There is an organisation currently trying to round up a posse of interested farmers. They need, I think, 3000 acres worth for it to be financially viable and worth firing up a 'refinery'.

    1. Apparently the EU imports 15% of it's sugar which I guess is not too bad, it was the quotas and subsidies that ended the sugar industry here but hopefully by 2017 we might again have our own sugar.

  4. I can remember when most farms set a field of vegetables here in West Cork before the EEC. Now Ireland imports most of its vegetables and exports ninety percent of its meat. The EEC doesn't seem to encourage countries to be self supporting.

  5. I'm not too sure if I agree with you Dave, in Spain a very high % of food stuffs were a produce of Spain, we found the same in Italy and also Portugal but that could be because we have always tried to by locally produced food. Until the consumers start demanding locally produced foods wherever it is practical nothing will change, the supermarkets don't give a damn where the stuff comes from as long as they can buy it cheap enough and make a big profit. Only the consumers can bring about change

  6. We looked at our food waste as couple of years ago, and just being aware of waste and over purchasing, we hardly waste anything, one of our best things, was to ensure our store cupboard is not so full of things we don't use, and therefore don't waste when they go out of date.

    1. We do have a store cupboard which is pretty full but it is mainly jams and bottled fruit which we have grown ourselves, we also bulk buy from a wholefood co-op for our dried goods, that order goes in twice yearly, we really only have to buy dairy products so not too much chance of wasting anything.

  7. I think the general public are becoming more aware of food waste and eating locally sourced food, there was a big move towards growing your own a while ago but it seems to have eased off again now, allotment waiting lists are nowhere near as long as they were a few years ago. I know we can't all be self sufficient but if everyone grew just a proportion of what they ate I'm sure it would help, we wouldn't need to be importing things which are easy to grow, we wouldn't even need to buy them. The course you took sounds really interesting.

    1. Look up 'Future Learn' Jo, they do all sorts of interesting courses the next one I'm doing is about soil.
      There is little interest in growing your own here unless you happen to live in a city such as Dublin! Most people who grow their own here are either Brits or Germans.
      Here there is little sign of people being aware or even caring where their food comes from and the waste level is very high, shopping trollies are full of imported junk food.
      When we were farming we dealt directly with Supermarkets, the managers had a certain amount of autonomy, now it is all central distribution.
      I would love to see one of the major chains just try a 'Buy Local, buy Seasonal' in a small area of a store, I know it would be a niche market but it might actually bring in more people to the stores, we have to drive a 60k round trip to buy Organic butter so we buy a tree months supply but we normally end up buying something else in the store while we are there something that we would not have normally bought .I think the same would happen if only they would try the 'Local and Seasonal' idea.

  8. I will be checking out the book, looks interesting. Sounds like an interesting course.

    1. It's a very interesting and well written book, well worth a read. You can also see him giving a talk on the 'Ted Lectures', free via the internet.

  9. What a great trip and how great to have found all those fossils! Food waste is awful. I agree that the consumers need to bring about change and start thinking about what it is they are actually buying. The fact about M&S and their sandwiches is nuts, how bizarre! x

  10. Hopefully we can make it to that bay when you come, and maybe we will even go mussel collecting again!