I’m Back & Book Project


Oh it has been a long time. I actually have an excuse which is not really one. I have lost my password and nothing worked anymore and exam phase and bla bla bla. But I’m back. I will write essays about the environment and feminism again.

Over the last few months I have been writing daily. It gives me so much pleasure. At the moment these texts add up to 90 000 words… You would think that a student had better things to do. But writing in the evenings is always the thing I’m looking forward to most (Well, not every day … aka writer’s block or evil cycle of self-hatred)

What have I been working on?
It’s a book. You guessed it. My twenty-third (or so) attempt to writing a book. I think everyone is laughing about me and my projects. This one is different, I like to tell myself. It’s non-fiction.
I always loved to read fiction but I could never make enough stuff up to fill a book. I would be overwhelmed by all the things I had to consider. What would they eat? How would their kitchen counter look like? What would the pictures on their walls show? Nope, too much work.
Then I discovered non-fiction. First, through self-help books and then through books about the environment. Which got me thinking. I am an environmental management student. Why not write a book about that? I began to research a little and quickly settled with climate change as a topic. Far too broad. I read loads of scientific papers and decided it should be about the social aspects of climate change. Analyses of feminism, media representation of climate change included. Now that’s a topic I can work with. I wrote a bit and I read a bit and now suddenly it’s 12 000 words. This is going well.

The only problem: I’m a little bit overwhelmed by the dimensions of this project. The more I read the less I know. I am painfully aware of my ignorance and my following ancient concepts of society. I have to step past the rules and read everything I can get my hands on to be able to be a decent human being in writing about this.

This project gives me life, it gives me hope, and it gives me a purpose (why also keeping me putting words on a page every day).

Also I would like to give a huge thanks to the lovely women who commented on my post on feminism (https://verenacave.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/intersectionality-and-feminism/)

https://scribbledstories514.wordpress.com/
https://sammarshihab.wordpress.com/
https://tuneinfeminism.wordpress.com/

Thank you so much for you kind words, they really gave me back some energy to write on and to use my voice.

If you would like to point out any issues or questions I need to include in my book, please tell me! I would love to discuss them with you!

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NaNoWriMo Day 26: The Food We Throw Away


My grandmother is very careful with her food. She won’t throw anything away. She experienced the war, didn’t have enough to eat for so long. That stays a vital part of how she makes decisions concerning food.

Nowadays, we have lost our connection to the food we consume. There are less people in agriculture than ever before. We are moving into the cities, are not confronted with the life on the land anymore. We don’t see our food grow, we don’t know how it is made. Furthermore, there is an incredible abundance of it through technology and globalisation. Our demand has changed. In Europe, we could get strawberries and asparagus in winter. I always looked forward to the time when there are these two products available again in our region in April. Now, you can have them all year! Thats has horrifying consequences.

Children grow up in a world where they can get anything to eat at any time. In most of Europe and North America, you can have food items from all over the world just sitting on your supermarket shelf. We don’t consider where they come from anymore. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to import products from other countries than to buy them locally. There are carrots from Israel and apples from New Zealand and South Africa! We grow apples here in Germany! Why import them? What is wrong with this whole system?

http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/

1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year. That’s a third of global food production. 1/3!!! In Europe and North America, we throw away around 100 kg of food per capita per year. In sub-saharan Africa and parts of Asia, that’s only 6-11 kg. Something is clearly going wrong here. We have lost the connection to our food.

Food lost in Europe could feed 200 million people, in Africa 300 million and in Latin America also 300 million! We could solve our global starvation problem if we wouldn’t throw away that much anymore.

Why is it lost?

“In developing countries 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.” http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/

What is lost? 30% of the cereals grown, 20% of dairy products produced, 35% of fish and seafood, 45% of fruit and vegetables, 20% of the meat, 20% of oilseeds and pulses and 45% of roots and tubers. Now look… For our production of cereals, vegetables and fruits we need considerably less energy and water than for the whole dairy and meat industry. Therefore, the numbers for these products are so much more tragic.

“The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. (…) Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.” http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196402/icode/

Where does all this wasted food land? On the landfill. We had a lovely module last semester, Sustainable Waste Management. We did an experiment on anaerobic landfilling of organic compounds. A lot of gas is produced in there. Guess which one? Methane. A greenhouse gas 23 times as bad for our atmosphere as CO2. Congrats to us, humans. We do not only waste water, land, work, money etc on food we throw away, we contribute further to climate change by where we throw it.

I talked a lot about our relationship with the oceans, too, in the last weeks. The by-catch rates for sea fish are 1:20 up to 1:50. That’s the amount of fish that is caught. So take that one kilo and throw the other 20-50kg back in the oceans. If the fish reaches the supermarket or you as a consumer, again 35% of it is lost! We are killing the wildlife in our oceans, destroying the balances of whole ecosystems to in the end we throw it all away?!
If these numbers aren’t shocking enough yet, let’s look into the issues a little deeper.

Tackling the issue of food waste, there are three aspects we need to consider. 1. From the field to the supermarket. 2. From the supermarket to our homes. 3. From our homes into the trash.

1. From the Field to the Supermarket.

We watched the documentary “Taste the Waste” in our study course a few weeks ago. There was a potato farmer who explained his work. The potatoes are checked if they have the right size, colour and shape. Every single one of them which doesn’t fit these parameters is thrown back onto the field. To rot.

In other countries, the harvesting machines might be not efficient enough and some food is wasted there. That problem can be fixed with modern technology and investment in monitoring this waste for example.

Here’s what we can do in this first part of the food system: Go to the fields. There are normally a lot of crops left because they do not fit the expectations of us consumers. Ugly potatoes, for example. Pick your own vegetables. That also lifts some of the moral weight off the farmers. It’s not their fault. We as consumers are the crazy ones here. A farmer showing his harvest on a local market will have a problem with selling all of his products. Why? Because we don’t like to buy the last one of a sort. We think that there is something wrong with this kale or carrot or whatever. When in the end, there is something wrong with us. If farmers allow people to get their own vegetables from the fields, they do not have to simply throw their crops away anymore. This food actually does have a purpose in the end.

2. From the Supermarkets to Our Homes.

Food waste is primarily due to our mindsets. We only buy products if they look good. Only if there are many of the products displayed. If the date printed on the packaging is not yet reached. This date doesn’t tell us anything. Depending on the type of food, you can eat them days, weeks or even months after their best before date. In German we have the term “Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum” (we love our long words…) which basically means “at least edible until …” Now what does “at least” mean??? That doesn’t make any sense. Neither does our whole food system.

Our choices are just made on appearances. That apple that is not perfectly round, the cucumber with a non-straight shape. I’m not telling you to eat mouldy food or bad food. I just want you to give a little love to ugly carrots and tomatoes. Who of you has ever had a garden or worked in one? How many of these vegetables that you put so much water and effort into were pretty? How much percent of them would you have bought? Close to zero I suppose. In which way is your tiny garden patch different to the huge plantations we have today? They are still plants grown in nature! If you now have the numbers of your own garden in mind, try to imagine the incredible amounts of food that are thrown away in supermarkets! It hurts seeing pictures of containers full of still edible food. Good food, tasty and healthy food. All wasted because it wasn’t pretty enough.

This is what I would like you to do: Go to your store and try to find fruits that are not that pretty. Eggs that have a little crack in them (you can then put them into a glass of water to check if they are still edible. If they are on the bottom, you can). Ask if you can have any of the dairy products that the supermarkets would throw out otherwise. Ask for bread that is a day old. And please, please. Limit your products a bit in accordance to the seasons and the travels they have made. Try to eat less meat, fish and dairy products.

3. From Our Homes to the Trash

http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/2472

“Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten.” That’s a shocking statistic! That means we throw away more than ¼ of the food that could have fed us.

Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Plan your meals. Think about what you could make with what you have in the fridge. Be creative. Stick to your plans. Involve your children in the process. They need to see how important food is and that wasting it is a serious issue.
  2. Go shopping when you need something. Make a list and buy only items from your list. Don’t wander around and buy things that look nice to you and that could potentially… maybe… they are not eaten in the end. It’s the same with shopping for clothes. If it doesn’t 100% fit and you don’t like or need it 100%, don’t buy it.
  3. Look into your fridge before you go grocery shopping. You might not remember that you have already bought something.
  4. Put fresh food in the freezer. You will probably not eat a whole loaf of bread in a few days. Freeze it in slices and eat it in small portions rather than throwing away half a loaf.
  5. If you haven’t finished your meals, put them back into the fridge and eat them the next day. Stress to your children the importance of saving food or finishing it.
  6. Ask in restaurants if you can take the leftovers home.
  7. If bananas are a little too ripe, make a banana bread. If vegetables are a little squishy, cook them. Trust your senses. If they still smell good and taste good, they are still ok!
  8. Ask friends if they could use some of your vegetables you will not eat. Ask them over for dinner! Swap ingredients around neighbours.
  9. Compost organic material if you can.
  10. Eat consciously. Everything that you eat has an origin. Your cereals come from fields, your dairy products from real cows. Think of the impact you have on your environment. Enjoy your meals, don’t throw them away.

That all sounds so bad, but here is a good sign. As always, it comes from a Scandinavian country: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-food-waste-supermarket-we-food-copenhagen-surplus-produce-a6890621.html Denmark has opened its first supermarket which sells food that would have gone to waste. There are a lot of awesome projects concerning food waste. Inform yourself where you can help in your area to prevent food waste.

A lot of the food waste is due to our culture and our minds. You are hosting a party. Your biggest concern will be that you haven’t got ENOUGH food, never TOO MUCH. In a restaurant last week we finished our meals and the waiter said: “Oh, you ate everything, then it clearly must have been not enough!” What is that crazy thinking we do here? It’s always about more and more. Not about reduction. You feel embarrassed if you guests ate all the food at your party. When all you should be is happy that you don’t have to throw anything away. We need to change that perception in our society.

As you might have noticed, I’m a bit angry concerning the topic of food waste. We are just trying to fix all of these global climate issues and in the end our own consumption is one of the main problems, nobody talks about. There are more and more campaigns but do they put up signs in the supermarket: “Only buy what you need! Don’t throw food away!” Are the supermarkets themselves doing anything to reduce the amounts of food discarded? The policy makers? No.

This was a little guide to conquer the problem of food waste. If you calculate your carbon footprint, you are normally asked how much food you throw away. Because that can be quite significant for your greenhouse gas emissions. Try to be kind to our planet. Try to remember all those shocking numbers. We are wasting 1/3 of our food in the world, 1/3 of our soils, so much money and water. How much good we could derive from this 1/3! How many people we could make happy and satisfied. What a wonderful place this earth would be if we ate what we made.

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NaNoWriMo Day 17: You know you are an environmental student when…


You know you are a student of environmental and resource management…

When people have to ask several times to get what you are studying.

When people ask you what you can do with that.

When you answer: “I’m going to save the planet!” unironically.

When being an environmentalist is normal.

When wanting to save the world is your main goal in life.

When “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to change the world” could be your slogan.

When your family considers you to be the weird one, the Eco Freak.

When you have claimed that word for yourself and wear the word with pride.

When you lead every discussion to an environmental topic in the end.

When your friends ask you if the can even come to your house if they have plastic bags with them.

When you are proud to see people with paper bags.

When you have an extra fabric bag in every handbag.

When you are happy that your supermarket does not offer plastic bags anymore.

When you constantly rage about lobbyism of big firms, inactive governments, environmentally ignorant politicians and the like.

When your parents give you cut-out newspaper articles about environmental problems.

When your parents send you articles about new technological innovations to save the world.

When you send them great articles about climate change with a praise-hands-emoji and a huge “YES!”

When you know more about environmental news than those concerning the whole world.

When you are having a hard time finding a great environmental magazine.

When you decide you would love to make your own.

When your parents do not understand you anymore when you talk about Pigouvian taxes, riparian vegetation and hyporheic zones in rivers.

When your parents smile silently about your enthusiastic views on the environment.

When you send your friends excerpts of environmental treaties to prove your point.

When you are extremely excited about the Paris Agreement.

When you marked the day it entered into force in your calendar.

When you are angry about people denying climate change.

When you detest people who think climate change was an invention by the Chinese.

When one of your first thoughts about the US election result was: Our poor poor environment.

When you try to stay positive about the environmental progress of the last years.

When you nevertheless suffer from environmental grief.

When you are a vegan.

When you at least thought about going vegan.

When you did so for mainly environmental reasons.

When there is at least one vegan food to eat at every social gathering of your course.

When people ask you which milk substitute is the best.

When you are able to make a twenty minute presentation about that.

When you know where to get the best vegan cake in town. And go there every week.

When you make cakes for each other. Vegan, naturally.

When you are excited to find certain vegetables in your supermarket.

When your fridge contains more vegetables than anything else.

When all your food containers are made of glass.

When you decide to just buy products from Europe, that are not transported around the whole globe.

When you cringe when thinking how much emissions they have cost to get into your supermarket.

When your food choices are based on the environmental and social impact they have.

When you try to make other people think about their food choices.

When you succeed in doing so.

When you drink out of glass bottles.

When your whole family does so too, now.

When second-hand shopping is perfectly normal.

When the 60 people in your course are willing to watch a documentary about food waste together.

When you get both sad and angry when you see how much food is wasted.

When you flinch every time you see food thrown away.

When you wonder about how you could have ever eaten meat.

When you meet with friends to watch documentaries. About salmon.

When you take notes about the statistics in your mind to win an argument next time.

When your youtube “To watch” list only contains nature documentaries.

When your “To read” list only contains books about the environment or related topics.

When your greatest heroes are environmentalists.

When you derive a lot of your basic knowledge from nature documentaries.

When you get more enthusiastic about watching those than blockbusters.

When you search for a list with all famous vegans to prove a point.

When you sent your friends messages about a documentary about the fates of dolphins in Japan and you are crying. Crying a lot. And hating the world.

When you are sharing this information with everyone you know.

When you are asking everyone to watch this documentary.

When your most used emoji is either a leaf or a panda.

When half your you hashtags are concerning the environment.

When you love to throw shocking numbers about fishery or oil spills or coal mining or factory farming into everyday conversation.

When you do so even though the topic was a completely different one.

When you then grin at people and say: We live in a horrible world. Let’s change it.

When you then give a list to them of all the things they could change in their lifestyle to have a smaller environmental impact.

When you have a perfectly rehearsed lecture for people who ask you why they even should do anything because their actions to not count anyway.

When you know what the carbon food print is.

When you know your carbon food print at any given moment.

When you are ashamed if you find that it is still too high.

When you changed your opinion about Leo DiCaprio a lot since you learned that he is a passionate environmentalist.

When you don’t particularly like the films he acts in but love his documentaries.

When you watch documentaries alone and stand up and cry “yes!” when someone advocates for change.

When you use your free-time to watch environmental documentaries.

When you have to sit down afterwards and write about it.

When you are in the middle of a project of writing 50 000 words in a month. About the environment.

When you can use your lecture slides to help you do that.

When your notes are written on recycled paper. With an FSC logo on it.

When you re-use paper that your printer spit out the wrong way.

When you are angry when professors tell you that you can only print your essays on one side of the paper.

When you are relieved to find out that you can upload them and do not have to print them.

When you have done excessive research on where your paper comes from.

When you get extremely excited about additional materials concerning water scarcity and climate change.

When you were in deep awe when you first entered the “environmental subjects” floor of your library.

When you just pick out random books and are surprised what a variety of environmental books there are.

When you actually read them.

When you feel weird going to any other floor.

When you can’t stay inside anymore and skip lectures to go for a walk or run.

When you simply love being outside.

When you have a photo challenge on your blog for autumn leaves. (festivalofleaves.wordpress.com)

When you go for a run and speak with a friend about the environment the whole time.

When you are on the country side and it smells awful and you just say: Waste Water Treatment Plant.

When you save little bugs that crawled onto you way and put them back into the forest again.

When you pet them softly and say that it’s going to be alright.

When you have more empathy towards animals than certain humans.

When you are a member of you uni garden. And dead serious about it.

When you have excursions to the forest.

When you dig holes in the ground for several hours.

When you simply love doing that.

When you post pictures of the pit showing other people how beautiful your soil profile was.

When you are sad that you had to close this hole again.

When you know a little something about plants.

When you refer to leaves in a river as “Leaf litter input”.

When you say “Floating Leaved Macrophytes” to water lilies.

When you draw the catchment area of your local river onto a map. Just for practise and fun.

When you give every animal and every plant around you a name. Because you love them so much.

When you collect your organic waste for the compost.

When you urge other people to do so.

When you urge other people to build a compost themselves.

When you are annoyed of people who leave their garbage everywhere.

When you pick up their garbage and throw it in the right bin.

When you are basically an expert in waste separation.

When you spent several weeks in a waste lab measuring awfully smelling gas production.

When you lecture other people how to separate their waste.

When you try to change the waste separation at your work place.

When you are angry when people buy fully automated coffee machines with those little plastic cups that get thrown away.

When you do not buy certain things when they are wrapped too much.

When you want to run around the supermarket and cry in anger about all the plastics.

When you are ashamed that you haven’t reduced your waste to zero yet.

When you discuss about using edible plates for your next party.

When you try to re-use packaging material for various purposes.

When you make art out of it.

When you start a new drawing series with animals and immediately, without thinking, pick endangered animals.

When you are able to ask people to throw names of animals at you and you know exactly where on the red list they are.

When you are jealous of Sweden and Denmark and Iceland for having made such progress in renewables.

When you switch every light off in the very moment you are leaving the room.

When you think intensively about where to cut your electricity usage.

When you stop ironing your clothes because a) you are a student and b) it costs too much energy.

When you ask people if they changed their lightbulbs to energy-saving ones.

When you take your bike everywhere. Even in the snow and minus 30 degrees.

When you want to change people’s attitude towards cars.

When you stated years ago that you do not want to have a car.

When you await in impatience the moment when electrical cars get less expensive.

When you daydream about a world without fossil fuel based cars.

When you daydream about where to put solar panels in your future home.

When your parents ask you how to change their energy consumption.

When you feel guilty about going on holidays.

When you shake your fists towards planes in the sky.

When you daydream about being part of a huge climate conference and actually making change happen.

When you just love the people around you and couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to be at this very moment in your life.

I would like to thank my lovely friends for helping me create this list. The idea was born during a run and we had to stop so often because we simply couldn’t stop laughing. Those points are sometimes just so true. You are awesome and I’m so happy to be part of this crazy environmental community! xxx

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