Japan Environmental Exchange


Maura Hurly

I finally just got the chance to carefully read over the JEE Eco-Calendar 2006 and grasp its important message. I was very impressed with its enthusiasm relating to food traditions and habits.
I am sure that this will encourage many people to make food a central theme for their coming new year. It certainly has made me aware.
Many JEE members know that I used to be a very active member in Kyoto but I have moved to the city of Kolkata in India which, for many reasons, sometimes feels a world away from Japan. There are many frustrations here for someone who considers herself an environmentalists concerned with community and environment. To be honest, sometimes the problems seem so big, it is difficult to know where to begin. Recently on my short visit to Kyoto, Kyoko Hosoki and Hiromi Yamagami prompted me to write about life here from time to time. I'd like to give it a try and write a few columns for the newsletter based on some of the experiences I have here and the various people I come into contact with. Maybe this can shed some light on life in a developing country and some issues related to development and the environment.
Although most of us take it for granted that there is always some food available, living in Kolkata and considering this year's Eco-calendar topic of food, two other important food themes that come
to mind are food scarcity and vegetarianism. Hunger and malnutrition due to poverty are symptoms are something I see directly as I move through this city every day. Although there are many groups working to alleviate the problems, they never seem to go away completely.
Every time the car stops, a small child is begging at my window. If I go shopping, a mother carrying a baby is following me around with her hand outstretched saying, "baby-no food."


The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with 3,500 calories a day: enough to make people fat! And this estimate does not even count many other commonly eaten foods-vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Think about this. Although India ranks near the top among
Third World agricultural exporters, at least 200 million Indians go hungry. It exports $625 million worth of wheat and flour per year, and $1.3 billion worth of rice (5 million metric tons), the two
staples of the Indian diet. It is actually a myth that food is scarce on a global level and many organizations working on these issues advocate that the right political and trade policies can make
a world of difference in this area. (Read more: www.foodfirst.org and www.one.org)


People who follow a vegetarian diet are actually doing a lot to conserve nature and the environment so let's give them a round of applause. The energy intensive requirements involved in growing, spraying , harvesting, processing and transporting a pound of meat would consume over seven million barrels of oil per day in the US alone. In poor countries, most of the grain produced is eaten by its people. In rich countries, much of it is fed to livestock and converted into meat and milk. In India, 83 % of the grain produced is eaten by humans. However, the growing middle class is beginning to emulate developed countries and those who are not averse to eating meat on religious grounds, are increasingly including non-vegetarian items in their diets. Luckily we have Rakutendo in Kyoto not only advocating "vegetarianism" but teaching people step-by-step how to make the switchover in a healthy and delicious way. (Read more: www.rakutendo.com and http://www.vegsoc.org/newveg)
I am not very confident about my creative writing skills these days but as there are many things I wish to chat about, I'd like to put down some thoughts. If my experiences here, and subsequent usings, can open up a network of some kind or make people interested in something new, it will make me feel very satisfied. Your comments, questions and feedback are welcome. Please take a look at my blog: dalbhat.blogspot.com which I update frequently.

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