Breaking silos through Communication.
Events, activities, media.

On 16th October, tWorld Food Day 2009he UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization commemorates the annual World Food Day  as a reminder to us that while some of us have the luxury of pizza/fast food deliveries, drive-thrus, grocery stores just across the street, massive buffet spreads and the high society culture that accompanies gastronomical culture, there are others in the world that barely have a meal a day, are dependent on food aid (which is much less during the economic recession as donor countries give less), and are still praying for rainfall to grow their crops (most of which is not for their own consumption, but for export).

The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Achieving Food Security in times of Crisis”. It was not too long ago when much of the world faced massive inflation on basic food necessities, such as rice and wheat. The reasons for the sudden food insecurity have been well cited in various media and research institute/think tank resources (click here for a commentary on food insecurity in Southeast Asia).

So what does all this media coverage on food insecurity mean for us?

Perhaps for some, it’s merely a reaction on the lines of “Oh my, these poor people are not having much to eat”  and then hitting the town for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Others have voiced their concerns of how the 2008 food crisis has apparently impacted them. When Thailand banned its rice exports in a bid to secure its own food security, chicken rice lovers in Singapore voiced their dissatisfaction with chicken rice cooked with rice imports from Vietnam, as being of  lower quality rice.

Clearly, many of us in the developed world have given very little thought of where our food comes from. Clearly, it hasn’t sunk into our minds that much of what we consume, comes from the limited resources and hardwork of farmers in developing countries. And clearly, since all this seems so far from where we are, we prefer to continue with our comfortable lifestyles and demand more and more.

That said, it is also apparent that hunger and poverty still persist as we speak. Clearly,we haven’t bothered to take notice of the poor around us – less fortunate consumers that  really do feel the pinch of higher food prices in the markets and producers that feel the pinch of increasing production costs (eg. rising fuel and fertilizer costs).

What can we do about it?

The issue of food security can’t just be left to governments to deal with it, as they have hardly the means of mitigating the forces of demand and supply. Its a complex issue, but lets not discount the power of small deeds, such as:-

  1. Buying local produce, where possible.
  2. Avoiding lavish spreads and consuming what you need. I have come to the conclusion that Ramadan buffets are an oxymoron.
  3. “Simplicity is the best policy”.
  4. Contributing to charities – financially. There are many out there. Though, this initiative in the US – Skip a Lunch, Feed a Bunch –  I find is particularly interesting, especially for Muslims during the fasting month.
  5. Contributing to charities – with the human touch. In this day and age, people don’t talk to other people enough. Knowing the recipients that appreciate your generosity would only spur you to do more. 4PM’s Ramadan on Wheels is one such initiative that has garnered support since 2000.

With less than 10 days left of  Ramadan – a time of reflection, thinking about the needy, and reducing our own consumption – let’s make the holy month all the more worthwhile as a new beginning for gradually minimizing our overall consumption and reducing negative impacts on others and Mother Nature.

How often do you get to meet someone who you’ve only admired and known about through books and the media? 28th August 2009 was one such day for me. I met Professor Emil Salim of Indonesia.

With Prof Emil Salim

Though an unassuming man in his late 70s, Pak Emil’s vast experience as an Indonesian policy maker and international advisor is larger than life. My colleagues and I were delighted that he was able to accept our invitation for our Conference on Climate Insecurities, Human Security and Social Resillience. I was all the more ecstatic as I had the chance to conduct a brief interview with him after the Conference.

All eyes and ears were peeled as Pak Emil delivered his presentation on Sustainable development  full of passion, sincere frankness and a good dose of wit. I was inspired by Pak Emil’s visionary thinking as he reiterated phrases such as “this is the future” when discussing the prospects of renewable energy and other sustainable development measures.

Several points raised by Pak Emil resonated with themes that I had picked up during my study trip on the United States Institute on the Environment (USIE).* Firstly, he noted the need for greater inter-disciplinary studies, discussion and action so as to address complex issues on the environment in a holistic manner.

Secondly, he emphasized the role of those with technical backgrounds – in particular economists and engineers – as drivers and translators for effective sustainable development. “Getting the price right” and having a strong scientific foundation are essential to see the process through.

Thirdly, Pak Emil noted the power of ideas and critical importance of engaging the right people who can catalyse the process and thereby materialise these ideas.

Finally, a point that was clearly driven during the short interview I had with him, was his belief in the youth as being drivers of change for the future. His words of encouragement were indeed inspiring, and clearly highlighted the momentum available to sustain change in the Asian region, despite existing skepticism. Change can happen with the support of a sense of optimism and perseverance.

To play on the words of Alexander Wendt, “Change is what states and communities make of it”.

*To view my report on USIE in pdf format, please click here

So I finally decided to embrace the New Media out of necessity.

It is necessary to ensure a more holistic understanding of Islam.

It is necessary to understand the debates surrounding climate change.

It is necessary to empower people to take a proactive role in caring for the environment.

It is, hence, necessary that I become sit in front of this computer screen to talk to you folks out there.

More to come, so stay tuned. 🙂