Last night was the launch of Oxfam’s Grow campaign in NSW. 150 people attended the “world reality dinner” held at the Wesley Mission. As each of us arrived, we drew an envelope which told us whether we fell into the 10% of high income earners in the world, the 30% of middle income earners or the remaining 60% of the worlds’ people – the poor.
High income earners received a 3 course meal, middle incomes received a basic buffet meal, and the rest of us – me included – received rice and steamed vegetables. It was a really fascinating exercise and gave rise to some great conversations.
It’s so easy to look at the problems faced by different parts of the world and be a bit overwhelmed by them. The crisis in Africa is a graphic example.
It seems impossible that the actions of any given individual could have an impact. There’s a helplessness in the face of suffering of that scale, and we all hope that someone will step in and do something. Oxfam’s Grow campaign has a simple goal – for everyone to always have enough to eat. And considering that the world produces enough food for everyone, that seems like it should have simple solutions as well.
But of course, the answers are far from simple and the solutions will vary from country to country and year to year. There are many causes for the inequalities that exist – political, environmental, financial, and many more I can’t begin to name. Achieving this goal will take scientists, politicians, crusaders, activists and diplomats. It will require all the skills and passion that these people can bring to the cause. It will also take hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, living their daily lives, with awareness and compassion.
My role in the Oxfam Grow campaign doesn’t deal with science or policies or politics. My role is to talk to everyday Australians about the way we think about food and the way we grow, consume and share it. My role is to take that big picture, that huge overwhelming picture, and turn it into manageable actions for ordinary Australians. It’s to empower people with the knowledge that their actions have an impact.
I want to ask ordinary Australians if we can take some small actions each day to live with an awareness of the world around us. Perhaps we could try to manage our expectations about when food is available – do we really need oranges in summer, when they have to be shipped in from overseas? Or can they be a treat that we look forward to each winter? Let’s learn together about seasonality, let’s find the people in our communities who are growing beautiful foods and give our business to them. Perhaps we can choose to buy Fair Trade products.
Perhaps there are small ways we can adopt into our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprint and help to alleviate the stresses that climate change is placing on poor communities across the globe. Perhaps we can find ways to be more efficient. I know since becoming a Grow ambassador I have been far more aware of what I buy and use. Since I now know how many resources it takes to grow and transport food, I am more careful to utilise as much as I can. I am less fussy about fruit with a spot or a bruise – I am embracing imperfection. We have always been recyclers but I am more careful than ever not to do anything to contaminate the recycling that goes to my local plant.
These are the small, painless steps that any person can take on board – just by living with awareness.
The idea of last night’s a fascinating one to me. The fact that it is a lottery strikes me as being particularly apt. Because it really is a lottery, isn’t it, where we’re born in the world, what resources we have access to, how we are governed, how we eat, how we live. I consider it the luckiest accident of my life that I was born in this country, with its abundance of life and opportunity. I especially like the idea that the “haves” – the lucky people with the three-course meals – ate those meals alongside the “have nots”. I wonder what kind of an impact it would have on how we eat, if we had to share a table every night with the one in seven people who go hungry each day?
It’s really a no-brainer isn’t it. If I were at the table with the abundance of food that I am lucky to enjoy every day, and I were sitting there with someone who was starving, I would share. I would take food from my plate and I would put it on theirs. And I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t do the same. Any one of us sitting at that table would share.
I consider that this small planet of ours, is a room in which all of humanity is gathered. And that we do share a table every day with our fellow human beings. And it’s our job as compassionate people, each and every one of us, to see to it, that the abundance of food that we are blessed with on this earth, is shared between everyone at the table.
It’s a simple goal: that everyone always has enough to eat.