Diet for Climate: How your food choices can mitigate climate change

Climate change impacts food security which can lead to hunger.

This was stressed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño during the “Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” event on February 15, 2018 held onboard the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior Ship.

The said event aimed to promote eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat because a plant-based diet can mitigate climate change as it generates relatively low greenhouse gasses compared to the meat industry.

According to DOST Asst. Scientist Dr. Imelda Agdeppa of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, there is a problem of under and over nutrition as well as nutrient deficiency in the Philippines. This is due to the decrease in the intake of fruits and vegetables; and in contrast a slight increase of meat intake.

Greenpeace Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin mentioned that in a commissioned survey, seven out of ten Filipinos are meat eaters with meat being tasty as one of the reasons why they prefer it over vegetables.

To demonstrate that food can be healthy and tasty at the same time, Rainbow Warrior Chef Daniel Bravo, Chef Giney Villar of Feliza Taverna Y Cafe, and TV personality Love Añover-Lianko showed how to prepare meatless recipes.

Chef Daniel said that whatever is good for you is good for the environment as he presented his version of ceviche or kinilaw using mung beans (mongo) as the main ingredient. He called the dish “fruits of the earth” and described it as a nutritional symbiotic ecosystem.

Chef Giney encouraged the eating of raw, “living” food; to be familiar with the food that we eat; and to eat local. She created a fruit chocolate dip made from tablea, fried and green pinipig, and muscovado.

Meanwhile, Love Añover, as a mother, stressed the importance of making healthy food attractive for kids and teaching them how to eat and prepare healthy dishes. She came up with a salad dressing using honey, mustard, calamansi, pepper, and salt.

“Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” was part of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippine Leg Rainbow Warrior Ship Tour. The tour will be highlighting the real impacts of climate change in the country and, at the same time, celebrate solutions towards climate resilience and resistance.

 

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Hating on Veggies

Why do kids hate vegetables so much?

Chef Giney Villar said it’s because they’re not really exposed to it. Busy parents resort to easy to prepare processed food and convenient takeaways. The influence of fastfood advertising doesn’t help. I remember attending a baby’s christening celebration held at a fastfood chain. Children learn early on that unhealthy food is the best for them.

To promote healthy and sustainable eating among parents and school children, demonstrate healthy and sustainable ways of cooking food for children, and come up with simple doable list of activities for children and their parents on how they can eat healthy and help in climate change mitigation with their food choices, #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement together with Greenpeace organized the “Healthy Eats and Treats School Caravan” at West Fairview Elementary School on February 3, 2018.

Part of the event was a cooking demo by Chef Giney who introduced how to prepare tasty tofu patties. Just mix ground tofu, a little flour, grated carrots, chopped onions and onion leaves, plus salt to taste. Then it’s ready for frying. Chef Giney likewise showed how to make spaghetti sauce out of real ingredients – a mix of tomato paste, eggplant, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, sugar, and oil. Really, this aversion towards veggies can be prevented if we try to be a little more creative with our cooking.

 

 

During the school caravan, I asked the participating students about their favorite fruit and vegetable. Their answer, apple and squash. The most hated veggie, as expected, is ampalaya (bitter gourd). All of a sudden, a group of kids started chanting “chicken joy.” We had fish and pinakbet (Filipino vegetable dish) for lunch and I noticed not a lot of the kids finished the pinakbet. These say a lot about the current generation’s eating habit.

It’s not too late, though. As Chef Giney said, we can actually train our taste buds. Our tongues are so used to artificial food with high salt and high sugar content but we can start lessening our intake of these and slowly transition to healthier more plant-based diet. We do this for the sake of our bodies and the planet.

No Straw! No Straw!

It’s silly but I actually dreamt about this. I requested that my drink be served without a straw. My drink arrived with a freakin’ plastic straw! I wake up and the same thing happens in my waking world. Geez, just remove the straw then, what’s the big deal? Well, we’re unnecessarily creating waste which could have been avoided at the very beginning. It’s recycled anyway? Only 10% of plastic produced globally is recyled. Most of it is trashed and ends up in the ocean forming the Great Pacific garbage patch, a collection of marine debris mostly plastic. We create biodegradable plastics but they don’t readily decompose and some become tiny bits also known as microplastics.

January is the Zero Waste Month in the Philippines and I wish we could channel even a little of Lauren Singer’s effort in striving for a zero waste lifestyle. Or maybe we should start segregating our wastes into 34 categories like the town of Kamikatsu in Japan. But really, segregating wastes into biodegradable and non-biodegradable could already make a difference.  Garbage dumped in landfills can significantly be reduced if the biodegradables are composted.

We used to have just one garbage bin in the office. I felt bad whenever I see the garbage all mixed up. After work, when I leave the building, I see these piles of garbage bags and these men sorting through the waste, probably looking for recyclables they could salvage and sell. Again, segregating wastes into biodegradable and non-biodegradable would make life easier for them. So that’s what I proposed and I’m glad people in the office obliged. I didn’t want to impose too much.

Waste segregation is very basic but you would be surprised how it can get complicated. We don’t exactly have a proper system for waste management. We have the policy in place but lack the political will to fully implement it. And there are much more important things to think about. Heck, environmental issues should be prioritized and addressed but that’s just me.

In a developing country like the Philippines, where poverty is still pretty much part of life, how can you ask people to avoid single use sachet contributing to plastic pollution when that’s what they can afford. Same with patronizing organic food or sustainable and environment-friendly products, which are relatively more expensive. My friends and I were talking about this one time, relating it to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If people can barely satisfy their basic needs, you can’t expect them to care for the plight of the environment. On the other hand, why do smart, caring people ignore environmental issues? Why can’t those who can take action?

At the beginning of this year, I wrote “Note to Self” to remind myself to breathe and let go. But as an environmentalist, sometimes I can’t help feeling frustrated. The more you know, the more you care, the more you suffer. You’re labeled anti-development. Or they think you’re just exaggerating or over reacting. Add to that the fact that environmental defenders are being killed! Why did I decide to be an environmentalist, haha!

Because as Helen Keller puts it, “I am only one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” I guess, that’s one thing I can do. Raise awareness through my writing, through the environmental initiatives I participate in, through my lifestyle.

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Photo by Jason Quema

It’s funny how my friends remark, “Ryan will get angry” when I see them using single-use plastic. At least they’re more aware, I suppose. And maybe one of these days, they would also say, “No straw, please.”

Filipino Youth Beyond Paris (and yes, youth pa rin ako)

Ang suwerte ng kabataan ngayon. Ang dami nilang opportunities for youth engagement. Basta may event o program na meant for youth participants, tsine-check ko kaagad ang age qualification. Hindi na kasi ako pasok sa Philippine definition pero sa UN, youth pa ako so wapakels ako sa inyo, haha! Joke lang.

Anyway, inorganisa ng Climate Reality Project Philippines ang “Filipino Youth Beyond Paris: Acting on Climate, from Paris to Kigali and beyond,” isang climate action conference para sa mga youth (yes!). Ninais din nitong pag-usapan ang national youth statement on climate na ibibigay sa Philippine delegation sa 23rd Conference on Parties sa Bonn, Germany.

Hindi iyan isang bonggang party. Meeting iyan at negosasyon patungkol sa Paris Agreement. Ang Agreement na ito ay naglalayong i-limit ang pag-init ng mundo below two degrees at tinatarget nga natin ay 1.5 degrees kasi just a slight increase in temperature could mean the end of the world as we know it. OA?! Pero seriously, remember Yolanda? Bagyo pa more ang dala nito.

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Picture ng aming mock negotiation (Photo from Climate Reality Philippines).

Eh, ano naman iyong Kigali? Bale siyudad ito sa Rwanda kung saan na-ammend iyong Montreal Protocol. Iyong Montreal Protocol ay nagpa-phase out ng mga ozone-depleting substances. Dahil walang effect sa ozone ang hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) ginawa siyang substitute as refrigerant pero powerful greenhouse gas pala siya. So doon sa Kigali Amendment, kailangang i-phase out na rin ang HFCs. Gets?

Policy work can actually be exciting pag naiintindihan mo ang mga galawang nagaganap. Isa pa importante rin siya kasi ito iyong nagiging basehan ng mga pagbabagong ninanais natin. At sa mga policy work na ito, siyempre dapat involved ang all sectors including the youth. Kasi nga, tayo raw iyong pag-asa ng bayan na paulit-ulit binabanggit na para bang nakalimutan na natin. Kasi feeling nila puro selfie ang alam ng mga millenials. Pero sa totoo lang, sa tingin ko mas empowered at proactive ang mga kabataan ngayon, which is an awesome thing!

So balik tayo sa climate action, you want to know what you can do? Check out 101 ways to fight climate change. Sali ka rin sa iba’t-ibang youth initiatives at sabihan mo ako kung merong event pang-youth, iyong UN definition ha, hehe! But at the end of the day, bata o matanda, lahat tayo may magagawa para masolusyonan ang climate change. And the time to act is NOW!

No longer the Baguio we used to know

Baguio has recently been designated as one of the UNESCO Creative Cities for crafts and folk art. While this calls for a celebration, I can’t help but think about the issues haunting my beloved hometown.

Baguio is no longer the City of Pines. The trees have been replaced by malls, tall buildings, and condos. Are we trying to copy Manila? Manila of all places! Remember how trees were cut to make way for a “green” Sky Park that features environment-friendly facilities. Really?! How smart! Very, very smart, indeed!

I’ve joined a protest walk to stop this madness but sadly, corporate greed prevailed. In a funny twist of fate, the mall’s roof was blown away by a typhoon, not once but twice!

Now comes another “brilliant” proposal of constructing a podium car parking at Burnham Park.

Baguio is no longer the “Clean and Green City Hall of Famer” it used to be. The city is choking. Choking in smoke, garbage, and plastic. There’s an ordinance that bans plastic and Styrofoam. I understand that this is yet to be fully implemented next year but when I was in town the past weekend, it seems like there’s not even an attempt to transition to eco-friendly bags.

Baguio is no longer the Summer Capital of the Philippines that we knew. This title, in fact, has been abused to justify putting up more hotels, more establishments, more cafes. Apparently, there’s almost a hundred registered cafes in the city! Far too many of everything if you ask me.

Blame doesn’t only fall on big corporations, businessmen, and realtors. Baguio residents have allowed the invasion of houses on mountains which appear nice at night but look like garbage piled on top of each other at daytime. It’s easy for us to put the fault on tourists for garbage and too much traffic but we also contributed to these.

Sigh… the rant just goes on.

But the real question is where do we go from here?

Advocating for ecological agriculture and mindful consumption

Last year, I was inspired to learn about the positive side of technology in Rappler’s Innovation + Social Good event. This year, I got to actively participate in the Social Good Summit (SGS) as I was able to share the campaign of #IAmHampasLupa.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:

Rappler also wrote about our story here. Thank you, Rappler!

The SGS with the theme, “#HackSociety 2017: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind,” focused on media and democracy; environment and climate change; peace, governance, and local development; and public health and well-being. It featured innovative solutions to society’s real life problems. It was also an opportunity for different groups to showcase the projects and the work that they do contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking of SDGs, The 2030 Project organized “LEADERS Unite 2017: #OurGoals.” This is a youth initiative committed to supporting the attainment of the United Nation’s 17 SDGs Agenda by 2030. For this activity, I was invited as a Youth Champion for SDG#12: Responsible Consumption and Production where I discussed how our consumption behavior can contribute to climate change.

Both of these events were a reaffirmation of how this generation, branded as indifferent millennials, is actually doing its part to solve the problems of the world. So despite all the negativity these days, it’s nice to know that there are still a lot of good things happening around us.

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Let’s #BeInconvenient Together

Why is truth inconvenient? We know that climate change is real but why do some people deny it? Why don’t we seem to care much?

Maybe because we don’t belong to the underprivileged sectors of society who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Maybe our priorities are corporate agenda and economic development which doesn’t factor in sustainability.

Maybe we feel that climate change is too big an issue and is out of our hands.

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Photo from https://inconvenientsequel.tumblr.com/

As a follow-up to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary focusing on the realities of climate change, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” premiered in the Philippines on August 28, 2017 at Trinoma. The movie further takes a look at the urgency of the issue and likewise highlights the Climate Reality Project, the climate negotiations held in Paris, and the shift to renewable energy.

And while we watch this sequel and is reminded of the devastation brought about by climate-related disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Harvey wreaks havoc in the US and just recently, devastating floods hit India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Facing these realities of climate change can be overwhelming. But according to Al Gore, despair is another form of denial. He draws hope from individuals and groups doing what they can, contributing to climate action.

Maybe we have a better capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Maybe we don’t see the connection of how so-called development contributes to climate change. Maybe we feel helpless and even indifferent. But as emphasized by Al Gore, the climate crisis is a moral and spiritual challenge to us all. And therefore we have to fight like the world depends on it because our world depends on it.

There’s still a lot of work to be done. Be inspired by the growing number of Climate Reality Leaders, environmentalists, and advocates fighting for the planet. Let’s #BeInconvenient together!

Catch the movie exclusively shown at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Trinoma and Glorietta 4).

Wondering what you can do? Check out “101 ways to fight climate change and support the Paris agreement.”