The term sustainability is commonly defined as “the capacity to endure; is the endurance of systems and processes.” ( Wikipedia, 2015). The term food is defined as “any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism’s cells to provide energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth” (Wikipedia, 2015). Although both are used in separate context, they share a common purpose; To preserve and prolong life through stimulation and maintenance, therefore our group was confused as to why technology has had such a negative impact on the food industry. We keep about technology improving our quality of life and it’s main purpose is to enable us to live much longer and endure more, but this is simply not the case. Although in the beginning everything feels good, that feeling is temporary and we keep returning back to the same place we started, and in some situations, we end up worse than we began. The food industry began implementing technological advancements since the beginning of time, as people were always looking for a reason to make the food industry more convenient and faster. Everything from the way vegetables are grown and the way cheese is processed for preservation, to the way Kool Aid is manufactured, technology has left its footprint. It was Albert Einstein who so popularly said, “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal” (Brainyquote, 2015). Half a century later and his views still prove true.
In the past two decades there has been a significant increase in obesity amongst both adults and children. “More than a third of adults were obese as of 2011 to 2012. More than two-thirds of adults were overweight or obese…Approximately 17% of children and teenagers (ages 2 to 19) were obese from 2011 to 2012, and 31.8 % were either overweight or obese” (TSSO, 2013). This epidemic is mainly the result of technological advancements in the food industry as people have turned to processed, pre-packaged and fast foods as an alternative to whole, fresh foods due to their busy lifestyles. Chemicals are pumped into various types of food to prolong their lifespan. In addition, materials used in the packaging and storage of these foods such as aluminum, silicon and other metal materials have a negative impact not only on the environment, but also on our bodies. Studies have also discovered the significant depletion of nutrients in pre-packaged food vs. whole foods (Villamizar, 2011). Only recently have scientists began discovering new ways to increase the sustainability of food packaging by altering the materials used for certain preservatives and introducing edible packaging ( Albright, 2015). Nonetheless, these advancements are mere drops in an ocean of problems.
Fig 2: Percentage of adult vs. children obesity rates as of 2013 (TSSO, 2013)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO foods) are another misinterpreted lifesaving technology that has taken over worldwide. It was established to increase food production, and provide shoppers with a more attractive product. Instead of getting a small bruised tomato, people now have the option of getting multiple shiny, large, and perfectly rounded tomatoes. Its main concept stems from the ideal of extracting high qualities from one organism and injecting it into another organism that needs a makeover. The issue with this is that most people do not realize, that they could be eating a tomato that has a tuna fish’s DNA in it.
Fig 4: Image of the concept for Fish DNA injected into a GMO tomato (Ardent, 2007).
This 7 billion dollar industry is cutting as many corners as they can to keep up with the hype and demand of GMO foods ( Mercola, 2011). On the outside, everything looks great, but in reality this is just another way the government is trying to make more money off their citizens’ livelihood. First we saw how they used the price of solar panels to capitalize in the energy industry, then we discussed how particular governments are trying to control their individual countries population by enforcing population/gender caps, and now they are controlling the type of food we fuel our bodies with. They are indirectly contributing to the decline of the quality of life as they purposely choose not to use their resources to help us, but to help their pockets. GMO foods are more expensive, but people still choose them because the government allows these companies and the media to promote these products as the only option for a healthy lifestyle. So unless people make a special effort to educate themselves on the difference, they are left in the dark. GMO foods make sense except for the chain of negative events that follow. Beginning with the pesticides that are sprayed on the plants and the foods themselves, to the leakage of these pesticides into nearby bodies of water that not only contribute to water population, but also leads to water-life harm in itself. Pesticides also have a negative effect on the people who depend on that body of water for survival. There have been countless class action law suits on pesticides companies being careless with their products and people developing cancer, deformities and other medical conditions as well as death in newborns ( Mercola, 2011). Instead of using technology to promote healthier lifestyle options with respect to our food choices, the government and media has forces the GMO option onto us through the “wow factor” of technology. If they take the time to educate us on a wider variety of choices, we could use technology to improve the quality of food that we ingest, not decrease it. We are trying to save our lives, not lower our population. The problem with society is everyone is too concerned with satisfying their current needs and wants, not their long term ones. If we take a minute to re-evaluate our choices, we can decrease our health risks and improve the quality of our life. Technology should help us grow towards a sustainable future on this planet, not cut corners to satisfy our current needs.
The TBL Simulator was very challenging with respect to food supply, which did not come as a surprise to our group. To maintain a society, it is mandatory that you provide your population with their basic requirements to survive, or upheaval and riots will be the result. This will in turn lead to a decrease in the economy and an overall fail in the game. With food, there is a system of checks and balances and whether it is in the game or real life, there will always be an imbalance if necessities are not provided. While playing the TBL Simulator we realized the importance of food sustainability in a society. We also noticed that population and food supply are linked together. As the population increases, so does the need to more local food resources to keep the society sustainable. A strong local food system not only supports small farms and independent grocery store owners, but it also creates steady jobs. If the population has access to healthier food options, than health costs go down as people are healthier and energetic. Naturally they will be in a better condition to participate at work more efficiently. If the government could help with this, it would benefit them in the long run as people would have more money to reinvest into the economy.
We are trying to save our lives, not lower our population. The problem with society is everyone is too concerned with satisfying their current needs and wants, not their long term ones. If we take a minute to re-evaluate our choices, we can decrease our health risks and improve the quality of our life. Technology should help us grow towards a sustainable future on this planet, not cut corners to satisfy our current needs and wants.
Matt Damon is not only a global top-paid celebrity, but he is also a philanthropist and one of his greatest accomplishment is his water.org charitable foundation. Water. org provides various water and food and toilet solutions for malnourished nations across the world. Initially he began this project focusing on water supply, however he has recently introduced a whole foods program as well. His most popular project is the “water credit” program which provides loans to people to have access to water wells and toilets. His other notable idea was the instant water purifier which can purify water from any well, stream, lake etc. instantly. We give a big shout out to Matt Damon and the entire water.org organization for their positive use of technology to benefit, not hurt people. Check out the short video clip below.
DIY: “There are more people in the world who have a cellphone, than who have access to a toilet” (Water.org/Damon, 2012).