I just finished watching Dive!, a documentary released in 2011 by Jeremy Seifert about dumpster diving and food waste. I don't retain detailed facts very easily, so whenever I watch a film like this, instead of remembering numbers or percentages, I usually come away with some general feelings about the bigger picture rather than a list of trivia-worthy tidbits.
The feeling I got from this viewing experience? Guilt.
It's not a bad kind of guilt, necessarily. It's more of a if I feel strongly about this issue and read and talk about it as much as I do, why have I still not taken any action? kind of guilt. It's the kind that makes me want to do something, change my habits, mix up my lifestyle, and make a difference. But, like most sentiments, all of that is easier said than done.
And okay, I lied: a couple of numbers stuck with me after the movie ended. One is 96 billion, which is the number of pounds of food Americans waste annually. Percentage-wise, that means that each year, over 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten, and yet hundreds of millions in our country and around the world suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. These are all abstract concepts that most of us - myself included - are aware of but do nothing about.
Something I wasn't aware of, however, was the nationwide campaign during World War I and World War II for people to produce their own food, buy food locally, and reduce food waste. Maybe I just never paid attention in history class, or maybe it wasn't part of the curriculum, but for some reason, this information came as a surprise to me. It used to be considered patriotic to eat fresh and local. Now it's a grassroots movement, albeit a growing one.
The film also made a point about our disconnect from where our food comes from, and how our society has come to view food as a commodity instead of valuing it as a precious product of the earth; of the processes of the natural world. Seifert asks, "Do we value the earth? Do we value all that it produces? Have we lost our connection to creation? Do we see its beauty? Its fragility? Do we care for it? For all that comes from it? Do we nurture it? Appreciate it? Has it become just another product for us to consume?"
Watching this documentary sparked something in me. It's not that the subject matter itself was revelatory; like I said, it's about an issue that most people are aware of. But it was a great reminder of my daily bad habits, of which there are many, and of the small steps I can take to make a difference on a personal level (being more conscious of what I'm buying at the grocery store, making use of my perishables in a timely manner instead of letting them get to a point where they start rotting, purchasing smaller amounts of food from local sources), as well as actions that can be taken to make a bigger impact (volunteering my time at food banks, paying attention and lending my voice to policies that are being made and to the discussion at large).
I have a lot of excellent intentions when it comes to how I want to live my life. I want to eat well, exist in a sustainable manner, and do my part in making the world a healthier, cleaner, better place for everyone. But without action, those sentiments are meaningless. Taking action is not a strength of mine. It takes courage and being okay with stirring the pot and experiencing a little discomfort. These are things I struggle with. However, I think I'm finally getting to a point in my life where I've gone through enough uncomfortable situations and growth that I might be able to dip my toe into flipping my under-the-radar existence on its head, even if that means just making some changes to my daily life. Any activities become habit if you do them enough.
This film wasn't just about diving into dumpsters; it was about diving into a new way of life. As Seifert narrates, "The problem won't conveniently solve itself, either. We have to move forward creatively, start living differently, so that everyone has a chance to live fully. It's about more than not wasting food, it's about making sure everyone has enough to eat. Clearing our plates is a good place to start, but it's not going to put food in hungry mouths or stop massive waste in grocery stores or throughout the food industry."
Food for thought.
Happy Monday, friends.