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Re-making Our World After COVID-19

Published in The Economic Times & The Times of India.

We’re in the midst of a global reckoning.

Nature has humbled us overnight, forcing us to stop turning a blind eye to the truth we have always known but chosen to ignore. We are inter-dependant beings. Being unkind to the planet is a sure (and fast) way of wiping ourselves out. It is time to realize that no one is safe until ALL of us are safe. If we don’t re-imagine our food-systems, community living, healthcare, environmental responsibilities and the ethics behind profits – devastation will rule our lives.

We can no longer be obsequious in the anonymity of how we grow our food. Our future depends on it.Doctors and scientists have agreed that Covid-19 (along with others like Ebola, Nipah, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, HIV etc.) are due to the inhumane slaughter of animals. It could be our methods of heartless herding, farming and exploiting these animals for meat as well as increasingly targetting bushmeat for food. Also, this isn’t just about meat. But our inorganic farming practices and chemically imbalancing food processing systems – are the reason behind 90%  of chronic illnesses that humans suffer from today. Treating chronic diseases—many of which are caused or exacerbated by food—will cost the global economy an estimated $47 trillion by 2030. The Lancet found that a diet high in processed foods, refined grains, and sugar—was responsible for 11 million deaths worldwide a year.

I know. Its overwhelming. And what can we do about it, as individuals or as organizations? Turns out, plenty! As an ordinary citizen or as someone with any amount of power to affect the systems of our country and of the world, EACH of us can do several things to start creating change.

Before we get into that, we need to acknowledge that our food systems (and habits) don’t just affect our health, but also the planetary balance, global climate and economy. Where and how is our food grown (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian)? How is it impacting the environment, biodiversity and nutrient quality of our food? Is it really the best economic plan for all sections of society, be it farmers or consumers, in the long run? A new food system is required, which respects nature as well as people. We need a reformation of politics, addressing social injustice. Of course – our food system is greatly involved in social injustice. Just look around and see how many children go without meals each day, how the elderly and sick from lower strata of society have no means for healthcare. And did you know that about 15 companies alone control almost 90% of the calories we consume in urban countries (mostly unhealthy)? Industrial Agriculture is responsible for HALF the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. Pollinators like bees—upon which 75 percent of our food production depends—are being killed by pesticides. Our soil health is deteriorating because of existing practices. Our most powerful tool to reverse disease, climate change and economic inequality- is FOOD.

All riled up? Good. Now take action! Collectively, one person at a time, one day at a time, we can fix this. We no longer have the luxury of closing our eyes or hearts to the destruction we have wrought. Yes, it is WE who have wrought this, by endorsing capitalism without a conscience and with runaway consumption.

“EVERY time you shop, your voice gets heard. You have the power to decide supply and demand. If you shop local, sustainable, organic, ethically sourced and made goods, you are increasing demand for these goods. You have immense power to shift the system with EVERY purchase.”- Dr. Mark Hyman.

As an individual, your daily consumption choices matter. Your voice matters. Each time you spread a message on healing our food system, social behaviours and public policy – you advocate awareness. That’s where it starts. You influence your circle of friends. They influence their circles. It spreads. Your ripple will then encompass those in power. Your politician and policy maker will hear you. More the pressure from the public, greater his impetus to act. You can also join organizations campaigning for change.

And if you are an entrepreneur or a business head, before every decision, ask yourself, “Is this choice good for only me and my organization, or for my planet as a whole? Are the profits being distributed fairly? Are the labourers getting a fair share of what we make or are the ones on top gobbling almost everything? Is our sourcing, processing and distribution harming the environment? Are there better ways to accomplish our goals? Can we re-use and re-innovate? How else can we be more socially responsible?” When you ask such questions, creative possibilities unfold.

We should also work towards the government and large corporations being more transparent in their transactions. Engage with experts from versatile spheres such as environmentalists, global economics, social work, health, international affairs etc. in making decisions and innovations. Not only can we come out with more profit, but also with advanced solutions to care for our communities and for our planet.

If each of us spend some time in researching and honouring reality, our choices, no matter how small, will start contributing to the change we need to see.

People over profits.

Planet over pillage.

Faith over fear.

Responsibility over nonchalance.

‘We’ over ‘Me’.

This is what we need.

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