Remember the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? It’s a favorite in our house. It tells the story of a mouse and the domino effect of what happens after he eats a cookie. Here’s a little excerpt:
"If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk.
When you give him the milk, he'll probably ask you for a straw.
When he's finished, he'll ask you for a napkin.
Then he'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache.
When he looks in the mirror, he might notice his hair needs a trim.
So he'll probably ask for a pair of nail scissors…”
You get the picture. It ends up being quite an exhausting day for the little boy who was looking after the mouse.
It made me think of our world and how one simple action can have a rippling effect. Believe it or not, we are much more interconnected than you may think.
So without further ado, here’s my revised version of, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It’s called, If You Give a Landfill a Tomato.
We walk over to our kitchen counter and here we find a lonely and sad, shriveled tomato. You had the best intentions but sadly, it never got used. (I guess it’s not surprising as 46% of fresh food purchased in the United States is wasted every year.)
So what happens next to our little tomato? For those tomatoes that aren’t composted, they are put into the trash, a garbage truck picks it up, and it’s sent to the landfill. The End.
Not so fast. This is where it gets tricky. You have to remember that a landfill does not contain any oxygen, it’s considered anaerobic. Everything is tightly compacted and hot. So when the tomato decomposes inside of the landfill, it produces methane and methane is 25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This contributes to climate change.
But it doesn’t end there. The impact of food waste is far greater. It also impacts other people, nonhuman animals and in turn, it impacts ourselves.
People who need food are not getting it and the food that is not getting consumed is heating up the planet; so by reducing food waste, a massive impact can be made for our planet. Imagine the deforestation of trees that could be avoided if we reduced our food waste. (Less trees being destroyed for food production.)
We have to keep in mind that up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day because of the destruction of these biodiverse regions of our planet, specifically within the Amazon rainforest— the home for at least 10 percent of the world’s known biodiversity.
The Amazon rainforest plays a key role in absorbing carbon and moderating climate. Trees not only store carbon but they are the cornerstone of the climate balance in which we depend. Without trees and vegetation, erosion occurs, which leads to the disruption of our soil and the ability for life to grow.
Not only is this a huge environmental concern, but it’s also a concern for the Indigenous people that live off this land. They are constantly threatened by ranchers and loggers ready to take over, further depleting their resources and home.
Climate change is especially damaging to impoverished communities. In places like Bangladesh, Haiti, Puerto Rico, India and Nepal, the effects of flooding, droughts and climate events have been devastating. As Muhammad Yunus explains in, Creating a World Without Poverty, climate change exposes those that live in poverty to life-threatening dangers. Natural disasters affect these areas the most because they don’t have the money to build the infrastructure that will keep them safe.
Another offshoot of how climate change affects the most vulnerable, is that when resources are impacted and dwindle, it promotes local competition for land and water which subsequently fuels social tensions, population displacement, and even violent conflict, as we have seen with Boko Haram around Lake Chad in northern Africa.
As you can see, the effects of climate change are far reaching. Those living in the Boston area know about the discussions that have taken place due to the rising sea levels. As Greenland’s ice sheet is melting, sea levels are threatening cities. 70% of populations live on coastal plains and 11 of the 15 biggest cities stand on a coast line, just like us on the East Coast. As seas rise, there is a possibility for salt to evade the water table; depriving inhabitants of drinking water. Water shortages could affect more than 2 billion people before 2025.
Could we too be climate refugees?
So the next time you find yourself at the store, think about that lonely tomato and how being mindful with our purchases can make a world of difference. Maybe instead of buying two tomatoes, you buy one, or instead of buying five, you buy four. You may find that you don’t need so many tomatoes after all.
Every moment is an opportunity to make a different choice. Let’s move from an “ego-system” to an “ecosystem” and ask ourselves, how can we create a world that works for all?
Adams, C. J., & Messina, V. (2018). Protest kitchen: Fight injustice, save the planet, and fuel your resistance one meal at a time. Newburyport, MA: Conari Press.
Hansel, H. (2018, February 2). How Animal Agriculture Affects Our Planet. Retrieved November 11, 2018, from https://blog.pachamama.org/how-animal-agriculture-affects-our-planet
Hawken, P. (2017). Drawdown. D: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. Penguin Books.
Institute for Humane Education. (2017, June 11). Humane Educator's Toolbox: Changing Systems Through Design. Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://humaneeducation.org/blog/2015/humane-educators-toolbox-changing-systems-design/
Numeroff, L. J. (1997). If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. HarperCollins.
United Nations. (2018, May 16). 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN | UN DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved February 10, 2019, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html
Yunus, M. (2008). Creating a world without poverty: How social business can transform our lives. New York: PublicAffairs.
Zimmerman, B. (2016, May 02). Rain Forest Warriors: How Indigenous Tribes Protect the Amazon. Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131222-amazon-kayapo-indigenous-tribes-deforestation-environment-climate-rain-forest/