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France Is Proposing A Law Forcing Supermarkets to Donate Their Unsold Food to Charity

I often hear people saying that there are not enough resources for everyone on the planet, arguing that poverty and inequality are a natural result of scarcity (the idea there’s not enough resources to go around).

But these people fail to consider one extremely important yet rarely-discussed issue:

Food wastage is a HUGE problem in the developed world.

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The World Food Organization (WFO) is the international food assistance branch of the United Nations. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and works to address hunger around the world.

According to the WFO, around one third of all the food produced worldwide is “lost or wasted” while it’s still fit for human consumption.

A group of 63 French Members of Parliament saw this problem as an opportunity. In late July, they proposed a new law forcing large supermarkets (those with 1,000 square metres/10,800 sq ft or moreof floor space) to donate their, “unsold but still consumable food products” to charity.

Carrefour, France’s largest supermarket chain, will be among those affected if the proposal is approved

The proposal follows a number of moves in Europe to cut back on food waste. Earlier this year, the European Union proposed a scrapping of the “best if used by” labels on foods that have long shelf-lives, such as coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles.

Then in May, Belgium passed a law similar to the one that France is now proposing.

Many French supermarkets are already donating their unsold food to charities, but the Parliament members felt that more could be done to combat food waste.

The average French supermarket wastes 200 tons of food every year. The EU estimates that across Europe, around 100 million tons of food are wasted yearly.

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In the United States, the issue is even more pronounced. Though cross-country comparisons can be difficult, it’s pretty safe to say that on average, the United States wastes more food per person than does any other country in the world.

According to a new study released by the USDA in February, the U.S. wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds (66.5 million tons) of consumable food in 2010.

That food is worth around $161 billion (using retail prices), so food waste is definitely an economic problem. But when you look at the actual loss of calories, you really begin to get a picture of just how much we’re wasting.

Click to enlarge. (Source: BCFN, "Defeating the paradox of food waste", 2013)
Click to enlarge. (Source: BCFN, “Defeating the paradox of food waste”, 2013)

According to the USDA’s report, those 133 billion pounds of food contained around 141 trillion calories. That’s equal to 1,249 wasted calories per person every day.

An earlier study from the USDA found 14.5% of Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table. More than one in five American children are at risk of living in hunger.

Think of how quickly we could end hunger in America if we could use some of those 1,249 calories we waste every day to help feed these people.

Another quick graphic on the impact of food waste. Click to enlarge

In France, most people are welcoming the proposal, with the only issue being how to pay for the extra refrigerated storage containers that the charities will need to store all the extra food.

To me however, this seems like a very small hang-up. The overall value to society will be hundreds of times greater than the costs of a few giant freezers.

Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 1.3 billion tons of consumable food are wasted every year. So please stop saying that there isn’t enough to go around.

Read the original story from The Telegraph here.

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World Health Organization: Ebola Outbreak Is Moving Faster Than Our Efforts to Control It

The current Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem. Since it began in March, the outbreak has claimed 729 lives, leaving another 1,300 people with confirmed or suspected infections.

This is by far the most serious and deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus everThe second most deadly outbreak, in 1976, only had 602 cases and 431 deaths.

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Click to enlarge

Earlier today, Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), spoke to leaders from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (the three most affected countries) in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.

She proposed a $100 million plan to help reverse the tide of the battle against the outbreak by deploying hundreds of additional personnel to reinforce the local and international health workers who have been overwhelmed by the high number of infections.

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Click to enlarge

Chan, in no uncertain terms, stressed the urgency and importance of putting this plan into place:

“This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it.”

She also added that the ways things are going now, the chance of the outbreak spreading to other countries is high:

“If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.”

In her speech, Chan told the leaders that this particular strain of the virus is the most lethal strain in the Ebola virus family. According to the W.H.O., the virus has killed more than half of the people it has infected.

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Click to enlarge

She also talked in detail about how fast and easily the virus has been spreading, as well as pointing that,

“…it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks.”

The virus is spreading not only in rural areas but also in densely populated cities. Chan warned that if it is not contained quickly, it has the potential to mutate:

“Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.”

The Ebola virus (those long, spaghetti-looking strands) covers a cell and spreads to others nearby. Click to enlarge (Credit: Paul Bates, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine)
The Ebola virus (those long, spaghetti-like strands) covers a cell and spreads to others nearby. Click to enlarge. (Credit: Paul Bates, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine)

Luckily, the virus is not yet airborne- it spreads via bodily fluids. If the blood, vomit or feces of an infected person comes in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth of someone else, the infection can be transmitted.

Most of the cases in the current outbreak are people caring for their sick relatives or preparing their bodies for burial. But health workers treating the sick are also at high risk:

“The outbreak is affecting a large number of doctors, nurses and other health care workers, one of the most essential resources for containing an outbreak,”

Chan said at one point during her speech. Just yesterday, Sheik Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor who had treated over 100 patients, died from the disease himself. It was a massive blow to the country’s efforts to battle the disease.

Dr. Sheik Umar Khan is considered a national hero in Sierra Leone (Photo: Reuters)

The W.H.O. says that the $100 million plan “identifies the need” for hundreds of additional personnel in the region. A statement they released said,

“Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers.”

The CDC has said that the chances of the outbreak spreading across the Atlantic and taking hold in the United States is slim, mainly because people have to come into direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluid to get the virus.

However, they are still preparing for what they call the “remote possibility” that the outbreak does come to the States.

Read more from The New York Times here.

A Few Reasons Why Tomorrow Might Be A Bit of a Strange Day…

Tomorrow will not be your ordinary Friday. For starters, tomorrow is the 13th, making tomorrow a Friday the 13th.

There will also be a full moon in the sky when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning. The last time that happened? October 13, 2000. The next time it will happen? August 13, 2049.

I’m not one for superstitions, but there is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet. Our sun has been shooting off powerful solar flares the last few days, including this one captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory early Tuesday morning:

Three recent solar X-flares emitted by the Sun. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of NASA/SDO)

Solar flares are brief, high-radiation eruptions that happen on the surface of the Sun. The three flares emitted in the past two days (pictured above) have been X-flares, the most powerful classification of solar flare. X-flares emit radiation at virtually every wavelength, from radio waves, to the light we can see, to x-rays and gamma rays.

Because of all of the different electromagnetic waves that the flares emit, they can disrupt communications here on Earth. In fact, the flare in the video above caused a temporary radio blackout here on Earth, according to Space.com.

The electromagnetic spectrum. Click to enlarge

Did I mention CMEs? CME stands for coronal mass ejection. This occurs when a powerful solar flare emits a plasma burst along with the radiation. A plasma burst can cause polar geomagnetic storms which are capable of severely disrupting communications and satellite systems, including GPS.

Along with having the potential to cause low levels of radiation poisoning in humans, a strong CME would also create surges in electrical wires, destroying transformers and leaving millions without power.

Despite the scary stuff, CME’s are pretty fascinating. These plasma burst clouds actually compresses Earth’s own magnetic field, which is what causes so many of the potential issues.

Artist depiction of how a CME plasma burst interacts with Earth’s magnetoshpere (Courtesy of NASA)

At first, officials at the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center didn’t think that the flare in the video above had emitted a CME, only to find later that it had actually produced two of them.

They are expected to give Earth a glancing blow when they reach Earth orbit…tomorrow, Friday the 13th.

An Ancient, 1 Ton Man-Eating Crocodile Was Just Captured Alive In Uganda

The giant reptilian beast in the picture above was finally captured on the fourth day of a search for the beast by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA).

The croc being loaded onto a truck (Photo: Donald Kiirya)
The croc being loaded onto a truck (Photo: Donald Kiirya)

The crocodile was believed to be responsible for taking the lives of four local fisherman on Lake Victoria and maiming several others in recent years. Many fisherman had begun to refuse to go out on the lake until the massive croc had been removed.

UWA workers extracting the croc from the trap (Photo: Donald Kiiyra)
UWA workers extracting the croc from the trap (Photo: Donald Kiirya)

Using a massive hook and piece of meat, the UWA was able to trap the crocodile. Over 100 local villagers came to see it be removed from the lake. It weighed in it at 1000 kg (~1.1 U.S. tons), just 47 kg less than Lolong, the former world record holder for heaviest crocodile (she died last year).

Villagers stare in awe at the monstrous reptile (Photo: AFP/Peter Busomokepeter)
Villagers stare in awe at the monstrous reptile (Photo: AFP/Peter Busomokepeter)

Experts approximate that the crocodile is around 80 years old. After being captured, it was transferred to Murchison Falls National Park.

Read more from Uganda’s New Vision News here.

 

Happy Earth Day: Here’s A Few Graphics Illustrating the Current State of Affairs On Our Planet

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. The first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, was organized by environmental activists in a number of major cities who were fed up with the high levels of pollution that existed in many cities during that time (there were more factories in the cities in 1970 than there are now).

Earth Day is now celebrated in over 192 countries, promoting activism in conservation and environmental protection. A lot of other things have changed since 1970, though. For one, the global population has nearly doubled. The graphic below shows the relationship between our population growth and our use of resources.

Courtesy of World Wildlife Federation (click to enlarge)
Courtesy of World Wildlife Federation (click to enlarge)

With manufacturing growing rapidly in countries like China and India in the past few decades, we have also been increasing the amount of carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.

This interactive graphic allows you to see total emissions and emissions per person in different countries, as well as how much these numbers changed between 1996 and 2006. Click the image to link to the interactive map.

Carbon emissions (courtesy of The Guardian)

One of the most simple but most effective ways to promote a healthy Earth is recycling. The United States is notoriously wasteful. Here’s Dave Tilford from the environmental activism group The Sierra Club:

 “With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper.”

This graphic gives 10 quick facts about trash in America (click image to enlarge):

It’s not all gloom and doom however. The good thing is, we still have time to change the way we view our relationship with the Earth and adjust the way we live accordingly.

There’s lots of little things you can do to help this transition. The National Resources Defense Council put together this great graphic showing a few ways you can actively promote the health of the Earth in your everyday life (click image to enlarge):

Courtesy of the NRDC

Oh, and plant a tree if you can!! Happy Earth Day!