All that Waste. Shame! Shame!

Another rant on the shameful waste of food ensuing our planet.

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The other day I saw a disturbing headline on the CBC website. The headline was, Walmart insider says ‘heartbreaking’ amount of food dumped in trash. The article reports that a former worker at almost a dozen Walmart stores in the Vancouver area claims he saw loads of what appeared to be perfectly good food dumped in the trash, even though Walmart says it only discards inedible food.  The article also states that CBC Marketplace investigated this issue with the episode airing Friday, October 28, in which their investigation exposed that in the Toronto area, investigators repeatedly found outdoor garbage bins piled high with everything from produce to baked goods, frozen foods, meat and dairy products.

just-eat-it-a-documentary-about-food-waste
From Just Eat It documentary

Now this is an issue that I’ve twice before written posts about. Those posts were Don’t throw that away and Vive La France. I just can’t wrap my head around why this occurs. Is it that corporations, like Walmart, just can’t be bothered? Do they not care? According to the article, the large retailer is committed to reducing food waste. The Walmart spokesperson says the company has teamed up with many organizations such as food banks to donate unsold food. The company also claims food is only discarded when it’s deemed unsafe to eat. If that is true, why did Marketplace discover all the food waste? The spokesperson could not address all the reports from Walmart insiders who told CBC they were instructed to throw away food if it looked imperfect or was close to an expired best-before date, or if shelf space was needed.

So what are these “best before dates” about?  Another CBC report titled, Best before dates and expiry dates: 5 things you may not know, explains it this way.

The best before date has nothing to do with the safety of the food. It has to do with the taste of the food. Best before dates guarantee freshness. Now expiration dates are different.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency dictates that only five types of products need to be labelled with an expiration date. These include, baby formula and other human milk substitutes, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets, and formulated liquid diets. So the reality is you don’t have to discard a food item when the best before date is reached. Generally, if the food changes colour, or develops a bad smell, it is no longer safe to eat. Dented, leaking or bulging cans should be discarded. When in doubt throw it out is a good rule of thumb to follow.

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From USA Today

Thankfully, there is some good news. Some corporations are truly trying to reduce waste. The CBC article, Selling unwanted food at a discount, says the Loblaws grocery chain recently expanded its Naturally Imperfect line. Loblaws is a supermarket chain with over 2000 stores in Canada. Those are stores such as Loblaws, No Frills, Value-mart, Superstore, Real Canadian Superstore, and numerous others. Its Naturally Imperfect line is where it offers up to a 30 per cent discount for blemished and deformed produce. The program began in Ontario and has now spread to select Loblaws grocery stores across the country.

IGA in Quebec is now selling imperfect produce. (see ugly produce). IGA is part of Sobeys which is the second largest food retailer in Canada. My question is why aren’t they selling imperfect produce in all provinces? Furthermore, why aren’t all grocery chains selling imperfect produce? It’s time we consumers start demanding all stores stock imperfect produce. It decreases food waste and saves us money.

Save-On Foods, a chain of supermarkets across western Canada, announced in September  that they were placing “Misfit” produce in all their stores (see Misfit produce). Thumbs upI give a thumbs up to Loblaws, IGA and Save-On Foods for taking positive steps towards reducing waste.

Furthermore, we need to pressure grocery chains to donate to food charities and pressure governments to enforce it like France and Italy have done. I recently read in a local daily newspaper that the city of Calgary, located in Alberta, Canada, saves nearly a tonne of food a week from the landfill. Using volunteers, Lourdes Juan, founder of non-profit LeftOvers Calgary, picks up leftover food destined for the landfill and delivers it to hungry Calgarians.  (see Calgary Herald article for more). The Globe and Mail did a story called, Charity makes the most out of other people’s leftovers, where the paper reports on organizations who are helping people in need and reducing waste. Kudos to those organizations!

I’ve always been told that the reason grocery chains and food establishments don’t donate their leftover food or the food deemed unsellable is because of liability issues. In other words, if they donated food and someone acquires food poisoning as a result, they could be sued. After I wrote my post, Don’t throw that away, I contacted the provincial government to ask why companies are not protected when they donate food. It turns out they are. Alberta has a law called, The Charitable Donation of Food Act, which protects companies who donate food. According to the website, Imagine Canada, most other provinces do as well. So liability is not the issue. I suspect it is a matter of convenience. When volunteer organizations come to collect the “unsellable food” companies willingly donate it. It seems companies such as Walmart just can’t be bothered to take the “unsellable food” to the charitable organizations. At least that’s my take.

The reality is food waste is an astronomical problem. The CBC article, Selling unwanted food at a discount, that I referred to earlier says that roughly 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. It also reports that Canadians waste more that $31 billion, yes billion, in food each year. Another statistic reported in the article is that 45% of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted. That is almost half! Much of this produce was wasted because it was deemed imperfect. This is emphatically wrong! This much food wasted is simply ethically and morally wrong when there are so many starving people on this planet. It’s time we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem, even if that is purchasing “imperfect produce” creating a demand for the product and thereby reducing waste. To quote Eldridge Cleaver, an American writer and political activist, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” Please, do your part to reduce the corrupt waste of food. Be part of the solution!

Thanksgiving, More Than a Holiday.

A commentary on the meaning of Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clip-art-thanksgiving-turkey-clipart-4-jpg-jcnrel-clipartOn Monday, October 10, 2016 our family, like most Canadians, celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in most of Canada, with the exceptions being the Atlantic provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, where it is an optional holiday. In its beginnings Thanksgiving was celebration for a successful harvest but the tradition has changed over the years. Now the focus is to get together with family to eat a large turkey dinner, including stuffing and pumpkin pie for dessert.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canada’s Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872. It was to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, from a serious illness. It was made official on January 31, 1957, when the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed, to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. During and after the American Revolution, Americans who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from United States to Canada. They brought with them the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

Thanksgiving in the United States is a public holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by all 50 states. Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, due to President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation declaring it as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

An interesting difference between Canada and the US is that in America, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is one of their biggest shopping days.  Black Friday has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season with stores offering many items on sale. That is not the case in Canada although we are starting to see retail outlets offer Black Friday sales in Canada. For Canadians, the holiday Monday means it’s a long weekend and shopping isn’t an essential part of it. Canada’s biggest shopping day of the year is December 26, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

Every thanksgiving, barring the occasional exception, we gather as a family to eat our turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots harvested from my garden, and turnips. The meal always finishes with pumpkin pie. Before we eat our delicious meal each family member takes turns sharing with one another at least five things we are thankful for. We have done this since our three children were little. Sometimes they would complain becoming impatient since they were hungry. My wife and I had a policy that if we heard complaining, our children would have to share more than the required number of “thankfuls”. One year when our eldest daughter was in her early teens she starting complaining about the number of “thankfuls” she was required to share. Each time she complained my wife and I added more. She finally stopped complaining after she reached about 12. She reluctantly came up with 12 things she was thankful for. We still laugh about that.

I always take time to express the things I’m grateful for at thanksgiving. I will always be grateful for my loving and supportive wife. She puts up with all my crazy ideas and ventures. I will always be grateful for my three wonderful children. We are fortunate enough to have two daughters and a son. All three of them have made us proud with the hard work they did to achieve their university degrees and how they practice their careers with commitment, purpose and integrity. I am also grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones. I am grateful to be living in a country that is inclusive, safe and respected. I could go on and on.

attitude-whatsapp-profile-pictures-attitude-dp-coolstatus-co-yvaufa-clipartThinking about this post, I realized that Thanksgiving is really about our attitude. Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday. It’s also a reminder to us to have an “attitude of gratitude”. It should be an attitude that we have every day of our lives. Why, you may ask? Psychology Today says there are seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. They are

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude increases mental strength.

The blog, Happier Human, has a post titled, The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life, which obviously claims there are 31 benefits of Gratitude. One that caught my attention is gratitude lets you live longer. The Huffington Post’s article, 10 Reasons Why Gratitude Is Healthy, says it has benefits to the heart,  immune system and boosts general well-being.

The article titled, Why Gratitude Is Good, summarizes the benefits of gratitude this way:

Physical
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

Social
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.

happy-thanksgiving-clipart-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-ksmaop-clipartEven though there may not be agreement on the number of benefits to having an “attitude of gratitude”, one can safely conclude that there are benefits to having this attitude. So don’t just have this “attitude of gratitude” at Thanksgiving, have it every single day of your life. Maybe start a gratitude journal. I have done this from time to time. (Now that I think about it, I haven’t done a journal in a while. I need to do something about that). It forces us to think of things that we are thankful for. If you’re not sure what a gratitude journal is or how to do one, see the article, Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal. So I encourage you to develop that “attitude of gratitude.” The bottom line is, it’s good for you.

The World Should be Weeping

Aleppo, a selfish human tragedy!

In late September I saw this video in a news report.

Now I had seen many news reports about Aleppo before but this video really got to me.  This video touched me on a deep level. The Canadian band, Nickelback, has a song called, “When We Stand Together”.  The beginning lyrics are,

One more depending on a prayer
And we all look away
People pretending everywhere
It’s just another day
There’s bullets flying through the air
And they still carry on
We watch it happen over there
And then just turn it off

The song portrays exactly what I have typically done and likely most people in the world do. We see what is happening in Aleppo, and other conflicts on the news and at the end of the news broadcast, we “just turn it [the TV] off”. Our mindset is, “it doesn’t really affect me. It’s happening far away from me.” But this time was different. This video got to me. It showed the human toll of this tragic conflict. The video showed how innocent people are being harmed by a senseless civil war and the emotional cost to its first responders.  We’re told that 250 000 innocent civilians are trapped in this city that is without clean water, functioning hospitals, and no aid. BBC News reports at least 18 people were killed earlier this month when trucks unloading at a Syrian Arab Red Crescent near Aleppo was attacked by fighter jets. The aid convoy was the result of a long process of obtaining permission and making preparations to assist isolated civilians after a ceasefire was negotiated. The attack occurred when the ceasefire failed.

I wondered what I could do. Donating for aid seemed to be pointless since aid was not reaching Aleppo, so I thought educating people. As a retired teacher that made sense. Maybe if there is enough of an outcry from the world’s people, the international community would do more. Maybe if enough of the world community said to the Syrian and Russian governments, “stop the bombing or else” things might change. I know it’s not as simple as this but peer pressure works.

So you, like I was, might be wondering what this conflict in Syria is all about. Here is some history based on information from Wikipedia.

_78981659_18dbb1cb-9fd6-4299-b0b8-5ba4fd8194c1The war in Syria stems from the 2011 Arab Spring, a revolutionary upsurge of demonstrations and protests in the Arab world. The revolution started in December 2010 in Tunisia and spread. Major insurgencies occurred in Syria, Libya and Yemen.   Civil rebellions occurred in Egypt and Bahrain. Large street demonstrations happened in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman, and some minor protests in Saudi Arabia. In Syria , the revolution escalated to an armed conflict after the government of President Bashar al-Assad violently suppressed protests that were screaming for Assad’s removal. The war is now being fought among several factions which include the Syrian Government, a loose alliance of Syrian Arab rebel groups, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Salafi jihadist groups, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Many of these factions receive substantial support from foreign governments.

The Battle of Aleppo began in July of 2012.  Aleppo is the largest city in Syria with the Old City of Aleppo being a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ongoing war is between the Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front and other Sunni militants and  the armies of the Syrian Government who are also supported by Hezbollah and  Shiite  militants as well as Russia. The government forces and their allies are also attacking the Kurdish People’s Defence Units. The Kurdish people are an ethnic group located in northern Syria as well as in other Middle Eastern counties.  Kurdish nationalists are pursuing greater autonomy and cultural rights.

The battle for Aleppo has been marked by the Syrian army’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, killing thousands of people, and intentionally targeting the civilian population. This includes hospitals and schools. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate. On October 6th, 2016 President Assad offered amnesty to militants in the city, offering to evacuate them and their families to safe areas but the militants refused this proposal.

The battle has caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City of Aleppo, which I mentioned is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here are some pictures taken by a drone showing the destruction of Aleppo.

In September 2012, Amnesty International, USA requested that the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to investigate human rights-related reports stemming from the escalating conflict in Aleppo.  Their conclusions on the Conflict in Aleppo was,

Space-based monitoring of the conflict in Aleppo has revealed a steady and continuous trend of degradation to the city’s buildings and infrastructure, including residential, religious, commercial, and industrial facilities. Roadblocks and other makeshift fortifications have continued to proliferate, with over a thousand visible in the latest imagery. Other signs of military activity, such as shell craters, armoured vehicle tracks, and evidence of aircraft deployments are likewise visible, and are consistent with reports of ongoing combat involving heavy weaponry in civilian areas. Damage resulting from fighting has resulted in severe losses to the city’s cultural heritage, both in the city as a whole as well as the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It saddens me to see a UNESCO World Heritage site destroyed. In case you didn’t know, a World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of exceptional cultural or physical significance to humanity.

It saddens me even more to hear of the human suffering. The New York Times in its report, Why so many Children are Killed in Aleppo, tell us that roughly 250,000 people trapped in this Syrian city and about 100,000 are children. Children are the most vulnerable victims of the intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies.

2821b1e600000578-3068063-image-m-17_1430817900726The Times article goes on to report that children in Aleppo face dire food and medicine shortages. Surgery and blood transfusions required for treating bomb wounds are practically impossible now. Medical workers have left children to die on hospital floors due to lack of supplies. Aid groups estimate that there are only 35 doctors remaining in East Aleppo, that is one for every 7,143 people, assuming a population of 250,000 people.

The reality is no one knows for sure how many people are trapped in Aleppo and how many are being killed. One person suffering, especially a child, is one too many. It all seems so senseless to see a world heritage site destroyed and learn of innocent people killed all because one man, Bashar al-Assad, a selfish leader who won’t give up his control of power. If the international community banded together to put serious pressure on the Assad government, maybe this nonsense would stop.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently called for Syria and Russia to be investigated for war crimes since they keep hitting hospitals, medical facilities, children, and women (see The Guardian). I agree with Mr. Kerry as it appears to me that war crimes are occurring. War crimes are actions carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war. There are 11 crimes which constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and applicable only to international armed conflict. These include willful killing and inhumane treatment, both of which have been violated. This would mean, in my view, Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are guilty of such crimes. It is time for the world to wake up and stop this senseless suffering, especially of innocent children.

Seriously! I Don’t Get it.

A confused Canadian needs help understanding American politics.

On the evening of September 26, 2016, I watched the US presidential debate with interest since US presidents do have an impact on my country. After watching the full debate,  I was dumbfounded. To be perfectly honest, I just don’t understand why Americans can support Donald Trump for president.

During the evening, my watching of the debate was interrupted when my wife ran into a computer technical problem.  When helping her, we phoned a support line to talk to a very delightful young man from Texas. During our time on the phone with him, I mentioned that I was watching their presidential debate to which he responded, “so am I”. A discussion then ensued about the presidential election. What struck my wife and I during the discussion was his remark that it“was scary” what was occurring in the 2016 election.  This young man identified himself as a Bernie Sanders supporter and he spoke very highly of Mr. Sanders. He also made mention of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and said (paraphrased), “If only we had someone like your Prime Minister. He is such a cool guy”. I fill with Canadian pride when I hear foreigners praise our PM.

rtx1gzco (1)Now as I mentioned, I simply cannot comprehend why Americans support Donald Trump. Despite what Mr. Trump’s surrogates say, this man is a racist, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, a liar, and a vain man. Allow me to state my case.

Donald Trump is a racist: A racist is a person who believes that a particular race of people is superior to another. Many of the statements Mr. Trump has made prove this. Drawing from US Weekly’s article, Donald Trump’s Most Offensive and Outrageous Quotes, one of Mr. Trump’s most obvious racist remarks was during his presidential announcement speech in June 2015 when he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you … they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Then there is the birther issue. After much discussion about whether President Obama was an American citizen, the President released his birth certificate in 2011. On August 12, 2012, Mr. Trump tweeted, An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.  (see a Bustle article, The 16 Worst Donald Trump Quotes..) The GOP candidate even questioned President Obama’s religion. The Huffington Post reports that Trump said, “He may have one, but there is something on that birth certificate,” he explained, suggesting the document could highlight something the president doesn’t want voters to see. “Maybe religion. Maybe it says he’s a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. I will tell you this: if he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.” Sounds like a racist to me.

He is a misogynist. This is a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women. Trump wrote in his 2006 book, Trump 101: The Way to Success, “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.” For Mr. Trump, women have no use except to be objects to be admired.

He also is accused of having called Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” after she gained weight in the months after she won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996. That sounds like misogyny to me.

The Republican presidential candidate is a bigot. A bigot is a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions. The fact that he has called for a complete ban on Muslims says he is intolerant of Muslims. The point that he intends to build a physical wall on the US-Mexican border says he is intolerant of Hispanic people.

Trump is a sexist. A sexist as defined by Merriam-Webster as behavior or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Interestingly, the Lost Angeles Times reports an employee at his California golf club saying, “I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” His comments about Alicia Machado also is evidence of this.

The man is very vain. According to  CNN, in August of 2015, he said, “It’s very hard for them to attack me on looks because I’m so good looking.” Or in January of 2016, he said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose voters”.

On Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show in September 2015 he said, “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” Have you ever heard Trump apologize for anything? I haven’t.

Mr. Trump lies. The New York Times article, The Lies Trump Told, lists 27 lies that the GOP candidate has made that fact checkers have shown to be a falsehood.

Then there is this strange “love in” that Donald Trump seems to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In December of 2015, Trump said, “[Putin] is a strong leader…He’s making mincemeat out of our president.”

When the topic of possible Russian involvement in cyberattacks came up during the first debate, Mr. Trump said, “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia… It could also be China… It could also be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds. You don’t know who hacked into the DNC… But what did we learn from documents? We learned Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people. … Whether that was Russia, China or another country… The truth is under President Obama we’ve lost control.” (Quotes from the debate).  This raises red flags for me in light of the recent reports of alleged Russian cyberattacks and evidence that a Dutch-led criminal investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 found evidence that the airliner was struck by a Russian-made missile that was moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia. (see USA Today)

I also question why Mr. Trump is the only person running for President that has not released his tax returns in 40 years. Even Trump’s running mate has released his. What is he hiding? According to the leaked 1995 tax papers, he’s hiding the fact that he likely doesn’t pay any income taxes.

Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump a “loose cannon.” This is an unpredictable or uncontrolled person who is likely to cause unintentional damage. Politico Magazine has an article, Clinton explains ‘loose cannon’ attack on Trump, where she provides her reasons. I think she makes a good case. In March, during a town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the following was said.

MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?

I don’t know about you, but that scares the hell out of me. Do Americans really want someone like this to have control of nuclear weapons?

09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xNow I could go on and on. The media report that Trump and Clinton are in a virtual dead heat. Now I know Hillary Clinton has her baggage. I get that. I also understand the desire for change. That was evident in our country during the 2015 election, but it seems when Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are the likely choices for president, there is only one choice. Furthermore, there must be a reason why none of the big name Republicans (see the List), such as both former President Bushes, have not endorsed this man.

So I repeat, I just cannot understand why Donald Trump has so much support. So in all seriousness,  if you can “shed some light” on this, please do.  Please enlighten me!