Earth Day 2013 marks a special day in itself for millions of people around the globe who care about the environment, and in many ways, for UNEP a countdown to World Environment Day on 5 June which offers another opportunity to mobilize in support of a sustainable century.
Earth Day this year is focusing on Faces of Climate Change - an important public awareness raising exercise given that by 2015 nations have pledged to agree on a new and inclusive UN treaty to deal with the seemingly inexorable build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and all the rising risks for countries and communities across the globe.
World Environment Day 2013, whose global host will be the government and people of Mongolia, is focused on the new UNEP and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) campaign Think-Eat-Save: Reduce Your Foodprint which is aimed at cutting the at least one third of all food produced that never makes it from the farm to the fork.
Different issues, but both connected: Every loss and waste of food represents a loss of the energy involved in growing the food in the first place, and the fuel spent needlessly on transporting produce from farms to shops and homes, often across the globe. Meanwhile small but significant amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas - are linked to food thrown away into the globe's landfills set aside emissions linked with livestock and forests cleared for food that is never eaten.
Mongolia is one of the fastest growing countries in the world and one that is aiming for a transition to a green economy and a green civilization - it is not a big waster or loser of food but the traditional and nomadic life of many of its people does have some ancient answers to the modern-day challenge of food waste.
The Mongol general Chinggis Khan and his troops utilized a traditional food called borts to gallop across Asia without depending on elaborate supply chains- borts is basically concentrated beef equal to the protein of an entire cow but condensed and ground down to the size of a human fist. This remarkable method of food preservation, without refrigeration, meant a meal equivalent to several steaks when the protein was shaved into hot water to make soup.
Earth Day and WED 2013 are linked as are the challenges and the opportunities for delivering economic growth and generating decent green jobs without pushing humanity's footing past planetary boundaries. Reducing food waste and food loss is an economic, ethical and environmental challenge as is climate change. Both need addressing urgently and in seeing the links we can deliver multiple benefits in line with the transition to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.