In a world bulging with hungry people, we toss half of all the food produced in the world into dumps. That rotting food gets its revenge by emitting methane gas into the atmosphere, contributing to shifting climate patterns such as more frequent and severe storms.
It's the stuff of a Hollywood movie, or at least a major documentary.
Taste the Waste, by German filmmaker Valentin Thurn, shows in sickening detail our vast food wasteland, including every other potato and head of lettuce grown in the world. Thurn notes as much as 10 percent of discarded food is still edible, which is disheartening to the 4 billion people who live everyday on the edge of starvation.
"We waste as much food as we eat," says Thurn, who has won multiple awards for the more than 40 documentaries he has filmed. "The consequences for worldwide food security and climate warming are enormous."
Data indicates food waste occurs in developing and developed countries and along all points of the food supply chain. In low-income countries, waste tends to occur in production. In industrialized countries, consumers squander food.
The documentary shines a light on who wastes food, but also on how food waste can be reduced, sometimes by the actions of single individuals. Through a series of interviews with supermarket managers, farmers, bakers, welfare recipients and even dumpster divers, Thurn weaves his deeply disturbing storyline.
Thurn finds hope in the pile of food scraps. A biogas plant operator extracts energy from food waste. Food charities distribute grocery store food "rejects" that don't look good enough to go on the shelves. A New York beekeeper is trying to bring more food production back to the city.
Our own community is coming to grips with food waste as Portland and other cities embark on curbside collection of food scraps, which will be converted into nutrient-rich compost that feeds urban gardens and wine-grape vineyards.
Changing habits in the kitchen and perfecting recycling at the composting yard may not be easy, but they are one way every person can address an unsustainable waste of a precious resource.
Echoes of the Great Recession in words spoken by the parents of Baby Boomers should remind us of the ravages of hunger. We shouldn't bequeath to our children and grandchildren a planet ravaged by the waste of a resource many people are still dying to get.