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Are Our Food Habits Responsible For Global Warming?

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Things are always grey; calling them black and white is a part of the process called development. The Covid-19 pandemic that hit the globe in the initial months of 2020 and has continued since then in waves broke our backs mentally and financially. It also did an excellent job in exposing our healthcare and agricultural industries. All this while we saw our the farmers and doctors from a different gaze. We were wrong, or should I say that we were made to see them unfairly?

I’m a medical student, and we have very straightforward and simple things to learn about an individual’s health, “If someone is sick, give them medicines.” But in a broader perspective, if we zoom out of the whole scenario, we ignore the first and the foremost step, i.e. the food we eat. What if things were sorted right there and then? Would diabetes and cancer still be a global health issue?

For instance, a disease we all are aware of and every 5th person affected by it- Diabetes. It is a disease where the blood sugar levels peak and the hormone that usually keeps it in control (insulin) is defective. It is like a candy machine and pressing its button to pop out one only when needed to avoid flooding the world with candies. This button is what the insulin does, but when it is defective, it is like the button stops working, and the machine goes bonkers, releasing a whole lot of candies even when the kids are not hungry. But it is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

So the solution we presume is to cut off the sugar (keep fewer candies in the machine) so things are better modulated. Hence, we ask people with diabetes to reduce sugar consumption, but what if I tell you that candies were never the problem? It was the machine and a big man standing beside it, constantly shaking it to pop out candies all the time.

The culprit is the fats: saturated fats and trans fats, to be precise. The surprising examples are the dairy and meat industries we look upon for high protein and rich content instead of the obvious junk food. So how does this work?

Milk: there are two types of milk, A1 and A2. Initially, all the cows would produce only A2 (healthier one), but over the millennia, due to environmental mutations, now all the cows produce both of these proteins. So every herd produces a mix of these two.

There has been a study by Dr Woodford from the agricultural and science background in New Zealand suggesting A1 milk has a protein called A1 beta-casein that is linked with diseases like autism, type 1 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and heart diseases. Most people who think they are lactose intolerant are just non-suitable to this A1 devil and are perfectly okay when they have the A2 kind.

So what is wrong exactly? From the studies in the Journal of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Indian desi cows breeds like Tharparkar, Gir and Sahiwal have a genetic makeup that yields milk high in A2 when they are crossbred with foreign breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian, they produce twice as much milk as the desi ones, but they are A1 rich. So who’s the winner? Money or you?

This is just the beginning of all the havoc. The story of antibiotics is even more terrifying. Almost 44 types of antifungals, antiparasitics, and antibiotics are injected into the cows to prevent any kind of disease. The calf is let to suck the nipples for a short time, and when the glands produce the milk, they are weaned off, leaving behind their food for us.

So this is the fraud happening to the consumers and the animals, for starters. Besides, to sweep the whole trouble under the carpet and to call it a foofaraw, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has not yet established any standard to differentiate the milk. The international health associations have their online pages filled with these products for their patients. But why would they do this? The answer is—sponsors. These organisations exist when they’re funded, and funders can’t be frowned upon because mammonism is embedded in the DNA of humans. Hence, they promote them. People fall sick, and the pockets are loaded. The vicious cycle continues.

Meat/Fish: Ever since I entered my end teens, I started losing hair, and it is a known problem in hard water areas. I read about the causes and natural remedies. Most of those pages suggested I eat fish. The inimical fishing industry is another horror story that I’m about to reveal. I’ll begin the very first step, how are they caught? Fishing nets.

46% of the great pacific garbage consists of fishing nets that do far more damage than plastics. Then there’s a term called by-catch, which is collateral damage in layman’s terms. There’s no technology for them to pinpoint and catch the exact species they need. The nets are the only weapon they have, so the non-specific catch kills an additional lot than the industry requires for the markets, leading to scarcity. Research suggests that by 2048 we’ll have nothing but empty oceans if we go by the pace we are going.

A dirty fish spoils the pond. The nets and the pollution from the industries infect the fishes because we are killing their homes. These infected fishes need to be decontaminated by medicines like antibiotics creating antibiotic-resistant situations inviting more problems to our already troubled lives. We eat these antibiotic-loaded fishes, while on the other side, we are murdering our old oceans and not doing much of a favour to us either. From our perspective, it’s a complete lose-lose situation but the other way round for the industries. The meat industry is one of the causes of the climate change that we are being hit by now.

A new yorker article said, 4 pounds of beef contributes to as much global warming as flying from New York to London, and the average American eats that much each month. Emissions from livestock, mostly from cows and sheep, make up 15% of global emissions containing gases like CO2, methane, and NO2. Beef and dairy alone make up to 65% of all domesticated emissions, making it easier for us to decode the major link between these industries and the melting glaciers. Furthermore, when these cattle graze on the field, there are high chances of it being polluted by the pesticides used in the nearby farms for better growth of agriculture leading to further intoxication of these animals—in a nutshell, killing us both.

So, coming back to what this ugly fat is doing in our body! They get deposited and stored inside, which further undergoes a process called gluconeogenesis to form sugar. Not only this, but they also mutate the insulin receptors creating the human body cells resistant to it, leading to further flooding of candies. So now the whole candy machine is transformed, therefore changing the press button to a new one will not make any difference. This is what happens in type 2 diabetes that mostly affects the obese population.

From the above evidence and research, it is quite clear how agriculture and the healthcare industries, both, are crucial players in this circle of death. With the fallen economy during this pandemic, we must know the ways of how not to die. The cunctation to any substantial step against this fraud has a very good chance to transform into something inevitable and irreversible. The markets sprint because consumers buy them, but if they’re well aware of the manipulation and do not show nescience to this otherwise boisterous issue, we might have a good shot at putting an end to this sophisticated murder. We might not have to reach a point where we have to take care of our health if we manage it right.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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