When I look back at the World Science Festival and its "Food 2.0" presentation Friday night at Baruch College, I don’t necessarily view it as an experience that provided the audience with any more fireworks than the usual. Yet, if anything, it did reinforce for me how much we take for granted, especially in the developed world, when it comes to our access and availability of food.
These feelings didn’t resonate with me harder than when I heard the sentiments expressed by panelist Dr. Monty Jones, a Sierra Leone native, and agricultural geneticist who has devoted his livelihood to solving hunger in Africa. Jones, who has accumulated numerous accolades and awards for his creation of NERICA, a higher yielding and higher protein based rice, exudes a certain humbleness and a passion for solution, but he also speaks with a certain air of awe when it comes to disclosing the culture shock of walking around a place such as New York city where food can be acquired from seemingly limitless outlets.
Listening to Jones’ words, I could hear in his voice the desperation that he had witnessed in his time in Sierra Leone and in the developing world. Moreover though, I could sense that these public forums were his opportunities to sing less of his own praises and more about the work that needed to be done in order to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.
It was the type of perspective that I know made an impact, because at the conclusion of the event, a woman whom I had happened to strike up a conversation with earlier in the night, found herself divulging to me just how guilty she felt for even having the nerve to crave dinner following such a poignant display.
I can’t sit and say I didn’t feel a little of my own shame as well after heading to my go-to Chinese spot shortly thereafter and “scarfing” down some beef and broc, knowing that countless millions suffer from far fewer luxuries. However, slightly contrary to what my fellow attendee might have felt, I moreso came away with the sense that this was a good wakeup call, and that the more we are reminded of how lucky we are, maybe we’ll think twice about not finishing that plate or ordering in excess the next time we’re eating out.Africa, Food, Science Fest 2010