My New Year's resolution: stop finishing the leftovers

Arthur Chan Chun-yat, Li Po Chun United World College

Admitting our mistakes - rather than arguing over who is to blame - might give the world food for thought

Arthur Chan Chun-yat, Li Po Chun United World College |

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So there I was on New Year's Eve standing on the scale, appalled by how many kilograms I had gained in the last two weeks. When I reflected on the many meals I'd had, I realised the problem - leftovers of feasts that I can't help but gobble up.

My reasoning for finishing whatever is left on the table is this: there are 925 million people in this world that don't have enough to eat (United Nations World Food Programme So to leave food on the table would be a waste and a sin to the unfortunate. Or is it?

What happens if I don't eat what's on the table? Will all those hungry people get the food? Sadly not. The problem is in ordering the food - that extra food is being cooked - not the eating.

Finishing off what's on the dinner table will not stop the waste; worse still, it will bloat our stomachs and put on weight.

Sometimes we feel compelled to do or say something when it is better to do nothing. During last year's school subsidy scandal, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, Secretary for Education, said his department had not been persistent enough after the government auditor's report outlined governance malpractice and financial irregularities. All but one of 73 direct-subsidy schools were in breach of rules. "We have done a poor gate-keeping job," Suen said. When mistakes are made, the best solution is often to acknowledge them - not make excuses.

A worse example of this was Philippines President Benigno Aquino. He tried to compare last year's Manila tour bus hostage tragedy, in which eight Hong Kong residents died, with the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis, when at least 129 theatre-goers died in a rescue attempt after being held by armed militants. It failed to fend of criticism of police handling, and sparked outrage in Hong Kong. Sometimes, it's better just to stay quiet and accept the fact that wrongs have occurred.

On the world stage, at the G20 summit in Seoul - in the midst of the continuing global financial woes - nations seemed busy to point the finger of blame.

Yet rationing out the blame is not going to find a solution. Such debates worsen tensions between countries and create obstacles for reaching a global consensus.

Why then is everybody doing it? Well, the most obvious answer is because it's considered the right thing to do.

Surely it is better to put a full-stop to such hostilities.

I'm not saying that touching on problems and analysing the causes of all problems is a waste of time.

However, such discussions should not be the sole driving force of our actions.

As Goethe noted in Faust, "What's done is past! What's past is done!"

Looking forward is to address the problems of the present - not the guilt of the past.

Therefore, my resolution for 2011 is this: stop finishing what's on the dinner table ... and order less next time.