The environmental consequences of our dietary choices

Earlier this month I was given the opportunity to accompany my father (Dr. Fuhrman) to an international global warming conference held by The World Preservation Foundation in London. I knew that attending the conference would enlighten me about how the food choices we make influence not just our own health, but in a much broader sense, contribute to the earth’s “well-being”. At the conference, members of British Parliament convened with scientists, physicians and experts from around the world to share their expertise and enlighten attendees, and people tuning in on the internet and their television sets about measures we can take to preserve the earth’s resources and avert global warming. It was clear from the outset why my father was invited to speak, for those organizing the conference were well aware of how minimizing or eliminating the consumption of animal foods is essential to save the planet from the daunting environmental catastrophes we currently face. If these sobering statistics touch you the way they touched me, they will make you even more impassioned about making the choice to eat predominantly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and avoid animal products. The foods you put in your mouth today really do influence the world of tomorrow. Here are some of the facts about meat production I learned at the conference: 

1)     Raising livestock and their by-products account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide green house gas (GHG) emissions. 

2)     Thirty percent of the entire land surface of Earth is devoted to livestock production, including plants used to feed the livestock.

3)     Replacing meat with plant-derived sources of calories and protein could reduce the land area required to feed the human population by more than 80 percent and recover about 25 percent of the landfor restoration, solar energy capture, or other eco-friendly purposes.

4)     Between 23-30 percent of our global ecological footprint comes from agriculture, primarily livestock production.

5)     Beef takes 70 times more land to produce than vegetables.

6)     80 percent of the world’s soy production is consumed by livestock.

7)     About 50 percent of the world’s grain supply is used to feed livestock. This is while almost 11 million children who live in the countries where these feed grains are grown, die ironically of hunger each year.

8)     In 2009, for the first time, the number of people suffering from hunger exceeded 1 billion. This doesn’t include people facing hunger shortages from natural disasters.

9)     If all 6.78 billion people on Earth began consuming as many animal products as residents of the United States, we would need over 3 planet Earths to meet the demand. If all people on Earth became vegetarians, less than one Earth would be needed to meet food demands.

 

The land and resources required in the production of animal products is startling.   It is sad to think about how many people are starving in the world, while most of the soy, wheat, and corn grown around the globe are fed to livestock.

Earth

I learned so much more at the conference, such as how global warming is melting the ice caps and raising ocean levels and the destruction this will have on our world in the future. I learned more about the essential nature of the Amazon Rainforest as the “lungs of the earth” and how livestock production is fueling continual and rapid deforestation via burning of the rain forests to prep the land for animal feed crops, and how this contributes to the emission of black carbon (soot) in the air that is deposited via wind currents in Antarctica, accelerating the melting. I also became aware of the world’s current water shortages, how much water is used in the production of meat and how our oceans are rapidly being depleted of fish. I began writing about many of these things to include in this post, but this resulted in pages and pages of jaw dropping facts.   I hope to include more about what I learned at the conference in future posts. 

Even though I learned that much land, water, and energy is used to produce meat and the destructive affects this has on our environment, I remain hopeful that the accelerating destruction of our world’s ecology can be turned around. If people understood the big picture: how animal products contribute to chronic disease, is torturous to animals, and hurtful to our planet I think most would willingly make the change to a plant-based diet. The key to solving this problem, just like solving most health problems, is knowledge. 

CSA Boxed Share 8.10.09

Ugh! It hardly feels like summer this year with all the rain we've been having. If it wasn’t for my CSA box shares I think I’d pack up shop and move to California. Luckily, this week was a good haul. It cheered me up a bit.

As you can see, I got a whole box of tomatoes, plus cherry tomatoes, cabbage, corn, shallots, green bell peppers, garlic, potatoes, zucchini and yellow squash. After I split it with my buddy, I took home half the tomatoes, some potatoes, the squash, a few shallots and the garlic. Sweet!

Eating to Live on the Outside: Green Leaves Vegan

It’s Saturday, I’m probably off to Yoga by now, but if you’re up early with nothing to do, come take a trip with me! This week Eating to Live on the Outside is off to California, we’re dropping by Green Leaves Vegan in Los Angeles.

After flipping through the menu, I think it’s very doable. At a glance it easily passes the test, lots of veggies, like romaine lettuce, beets, mushrooms and eggplant, and hardly any hang ups. Okay, here’s a rough draft of things I might order:

Edamame

  • Young soybean pods; if they’re served with salt, like the often are, I’ll pass on the salt.

Intro Tofu

  • Grilled marinated tofu on skewers with side salad of romaine lettuce, carrot and cucumber served with peanut sauce; same deal with the sauce.

Dinner Salad

  • Romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts and sliced tomatoes; looks good, but dressing on the side.

Cucumber Salad

  • Bell peppers, cucumber, red onion and house dressing; same thing with the dressing.

Tossed Salad

  • Romaine lettuce, Napa carrots, onion, garlic, beets, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, mung bean noodles, bean sprouts, tofu and seasonings; I’d probably ditch the noodles.

Protein Salad

  • Carrots, romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans, soy beans, avocado and tomato; hooray avocado!

Tofu Salad

  • Grilled tofu, romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber and bell peppers; I dig it.

Special Salad

  • Romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, tomato and avocado; this one gets high marks, could be a winner.

Chief Salad

  • Tomato, romaine lettuce, carrots, shredded beets, alfalfa sprouts, celery, avocado, sliced cucumber topped with sunflower seeds; very cool!

Grilled Veggie Sandwich

  • Mushroom, grilled zucchini, onion, braised eggplant and bell peppers on a bun; the bread is iffy, but just focus on the vegetables.

Fresh Veggie Sandwich

  • Romaine lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, avocado, onion, bell, mushroom, cucumber, zucchini and tomato on a bun; same deal with the bun.

Lentil Loaf Dinner

  • Bell peppers, onion, lentil loaf and seasonings served with tahini sauce; not bad, I might give it a look.

Spicy Green Beans

  • Green beans, lime leaves and tofu with spices seasonings; sounds tasty.

You might want to play with some of the soups and curries, but as for me. I’m going with the Special Salad, Fresh Veggie Sandwich or the Chief Salad. Either way, Id be getting more than a mouthful of veggies. Mission accomplished!

If I ever make it to Los Angeles, I’ll have to pay Green Leaves a REAL visit, but in the meantime, its time for you to do some work! Look over Green Leaves Vegan’s menu and let me know what strikes your fancy. Keep me posted! Peace.

Image credit: Green Leaves Vegan

Greener Kids are Slimmer Kids

A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals city kids living in greener neighborhoods were thinner. Researchers found a relationship between “greenness” and slower increase in body mass index over time; HealthDay News reports.

Putting kids to bed helps too. Oh, and keep them away from cockroaches!