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RECONSIDERING DIET / AN ENVIRONMENTAL & HEALTH IMPERATIVE

Dave Cunningham / November 11, 2008

 

Having been a proponent and practitioner of Macrobiotics1 for the past five years, I was pleased and surprised to read an editorial in the New York Times yesterday entitled, “The Protein Pyramid.”2   Although there has been much written about meat consumption with regard to its effects on the environment, this is the first time I have seen it in a widely read mainstream publication.  So the word is getting out, albeit slowly.

The editorial states, “Per capita meat consumption more than doubled over the past half-century as the global economy expanded. It is expected to double again by 2050.”  It goes on to suggest that the food source for this growth is “very small fish harvested from the ocean and ground into meal and pressed into oil.  The article concludes that farm animals and, indirectly, humans who eat farm animals, are competing for food directly with aquatic species that depend on those forage fish for their existence, which speaks to the need for us humans to be mindful of what we eat and its long term effects on the environment.

 

In a presentation, this past summer, Ms. Laura Stec3, a recognized expert and spokesperson regarding the effects of meat (specifically beef production and consumption) on the environment, pointed out that “18% of greenhouse gasses come from cattle in the form of methane gas.”  This is an astounding number.  When you consider, as she stated, “Methane gas is 23 times more destructive as a greenhouse gas than CO2”, it is even more noteworthy.

 

I am not a hand-wringing proponent of vegetarianism or veganism, and I do occasionally enjoy a well-grilled steak.  That being said, we can all see that this type of data points to the necessity of re-examining the intertwined relationship of our food sources, our personal health, and our environment.  If we can explore and develop new ways of eating while protecting our planet, we should.

 

Beyond the foregoing, there are other significant reasons why it is time to examine our food choices and consider alternatives.  One among these is health.  It has been documented that in the U.S. today 2/3rds of our population is considered overweight, including 30% of our children.  This is a huge red flag that can not be ignored in light of increasing healthcare costs.  If we can become a healthier country by changing our eating habits, healthcare costs will decrease as well.  This savings will spill over to the rest of the economy, positively affecting job and domestic business growth.

 

Another economic consideration emerges as we experience increasing food costs throughout the world.  The last time I looked, quality beef costs were running between $11 and $20 per pound.  Comparing this to the cost of bulk beans like black-eyed peas, garbanzo or kidney beans, among others, at only $1.50 – $2.00 per pound, the cost decision is clear.  It is less expensive to obtain our protein requirements from non-meat alternatives.

 

We know that macrobiotics is often considered a diet for sick people because so many have turned to it after they became sick.  This decision has often proven to be a positive catalyst toward their improved health.  Therefore, it does not take “Einsteinium genius” to conclude that if it is beneficial for those with impaired health, it is also good for those with good health. 

 

When you look at the big picture—the environment, individual health, increasing food costs worldwide, it makes sense to look at alternatives.  Mainstream attention to this subject, like the NY Times article will bring needed focus to this important topic.

 

 

1 Macrobiotics  

“A way of eating that focuses on locally grown seasonal foods that are energetically balanced, according to holistic principles”, – J.S. Ong, Omkari Wholistic Living / www.omkariwholisticliving.com

 

 

2 “The Protein Pyramid.”

Link to NY Times editorial:

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/editorials/index.html?offset=0&s=newest

 

 

3 Laura Stec

Link to web site::

http://www.laurastec.com/

 

2 comments on “RECONSIDERING DIET / AN ENVIRONMENTAL & HEALTH IMPERATIVE

  1. Bitter White Man in Former Red State
    November 12, 2008

    This was good reading material as I emptied my colon of the Ruth’s Chris 12 oz filet I had for dinner last night. Of course it was a bloody red center (my steak, get your mind out of the gutter) and I am sure it was infused with antibiotics and steroids that was forced on this poor cow, but damn was it ever tasty. All that Land O Lakes sizzling butter to boot. Yummy. Well it is just a matter of time before I am taxed to death and can’t afford one of these bad boys. On top of that I am sure that socialized healthcare will not be supplied to me because I eat protein and I will have to go to a special reconditioning camp.

    Oh well I am really sleepy from protein enriched meals, hope I can stay awake for Hannity and Colmes!

  2. kathleen
    November 12, 2008

    interesting…how does cattle farming produce greenhouse gases? it’s easier to buy childrens husky fits than slim fits these days. Good job citing info.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2008 by in Food.
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