Tag Archives: environment

Dietitians on the Environment

academy-of-nutrition-and-dieteticsA new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) highlights the benefit of a plant-based diet for both health and now the environment. The paper says plant-based diets are more environmentally friendly and sustainable than diets rich in animal products, noting that they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 percent.

“Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage” the Academy says . “Becoming vegetarian can be beneficial to personal health and the environment,” says Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.”

More and more dietitians are publishing articles on the connection between our food choices and environmental sustainability. To learn more of how a veg diet protects the environment, see our many articles, or our printable Eating Green brochure.

Feds say Veg Diets Most Sustainable

Manure pileThe Feds have finally admitted that veg diets are better for the environment. The USDA Advisory Committee tried to slip it into their 571 page recommendation: “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts,and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

This sounds like real progress to us, but don’t look for this statement to make it into the final recommendations. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack won’t allow it and the meat industry, described as livid, vowed to block it in Congress. Still, just the fact that it was recommended in the first place is real progress.

While it’s a start, the world needs much more progress on this issue. Consider that raising the 60 billion livestock we now have on the planet earth uses, directly for themselves and indirectly to grow their feed, one third of all the arable land on the planet.  It is also one of the leading causes of water pollution, the number one cause of tropical rainforest destruction, soil erosion, and, according to researchers from the World Bank, the number one cause of global warming.

Comfortably Unaware – New book turns up the volume on the Veg-Environmental Message

Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander, is destined to become a landmark book discussed for years to come. The message of this book is loud and clear: the production of meat and other animal products is wrecking the environment.  It’s time for environmentalists and the public at large to wake up, face the facts, come out of denial and do something about it. No more excuses can be accepted, as almost every excuse, technological dodge, or halfway measure (such as grass fed beef), is shown to be either impractical, useless or wholly inadequate.

The author begins making his case with a wealth of specific and well-referenced statistics, and then challenges us to draw the obvious conclusions, which he spells out in forthright fashion. The data reveals the massive detrimental impact that raising meat and harvesting fish has on the environment. From global warming, to the burning down of the rainforests, to air and water pollution, Oppenlander prosecutes the case against meat that exceeds even the “shadow of doubt” level of certainty required in most criminal cases. One would think, with all the evidence presented, that a conviction would be all but inevitable.

Yet the jury, made up of environmentalists and their leaders along with the general public, still won’t face the facts, with a few notable exceptions, and act upon them. Oppenlander is not letting anyone off the hook. From Al Gore to Michael Pollan, he takes them all to task by saying what needs to be said, and what so sorely needs to be done, to build a more sustainable society. So far, the majority of environmentalists haven’t been willing to face the evidence and explain the imperative of switching to a meat-based diet, and the reader may wonder whether they have chosen to be popular by down-playing the meat issue, rather than choosing to truly protect the environment. The same goes for university and hospital food service officials who make big statements about running green establishments, but then refuse to make organic veggie burgers available for students, patients and staff.

To bolster his case, Oppenlander includes short chapters on health, global hunger and animal welfare. Again, evidence of damage is presented along with a demand for redress of grievance.  Again and again leaders and their organizations are found wanting and in denial, and the jury too timid, choosing to remain comfortably unaware, rather than to make tough decisions and take bold yet rational actions, requiring just a bit of courage.

This book is a good choice for those looking for a wake up call, served up at high volume. It may, however, be a less effective tool for those looking for incremental approaches and a take-you-by-the-hand style. The author would have done well to consider the sensitivities of human psychology, and the emotional flavor of food and all it represents, a little more than he does. Mary Poppins did have a point when she said that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Yet the book is so well researched that everyone can profit from it on some level regardless of operating style and personality. For too long the veg world has underplayed the environmental case for a plant-based diet, and we welcome this book for doing so much to make up for that shortcoming. With endorsements ranging from the famous anthropologist, Jane Goodall, to the President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Neal Barnard M.D., we take this opportunity to add our recommendation for this important book.