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Climate Hustle

Planet Hacks: Food

Posted on 12 July 2017 by Guest Author

Get global warming under control on your planet by changing the food you put on it! In the second episode of Planet Hacks, I take a look at the ways your diet could be causing your planet to overheat.

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Great "Brief" delivery of helpful information.

    Like all brief punchy deliveries it fails to mention some important points (it has to fail to mention them to remain "Brief and Punchy").

    A major point about changing diet is to do it based on the region of the planet you are in. Buying Local is a potential big deal, but only if the locally grown stuff is more sustainably produced than it being shipped in from somewhere else.

    An example of that point is the value of eating sustainably harvested meat like cariboo and arctic char in the Arctic. It may also be better to ship in vegetable and fruit than 'greenhouse grow it locally in far Northern climates' depending on the source of heat used and how they are shipped.

    That example flies in the face of the simple premise of reducing meat consumption.

    Another helpful point would be to add about only buying what you eat is to buy what you need to eat. There are some pretty silly developed cultural beliefs like:

    • eating beef is somehow a Prime sign of success, especially the "Too Die For Oversized Steak Dinner". (4 ounces of beef delivers about 30 gm of protein which is what most bodies can process from a meal - try to get a serving that small in a restaurant)
    • or the absurdity of places like Brazilian Restaurants serving 13 types of meat to everyone at Dinner (as much as the customer wants to force in at one meal - even though the body will not effectively process it and potentially have kidney problems trying to process it).
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  2. A large recent research study shows vegetarians do seem to live longer. This was in our media a while ago.  I'm not a vegetarian, and would be unlikely to cut all meat out of my diet, however it has made me think about how much meat I eat.

    www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/vegan-meat-life-expectancy-eggs-dairy-research-a7168036.html

    I saw another similar study somewhere. There does seem to be this emerging evidence that low meat and high vegetable diets are pretty healthy, provided you get plenty of plant protein and sources of iron etc.

    Clearly animal farming also causes other issues like high carbon emissions, high use of water ultimately, pollution of rivers etc.

    So several "lines" of evidence, or  the consilence of evidence suggest a low to moderate meat diet is a good thing. 

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  3. Just adding to OPOF's list of cultural reasons for  meat eating. According to this psychologist American meat eating is related to validating and celebrating manhood.

    www.nbcnews.com/id/49920136/ns/health/t/why-real-men-eat-meat-it-makes-them-feel-manly/#.WWg4-4SGPIU

    In my view it probably goes right back to stone age men killing wooly mammoths etc, and roasting them over the fire. It may have  become a cultural meme / memory. This probably explains why we love barbecues.

    You have other cultural meat issues. Sharks and rhino's are also killed for perceived therapeutic properties of the fins, and horns, despite a total lack of supporting scientific evidence. Whale meat remains a cultural delicacy in certain countries, despite dwindling numbers of whales. While cultural differences are worthy of respect, hunting species to extinction or very low numbers raises its own series of concerns.

    Soils and plants have potential as carbon sinks if properly managed, as is well known. Intensive cattle farming and / or poorly managed farming can strip grasslands bare or reduce grass root bundles, and thus reduce potential carbon stores.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_sink

    All things taken together suggest high meat consumption has a range of problems.

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  4. Can anyone direct me to a study showing the full lifecycle carbon footprint of ruminant meat/dairy production on pasture vs. plant protein production such as beans or lentils?

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  5. John Wise @4

    Here is a quick comparison of carbon footprint of meat versus various lentils and vegetables. I assume its full life cycle:

    www.greeneatz.com/foods-carbon-footprint.html

    Here is a more detailed comparison and explanation:

    css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet

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  6. nigelj

    Thanks for the links. They contain similar information to others I have read. They are all over the place. The first(greeneatz) suggests that as much as 50% of emissions are due to agriculture,mainly from livestock. The second(U. of Michigan) states in the text that over 20% are from agriculture. Then,in the graph further in the MIchigan article,it breaks down U.S. emissions as follows: transportation 27%,energy 32%,other fuel 11%,manufacturing 12%,fugitive emissions 4%,industrial processes 5%,waste 2%,and agriculture 8%.

    So,we have 8% to 50% of emissions from agriculture? I realize that the other categories include transportation,food processing etc.,but 50% seems pretty high.

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  7. John Wise @6, I do accept there seems some inconsistency in the two links on the total emissions from agriculture. The second is most accurate. If you want a more authoritative analysis of fundamental sources of emissions try the American EPA as below. They discuss all sources and agriculture is 24% similar to my second link:

    www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data#Sector

    However your question related to carbon footprints of different types of foods, and I responded to that. As you can see two different sources gave similar results, which gives some credibility to the numbers. I have no reason to doubt the basic percentage differences between the foods, and you haven't given me any. You have basically changed the subject and shifted the goal posts.

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