In today's U.S society, we have enough food to feed most. As a society we are not starving, or so it seems at the surface. There is food everywhere, and it is pretty mainstream that there is even an obesity epidemic in the country. If you want to eat anything at any time it is available to you, at the high hours of night or the earliest in the morning. McDonalds, jack in the box, Walmart, WinCo and other grocery stores are often open twenty-four hours. Food is an integral part of life and something that we can never stop consuming. However, there is a need to reduce consumption of some foods which arguably includes meat amongst other things. The environment is the area of Diamond's five principles of collapse that our diet affects the world we live in. It leads to deforestation which leads to climate change and starvation.
The environment is a social, global issue. The first and foundational steps to solving an environmental issue start at the individual level. Us as people need to make conscious decisions about not only our activities or the materials we use but also in the things that we eat. Every single thing we do affects the environment, that link is something that we need to make individually and at the same time at a global scale. This makes the principle also a political issue, people tend to follow laws, if not because of the principles, it is to not get into trouble with the governing authorities.
Food is an important part of our daily lives and today is a symbol of health status. In our developed world most people through the media know that diet and nutritional patterns will affect our personal life day to day, our longevity and even our sense of beauty. This is obvious when you see the amount of health gurus on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. People want to change their diets so that they can look good and feel healthy (Donati, 2016). This all seems fine and dandy until you consider the environmental tax we pay for our gluttonous behavior. Seldom do we consider the impact of livestock production on the environment, when approximately 18% of greenhouse gases in the world come from livestock (Wills, 2013). Not all diets are equal, so not all diets will add up to the same amount of greenhouse gasses on Earth. Our diets affect more than our bodies and personal life, they affect the planet and the health of the environment, which affects everyone.
The truth is humans are eating a disproportionate amount of meat these days and don't want to change. We eat like there is no tomorrow. Reducing meat is central to scientific debates on sustainable diets because of the high environmental impact of meat production. Meat is something that we eat for health, cultural, traditional, and social reasons. People relate this food with pleasure, and are reluctant to give it up. When asked to reflect on their meat consumption people will minimize the need for them to change their habits because they already don't eat much of it, by their standards. Others will justify their meat consumption because they already have taken different measures to reduce their environmental foot print, for example they may recycle or use reusable cups and bags. What it comes to in the end is most people don't understand the connection of their diet to the impact on the world, they lack awareness. If awareness is not lacking folk will be reluctant to change because consumption of meat has social value beyond nutritional needs. Currently, changing non food related behaviors is viewed as something more acceptable to demand from the public (Macdiarmid, Douglass, & Campbell, 2016). In order to create buyable diet recommendations for the future, more research must be done on the views society has on food.
"Recent studies support the hypothesis that plant-based diets are environmentally better than meat-based diets (Baroni, 2007).” What makes plant based diets more environmentally friendly are the reduced usage of fuel, land, and water. When we raise meat for food we have to also grow food for it, which makes takes twice as much land. Soy and corn are crops that we harvest to feed livestock which we could directly eat ourselves instead of giving the livestock. In order to have a more successful use of land and still have meat to eat, it is better to just let the animals graze on lands that are not suitable for crops that humans could eat. This would greatly reduce the amount of land that we lose and increase our food volume.
An added benefit to shifting towards a more plant based diet as a global movement over time is that vegetarian and vegan diets are associated with a decreased rate of obesity (Newby, Tucker & Wolk, 2005). The nice thing about this is that in a world with more food to eat there will be less people overweight and obese. Today it is commonly known that being obese increases your chances of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and the list goes on. For some people it hard to not eat a lot. Meat is a high calorie food with a low volume so it is easy to over eat on it and despite it having some healthy aspects, which is the downside. Fruits and vegetables are the opposite to meat in this respect because they are low calorie, high volume, especially vegetables. Because of this it is almost okay to eat as much as you want because you have to eat a higher volume to eat the same amount of calories. This is a double whammy because we will be building a healthier society that will also be more in touch with the environment.
In order to build a more lasting society, it is important for us to make more connections with the environment. Education is very necessary in environmental sciences, people must be able to see the link between the environment and their lifestyle. I don't think everyone should go vegan but a shift in our eating habits towards a plant based diet as a whole would be helpful to the success of our global society.
- Baroni, L, et al. "Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems." European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61, no. 2 (February 2007): 279-286. MEDLINE, EBSCOhost (accessed December 2, 2016).
- Donati, Michele, et al. "Towards a sustainable diet combining economic, environmental and nutritional objectives." Appetite 106, (November 1, 2016): 48-57. PsycINFO, EBSCOhost (accessed December 2, 2016).
- Macdiarmid, Jennie I., Flora Douglas, and Jonina Campbell. "Eating like there's no tomorrow: Public awareness of the environmental impact of food and reluctance to eat less meat as part of a sustainable diet." Appetite 96, (January 2016): 487-493.
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- Wills, Dixe. "We must stop eating like this." Reform Magazine (July 2013): 13. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed December 2, 2016).