Eating for a Healthy Planet
The planet simply cannot sustain our wasteful lifestyle indefinitely. In the U.S. we consume ten times more resources per capita than the median for all other countries, and about double that of the other industrialized nations. But that's not all. Goaded by U.S-driven globalization, the rest of the world is scrambling to catch up. Take, for instance, the 1.3 billion Chinese —over four times the U.S population— who also are striving to drive Hummers, eat fast-food jumbo burgers, and refrigerate their homes in summer. China has made it a top priority to surpass the U.S. economy by about 2020.
What can we, as individuals, do about this?
A lot, it turns out. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that individuals can make a big difference by shifting a few basic consumption choices. Not surprisingly, the number one choice involves energy, especially in transportation or in heating and cooling our homes. But a clear number two involves our diet. Three times a day we can help the planet by shifting our food choices towards more:
The more you make these choices the better. How much better, you ask? The Club's True Cost of Food campaign wants you to know that:
• For each a pound of beef you pass up, you save a gallon of oil, 2500 gallons of water, five pounds of grain and an acre of land that went into its production.
• By choosing certified organic food, you keep a toxic brew of pesticides and chemicals out of the soil, water, and air.
• The average U.S meal travels 2000 miles to reach our tables. If you avoid imported foods or support farmers markets, you can prevent thousands of pounds of emissions from polluting the atmosphere.
These choices protect not only the environment's health but your own. The highest mortality in the U.S. now stems from an epidemic of degenerative diseases linked to all the saturated fats, empty calories, pesticides, and chemicals that we ingest. On the other hand, numerous studies have shown that a diet high in whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, and fruit prolongs both length and quality of life. Buying organic, moreover, decreases our exposure to toxins, while locally-grown foods retain more nutrients along with flavor.
American agribusiness trumpets our diet as the most plentiful, tasty, and affordable in history, and pushes it relentlessly through saturation advertising, fast-food outlets, and hundred-acre supermarkets. We have seen, however, that this "cheap" food has an exceedingly high (and largely hidden) cost to our health and to our planet.
To learn more visit www.sierraclub.org/sustainable_consumption.
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