What’s Wrong With What We Eat?

Global warming is real. It is dangerous. And it is greatly affected by what we eat.

“After energy production, livestock is the second-highest contributor to atmosphere-altering gases. Nearly one-fifth of all greenhouse gas is generated by livestock production — more than transportation. Now, you can make all the jokes you want about cow farts, but methane is 20 times more poisonous than CO2, and it’s not just methane. Livestock is also one of the biggest culprits in land degradation, air and water pollution, water shortages and loss of biodiversity”, Mark Bittman shared at the EG Conference in 2007.

The main problem is the overconsumption of animals and junk food. They are both unnecessary for our health. They both have been marketed heavily, creating unnatural demand from consumers. Also, they have the government backing up their production.

“Industrial agriculture” or “factory farming” kills a staggering 10 million animals a year. That data is from the US alone. What’s worse is how they are being produced to supply the need of the masses. Today’s farms have been turned into large industrial facilities. They have little to no regard for animal welfare, the environment, food safety, etc. The large concentrations of animals and animal waste in these farms often cause considerable pollution problems.

On the flip side, we consume a paltry amount of plants. This is despite the evidence that plants promote health and are very beneficial for us.

Let’s take a look at how time has changed our behavior towards food consumption.

A hundred years ago, everyone was a locavore. A locavore is someone who eats only locally grown food. There was no frozen food and there were no restaurant chains. People grew food and they ate food.

In the 1930s, road systems expanded and fresh food began to travel more. However, it came to a point when California produced too much food to ship fresh. So they had to market canned and frozen foods. Housewives embraced this change as it cut down on housework. But it cut down on the variety of food we ate as well.

Between 1950 and 2000, the world’s population doubled. Meat consumption increased five-fold. This was the time that fast food was birthed. Home cooking was still a norm but everything we had to cook was “instant” — canned soup, bottled dressing, quick-cook oats, etc.

By the ’70s, forward-thinking people began to recognize the value of local ingredients. We grew our own food again by tending gardens. We became interested in organic food. Meanwhile, this was also the time when food production became industrial and women began entering the workforce. So fast food and junk food became more appealing to the household.

Now, let’s go back to the numbers. Livestock production attributes to eighteen percent of greenhouse gases. This is produced by livestock that is 70 percent of the agricultural land on Earth. Thirty percent of the Earth’s land surface is directly or indirectly devoted to raising the animals we’ll eat. This amount is predicted to double in the next 40 years or so. If we include the numbers coming in from China, it wouldn’t take 40 years.

Every one of us should start advocating healthy eating. Less meat, less junk, more plants. We will reduce not only calories but also our carbon footprint. We will stop not only the industrial killing of animals but also stop killing our home — the Earth. In the end, it will be ourselves we are saving.

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