By Dan Brook
LOVE: Local, Organic, Vegetarian/Vegan Eating
All we need is LOVE.
There are many things and we can (and should) do to preserve and protect our environment if we want to preserve and protect life on Earth. Reducing consumption of resources, reusing products and materials, and recycling what can no longer be reused are all critical to being more sustainable. However, the most important personal thing we can each do for the environment is to fall in LOVE: Local, Organic, Vegetarian/Vegan Eating. (Vegetarians don't eat any animals; even better, vegans don't consume any animal products, including eggs and dairy.)
There is consensus amongst the overwhelming majority of the world's scientists, environmentalists, governments, major corporations, and many others that climate change in the form of global warming is, by far, the most important environmental problem facing life on Earth. Carrying reusable bags, changing to energy-efficient light bulbs, saving water, and driving less are all very good things to do, yet they all pale in comparison to the cool effects of LOVE.
None of these or other positive actions prevent us from doing others, and we should try to do everything we can to live more sustainable lives. However, eating has a much bigger personal impact on the environment - as well as our health and the health of animals - than anything else most of us ever do.
Here's some LOVE!
Think globally, eat locally!
The average item of food in the U.S. travels approximately 1500 miles from production to consumption. By eating locally and seasonally, you're reducing your food miles, the amount of distance your food has to travel from farm to table, thereby cutting down on the amount of oil consumed and greenhouse gases emitted. Being a locavore cuts down on traffic and the need for energy-hogging refrigeration, both of which contribute to global warming. These are all benefits for the environment. And any benefit for planetary health is also a benefit for our personal health.
Eating locally means eating fresher and healthier produce, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown in your region. Fresher produce maintains more of its nutrients. That's not only healthier and tastier for you and your family, but also better for your region's economy and ecology, supporting local farm families and the local economy while preserving biodiversity and building community. The easiest and most fun way to eat more local is to shop at farmers' markets, where seasonal produce is abundant and, according to sociological studies, people tend to be more social. Packaging, plastic water bottles, and chemicals, for example, are not local. Specifically, pesticides are almost always not local, so eating organic is also vitally important.
Don't panic, just go organic!
Organic agriculture means farming without the hazards of synthetic pesticides. Quite simply, agricultural chemicals are toxic and deadly, as is their intention. Author Sandor Katz states that, "Agricultural chemicals kill - and not only plants and insects and worms and birds and fungi and the vast universe of soil organisms; they kill people as well." Claire Cricuolo, both nurse and chef, relates that, "When you buy organic, you help to promote biodiversity and cut down on the pesticides that pollute our soil, air, and water. You also support natural systems that will ensure the integrity of our farmlands for future generations."
Organic methods produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, using only one-third the petroleum as chemicalized crops, while sequestering more carbon dioxide in the soil, thereby being another powerful way to help stem global warming. As with local produce, organic produce also tends to have a higher level of nutrients, studies show, and may be tastier as well. Eating organic is not only healthier for consumers, but is also healthier for farmers, neighbors, animals, insects, and the soil, as well as everyone and everything downstream. Many chefs and other foodies also believe that organic foods taste better.
Another big bonus to eating organic is knowing that you are not consuming any genetically engineered products with their unknown potential personal, public, and environmental consequences.
Alan Greene, M.D. affirms that, "Every little move towards organics is worthwhile." The most effective ways to become more organic is to (1) "Switch out foods you eat most often", (2) "Replace the worst offenders", and (3) "Shop locally, eat seasonally".
Go vegetarian/vegan and no one gets hurt!
It is increasingly clear that eliminating, or at least sharply reducing, the production and consumption of meat and other animal products is the single best thing people can do for human health, animal suffering, worker safety, and environmental sustainability.
The editors of World Watch, an environmental magazine, concluded in the July/August 2004 edition that, "The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future - deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease." The November/December 2009 issue of World Watch stated that recent evidence and new calculations reveal that the livestock industry is responsible for 51% - a majority! - of greenhouse gases. Lee Hall, the legal director for Friends of Animals, is more succinct when she states that at the root of almost "every great environmental complaint there's milk and meat."
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate along with Al Gore, and head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states that the mass production of meat is a major factor contributing to global warming and that, "The single [most effective] action that a person can take to reduce carbon emissions is vegetarianism." We ignore or deny this critical yet simple information at our individual and collective peril. LOVE is the most powerful antidote, by far, against global warming!
We also need LOVE for our invironment, the environment inside of us. Vegetarians live six to ten years longer, on average, than those who eat meat. Vegetarians have much lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and stroke - the three leading causes of death in the U.S. - as well as more protection against diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hypertension, gout, kidney diseases, and even Alzheimer's.
What you eat on a daily basis is actually more important than what you buy, save, recycle, or even drive. Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) is like packing old light bulbs, single-use plastics, styrofoam, hormones, antibiotics, tar, toxic chemicals, chainsaws, SUVs and other deadly clunkers into your pantry all the time. Get the junk out of your pantry and diet! Get the junk out of your community and environment! Get the junk out of your body! LOVE yourself and your family!
If you're not ready to fall madly in LOVE, it's OK to flirt with it. LOVE doesn't have to be all or nothing and it doesn't have to be all at once. You can play with your food, but make sure to have fun.
LOVE can also stand for Living Opposed to Violence against the Environment. We can stop the violence in the world by stopping the violence on our plates. More LOVE means more peace, inside each of us, within our families, and around the world, for this and future generations. Besides being more compassionate toward animals and much healthier for you and your family, as well as lifting your spirit and boosting your energy, LOVE can help save the world by preserving and protecting our precious planet.
As they say in the 12-step programs, it's about "Progress not perfection." What path are you on? In which direction is the Cupid's Arrow of your life pointed?
Spread the LOVE!