Our Diet’s Impact on Climate Change
As you are no doubt aware, the planet is warming. The earth’s climate is changing at an increasingly rapid rate, and those privileged enough to be educated to that fact are wondering what to do about it. What’s perhaps less commonly known however is the impact that industrial agriculture has on carbon emissions, green house gases, and the consumption of water and energy. Indeed, some reports indicate that agriculture currently represents 30% of green house gas emissions, as well as being a direct contributor to deforestation, and major source for the extensive array of chemicals that are now permeating our soil and water. Not only are these chemicals responsible for the killing of bees and other wildlife, but they are also becoming embedded in our food and water sources. As a result, these chemicals end up in our bodies (including our children’s tinier bodies), and are directly linked to an increase in birth defects, cancer rates, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and the list goes on. So what are we supposed to do about it?
No, we need not all starve or become vegetarian. Buying (or growing) organic is already a step in the right direction. Contrary to common misconception, chemically enhanced industrial agriculture is not the solution to the planet’s food needs. The planet can support us all through sustainable organic farming. To be sure, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and the countless other chemicals in use in conventional agriculture do produce greater yields, in the short term. However, over time (and here the data is just beginning to emerge as a consequence of it taking so long to compare), the constant need to re-inject nutrients into the soil for conventional farming implies that crops would not keep up without human intervention. In the long run, organic farming does outproduce conventional farming. Furthermore, attempting to exert so much control over our produce (at a genetic level) has also severely limited the biodiversity and engendered us susceptible to significant risks should anything afflict our mono-cultured, multi-cloned crops (such as potatoes corn, bananas, etc).
Eating organic is definitely one way to support the real food movement and get away from some of the chemicals that have impregnated our food. Although some of these chemicals are more immediately impacting than others, it might take years before we truly understand the consequences of what’s been entering our diet. In the meantime, this doesn’t mean we should run out and buy the first organic label we see (as your grandparents might have said, appearances can be disbelieving), rather we should simply know what it is we’re eating. The first step is being informed. Understanding what we’re putting into our bodies and into the environment is the basis for a healthy and sustainable food culture, which in turn is necessary for our own healthy long term survival. Right, so buying organic and learning about our food works towards reducing some of the environmental pressures that our plaguing human and environmental health. Perhaps you’re wondering if there are any other tips?
Buying local is tremendous for getting in touch with your food. On that note, perhaps even joining a community garden or growing your own food at home (on your balcony or windowsill for those without a yard), if you really want to make contact. Otherwise, simply buying from a local producer is already a substantial way diminishing your impact and potentially improving your health. You cut down on the transport of produce from far off places, you support the local economy (bonus), and in my experience, it actually tastes better! Yes, there are certain ingredients that we prefer come from specific regions, but for our everyday nutritional needs, beginning in your hood is a great way to meet your needs and learn more about the regional and seasonal specialties of your home environment. For those of you living in an urban environment (aka the city), there are options to you as well. Not only at your local farmer’s market, but there is also an increasing trend towards urban agriculture and rooftop farming. Excellent, so now that we’ve covered the benefits, this is normally the point in the discussion where the costs come up. Is it more expensive to go green?
Admittedly yes, there is a price differential. At least in the short term. Until the market adequately responds to the growing need for local organics, you will likely have to pay a premium for it. At the same time however, it is vitally important to attempt to understand the true cost of conventional farming. There is a hidden price tucked away in those lower cost products that are imported from industrial farms where labor workers may be getting paid pitiful wages and tons of chemicals our being introduced into the soil, air, and water. Ultimately the equation needs to balance itself out, and those lower prices now are merely differing the true cost into our bodies, the planet, and our future.