An article in the Food Day section of The Oregonian that came out today called “Your Climate-Friendly Kitchen: take some simple steps toward a low-carbon diet” focuses on the small steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprint.There are some great points in here, but there’s a few that I have issue with.
The author, Leslie Cole, discusses the now well-known fact that global warming is caused in large part to meat and dairy farms and agriculture. But rather than suggest that we focus solely on a diet comprised on plant-based foods, she merely suggests to modify the SAD (Standard American Diet). One woman she interviews, Helene York, sustainability manager from Bon Appetit Management Co., says, “It’s not that we eat red meat or cheese that’s a problem. It’s how much we eat.”
I beg to differ. Thinking like that tends to let us, as humans who have put our earth in this position, off the hook. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson says in The Face on Your Plate, “The very words ‘human-caused greenhouse gas emissions’ terrify us because they contain the implicit criticism that we are the cause of our own impending destruction” (34). Ms York is telling us that we don’t need to drastically modify our lifestyle because that would be too much a hardship on us. Go ahead and continue eating farmed animals–especially chickens. “In fact, based on a peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment study, chicken is more carbon-friendly than tofu made from U.S.-grown soybeans and manufactured in the United States.”
What?! Though this sentence implies that it’s better to eat chickens than cows simply because chickens are not ruminate animals*, my main concern in that she compares eating chickens to eating tofu. I have a problem when people assume that you need to pick one: protein from animals or protein from tofu. That is your choice. Tofu is made from a bean, everyone! A soybean. It is high in protein, but check out all these other types of beans out there that are also protein-rich: lima bean, navy bean, black bean, pinto bean, garbonzo bean, kidney bean… hell, just look in a 15 bean soup to see what a variety there is out there. In addition to beans, grains, nuts, seeds and veggies all have protein. It doesn’t need to be an either/or. If you choose not to eat chicken, that doesn’t mean you have to eat tofu. We should all be getting protein from a variety of sources. (And we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do. I’ll have a later post discussing the Protein Myth.)
The article addresses some key issues:buy locally, buy seasonally, reuse your non-plastic bags, compost, and curb your food waste. These are all great starts. I would like to see, however, a more progressive Earth Day article discussing the benefits of a vegan diet for our planet, as well as more focus on growing food in a sustainable manner. Our planet is precious. It’s not going to get better by following the SAD traditions we have a hard time moving away from. Our diet is one of the single biggest ways we can change the earth. It’s up to us.
Happy Earth Day!
*Ruminate animals such as cows, sheeps, and goats have a special process of digesting their food. They can digest fibers and plants that are otherwise inedible, but in the process of doing so, they produce methane, which leads to climate change.
For more on this, visit the EPA website.