Your healthy diet is also a healthy diet for the planet. Awareness of the connection between agriculture, human health, and the health of our planet is growing in no small part because researchers and their findings make these connections more and more clear. Example: Dr. David Tilman and University of Minnesota graduate student Michael Clark published a study in the journal Nature titled “Global Diets Link Environmental Sustainability and Human Health.”
It explores the high sugar, high meat, high fat “Western diet” and its ever-growing popularity by projecting trends of climate change and health indicators to the year 2050. Their summary:
. . . these dietary trends, if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an estimated 80 percent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing. Moreover, these dietary shifts are greatly increasing the incidence of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies.”
Here’s where the good news comes in: these trends are completely avoidable if we choose to eat in a healthier way. Elizabeth Grossman in Civil Eats summarizes:
So the solution to what the scientists call the “diet-environment-health trilemma” will require choosing menus high in plant-based, whole foods like those that fit in a Mediterranean, “pescetarian” or vegetarian diet. If these diets become the norm by 2050, Tilman and Clark say “there would be no net increase in food production emissions.”
Diet shifts are much easier said than done due to cultural, economic, political, and geographic factors, among others. However, it is good to know that our food choices can help us assuage the long term effects of climate change.
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson