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Saving the planet one mouthful at a time

"How we eat can actually help to shift the world we live in." Anna Jones

Two things have 'inspired' this post - well one really I suppose, with the second meshing with the first.

After my Italian lesson today I went to Doncaster, mostly just to go somewhere different, but also to buy a large block of Parmesan - it's cheaper there. I don't think it's top quality Parmigiana Reggiano but it's genuinely from Italy - air miles.

The real instigator is the book I bought - One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones, a British cook who is either Vegetarian or Vegan, I'm not sure which, but an interesting cook. She occasionally has a column in The Guardian. I'll deal with the book in general some other time, but today I want to say a few things - all of which I have said before probably - about the difficulties of eating sustainably.

Inspired by the way our eating habits changed because of COVID Anna Jones is trying to use that momentum to convert us all to saving the planet by the way we eat. Yes fundamentally I think that's what she is saying. I have only read a little of the book so far, so she probably has more to say. I don't think she is saying anything new - basically Michael Pollard's famous quote "Eat food, mostly plants" is the message I guess. No that's not fair - because she is saying no meat and ideally no dairy either. So a little more extreme.

And a dream? Yes a dream I think, even though the vast majority of the world's population who do not live in the Western world, for lack of a better descriptor, probably do eat mostly plants - and not very many at that. The trouble is that as they become more westernised - and wealthier - they start to eat more meat.

I know you all know just about everything there is to know about how we should be eating taking into account the damage we do to the climate, the ethics of production, the waste, obesity, etc. etc. And I'm pretty sure we all do the best we can, but in a very limited way. And we are the educated, wealthy elite I suspect. What about the uneducated, the poor, those who just don't care, the pleasure seekers?

But let's assume we do the right thing - what does that involve and is it possible anyway?

Well first it depends on what we eat, and there are a whole host of diets that are supposed to help us with that. I came across this chart that shows various diets and the effect they have on saving CO₂. There are probably no surprises there - well I may be a bit surprised that the Mediterranean diet is down the bottom, but I assume this is correct. It might be healthy but not planet friendly - meat, lots of fish which some say is worse than meat for all sorts of ethical and environmental reasons.

Than soy, which is used in all its myriad of forms by vegans and vegetarians alike. But:ou have to be very careful what you eat or you will get sick. Then there are all those artificial meat products, some of which might be Ok, some of which are not. What about all those almond products? Almonds are not a good product - so much water I believe. The air miles of the soy and the seaweed and lots of other things besides.

Then soy, which is used in all its myriad of forms by vegans and vegetarians alike. But:

"Brazil together with the US produces most of the world’s soy. It’s also a world leader in deforestation." The Conversation

I'm also guessing that there is a fair amount of industrial processing going into creating all those various soy products, which may or may not produce CO₂. Plus the air miles. That might be OK for the USA but not Britain and Europe I'm guessing. Here, I have to say, Australia is truly the lucky country in that it is able to grow just about anything somewhere in this vast continent of ours. But still it is vast and even here there are air miles, or trucking miles on a massive scale.

I won't go on because I'm sure if you look at just about any product grown on a large scale, even a small scale there are problems. Mostly though we have to grow things on a large scale. There are a lot of mouths to feed.

There is also that other problem - cost. I have to say my hackles rise when people bang on about you must buy organic from farmers' markets and the like, know the producer and know that no chemicals, fertilisers, etc are used. Of course you can grow your own, although you are not going to grow a field of wheat - or even potatoes are you? But if you do stick to all those high quality - questionable in my eyes sometimes - you need to have money because those things generally cost a whole lot more than what you will get in your local supermarket. Not always - as I have said many times I should go to the Queen Vic Market more often where the produce is good and also cheap. But then I would have to drive my CO₂ emitting car much further than into Eltham.

So we despair. Well I do. There are so many problems with all of our 'do good' efforts - look at what happened with the plastic bag recycling. So we must try to buy things that don't have a lot of plastic involved in the packaging. It often seems to me that the issue of packaging is self-defeating. On the one hand you have the super healthy brigade so that you have, for example, stupid little bits of foil on the top of bottles of things that have a perfectly OK and secure lid already, or plastic bags within plastic bags, or little bits of sticky tape over a perfectly enclosed cardboard box. Extra packaging where it is not necessary. Healthy for you does not mean healthy for the planet.

Of course big steps are being made, and of course everyone is much more conscious of what we should be doing, and there are an increasing number of vegetarians and vegans in the western world. But until big industry and big politics does something all will be lost.

David and I do eat a lot less meat than we used to - and the person who wrote the article in The Conversation did say that realistically an Ultra-flexitarian diet was probably the best thing, as it was less extreme and probably healthier than either Vegan or Vegetarian. Did you know that currently every person on the planet eats 9 animals per year? Which, of course, means that most of us in the western world eat far more than that. It doesn't bear thinking about really does it?

All we can do is our little bit - one mouthful at a time. And educate everyone from birth.


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