Tag Archives: environment

The Blue Planet Prize: What does it mean in 2012?

ImageYesterday, it was announced that Drs. William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel will receive the Blue Planet Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious environmental awards, for their work in creating the Ecological Footprint—a tracking or measurement of the impact we have on our planet. Since 2003, Rees, Wackernagel and their Global Footprint Network have used a data-determined metric as a monitoring device tracking how sustainable (or unsustainable) we are living. Their group and global partners now span six continents and apply the impact of the Footprint to many projects. As of 2012, they report that humans are in overshoot mode because we are using the equivalent of more than 1.5 planets to provide the resources taken, and to absorb our GHG emissions. One of their goals is to “increase international media outreach to broaden our message.” The work of this group is remarkable, and can serve as an important tool as we assess and then correct the detrimental effects we impose on our planet. They are to be truly commended.

But knowing that we are in an overshoot, unsustainable mode and actually taking the right steps to correct this are two separate issues. It is how we can best use this tool that becomes the question. The Global Footprint Network make it perfectly clear that they are “not anti-trade, anti-technology, or anti-GDP.” They are informational based only and “make no judgment about the value of technologies” or “the benefits, disadvantages or fairness of trade.” As such, it is left up to our nations’ leaders, policy makers, business leaders, and individuals to first become aware of the information provided by the Ecological Footprint and then to create change—if sustainability is their goal. The Global Footprint Network has come to the same conclusions as many other organizations in that “climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, fisheries collapse, food insecurity and the rapid extinction of species are all part of a single, over-arching problem: humanity is simply demanding more from the Earth than it can provide.” However, as with other organizations, the Global Footprint Network stumbles with providing specific reasons and then a viable direction as to resolution—we need a clear pathway toward sustainability, not simply hearing recited observations that we are not there. Fundamental change is in order and it begins with conveying realities.

I can help with the clarification. This would be my approach: Our global demand to eat animals, without proper economic regard or reflection of resource use, has caused food production systems to become the largest contributing factor to our unsustainable Ecological Footprint. The raising, slaughtering, and consumption of animals—livestock, wild caught fish, and aquaculture—is the primary cause of Global Depletion. It is not a factory farm or “agribusiness” problem. It’s an eating animals problem. Our demand to eat animals is responsible for 30-51% of all anthropogenic ghg emissions and climate change, 80% of the deforestation of tropical rainforests, 100% of the overgrazing, 100% of the fisheries collapse, 100% of the food insecurity issues (with factors we can control), and at least 50% of the rapid extinction of terrestrial and oceanic species. This is what needs to be said.

So Drs. Rees and Wackernagel are quite right in stating that “climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, fisheries collapse, food insecurity and the rapid extinction of species are all part of a single, over-arching problem: humanity is simply demanding more from the Earth than it can provide.” They, and the world however, need to identify the reasons, spell out the fact that although there are other contributing factors, our food choices as they involve animals and animal products are the largest single issue. We need to use this valuable information to create change, not simply point our finger at a generality that a problem exists. Although specifying the major cause of our ecological overshoot appears to be difficult for everyone to do, it is actually the easiest to identify and correct—simply begin eating all plant-based foods. No animals. Now.

I encourage everyone to take the information Rees and Wackernagel have so skillfully assembled, assign the major causative factor for overshoot, make the change to a fully plant based diet and then inspire others to follow suit. We have the information. Let’s do something with it.

Dr. O

Vote with our minds, not our forks.

Regarding this phrase: “vote with your forks”…                                                                  Literally millions of people are influenced by a few who advocate not only eating grass-fed livestock and fish but also that we approach our food choices from other less-than-sustainable concepts. I have a better approach. For instance, instead of “voting with your forks,” which is what we have actually been doing for the past fifty years—and look where it has gotten us—we should vote with our minds first; then, let our forks follow. Also, it is not so wise to eat only foods that your great-grandmother would recognize, because she ate cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, lamb, and other unhealthy foods obtained from animal parts—not such a good idea.

So, let’s vote with your mind first…then, your forks will follow. Here are some ideas.

  • Read “Comfortably Unaware” and then give it to someone you care about.
  • Become aware of just how your food choices impact our planet.
  • Become more aware than you are today of just how your choice of food impacts your own health.
  • Eat only those foods that require the least amount of our resources to produce.
  • Avoid foods that naturally carry pathogens such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Mad Cow Disease, etc. This, then, would include all animal products, whether they are confined or not.
  • Let your congress representatives and senators know you do not want to pay taxes that they turn around and spend on agribusinesses raising livestock that pollute and cause global depletion of our resources. This totals $40 billion per year. You are paying for this.
  • Tell all policy makers to stop giving money to businesses who produce food that contributes to our national health care crises.
  • Let them know to subsidize organic, plant-based foods.
  • Eat only those foods that reduce your risk of contracting our major diseases and cancers.
  • Avoid foods that increase your risk for these diseases and cancer.
  • Avoid all foods that required more water to drink than you do each day and another 400 to 500 gallons just to clean up after the slaughtering process.
  • Eat foods that, while growing, take in CO2 and give off O2, thus improving the health of our planet in both directions.
  • Avoid foods that give off methane, CO2, ammonia, breathe in and use O2, and create more global warming.
  • Avoid foods that do not have fiber, large amounts of phytonutrients, but do have cholesterol, and saturated fat.
  • Avoid food that had to be caught with large amounts of other species of living things—most of which, we have no idea of our effect on them or the ecosystems we took them from.
  • Buy and eat plant-based foods only
  • Go meatless everyday, not just Mondays.
  • Influence others, spread the word, and start making a difference.