Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Diet for a Cooler Planet

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Diet for a Cooler Planet

Article excerpt

Our planet just experienced the warmest winter in the 105 years during which records have been kept.

According to James Hansen, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "if further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius [4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit], we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know. The last time it was that warm was ... about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 80 feet higher than today."

Fossil fuels--used in coal-burning power plants and gasoline-and-diesel-burning cars and trucks--top the list of problems. But other factors also contribute:

* Population growth: 6.5 billion people--double the population of 1965--now draw down our world's finite resources.

* Higher standards of living: air conditioners, cars, air travel, and other conveniences require fossil fuels.

* Diet: as incomes rise, people replace wheat and rice with meat and dairy foods.

What do more burgers and cheese have to do with climate change?

Between global warming and a lack of land, water, and other resources, the Earth simply can't cope with a worldwide jump in meat and dairy consumption. In 2006, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned:

"Livestock's contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency. …

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