Climate Change at the Dinner Table
The Sunday ZEITGUIDE
May 19th, 2019
Climate Change at the Dinner Table
With the precarious future of the earth’s climate, diners today have a lot more to consider than taste and nutrition. We well know that some foods have an oversized environmental impact in the emissions they create or by contributing to the loss of valuable habit.
There’s a lot to digest …
—Americans with a high-impact diet can account for five times the emissions in a day compared to those with the lowest-impact diets. The primary culprits for this difference are meat and dairy, with livestock responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By some estimates, it takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.
—Demand for beef is accelerating the clearing of rainforest in South America. Ecologically valuable mangrove forests are being lost to expanding shrimp farms in southeast Asia. Palm oil, found in everyday items like chocolate, ice cream, chips and crackers, is being planted at such a rate that it’s eradicating jungles.
—And a changing climate is now impacting what foods can be grown and when. Farmers, already accustomed to unpredictability, are dealing with yet more volatility as decades-long patterns of precipitation, heat and cold are being shaken up. “It’s so much more of a gamble now,” says farmer Sarah Frey. “You have all of these consequences that farmers weren’t expecting.”
The Must Have Conversation
In this age when anything can become a flashpoint for conversation and controversy, the food we eat has become yet another way to signal our values and priorities. We are, for better or worse, what we eat.
Curious about your food’s footprint? Check out this handy calculator from The New York Times. Simple fixes to lowering your diet’s impact include cutting down on meat and dairy consumption, eating more vegetables and not wasting what we buy. Consider as well where your food is coming from. Beef raised in the U.S. has lower impacts than that from Brazil. Farmed salmon from Norway is raised with far more stringent environmental controls than farmed shrimp from Indonesia (the site Seafood Watch is a good resource for finding sustainable options).
What Else We’re Reading This Week
Is your industry struggling with hiring for diversity? Some surprising lessons to be learned from the U.S. government. – Crunchbase
Missing your favorite departed actor? Digital preservation may make them immortal on the big screen. – MIT Technology Review
Counting sheep not cutting it? Go behind the $70 billion industry committed to getting you a better night’s sleep. – Fast Company
Global & Society
Does the man in your life have trouble making friends? Maybe he’s an “emotional gold digger,” and expecting women to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to feelings. – Bazaar
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