In the past year, we have received a ton of information regarding the state of the planet. With everything from foreboding readings of greenhouse gas levels, to detailed descriptions of the planet’s collapsing ecosystems, one message has become overwhelming clear … we’ve got to change something. And, in the opinion of many researchers, scientists and dietitians, that something can be as simple as changing our diet.
Livestock production is overpoweringly the largest source of greenhouse gases and deforestation on the planet. So, logically, if we are looking to minimize our impact, reducing your consumption of meat and animal products would be a good way to go. There are studies that greatly support this, and as an added perk, cutting your consumption of animal products in favor of more whole foods is also awesome for your health. In short, healthy planet, healthy you!
For the first time ever, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee (a government-appointed group of top nutrition experts) has agreed to incorporate sustainability concerns into the making of their new official guidelines. In doing so, they would not only consider the foods we are recommended to eat, but also whether or not the planet can sustain the demands that following the guidelines would create. Sounds incredible right?! Well, don’t celebrate too soon …
In due form, Congress has stepped in to voice their “concerns” about this decision. Well, more accurately, they’ve attached a list of “congressional directives,” to a spending bill that conveniently already passed in the House and Senate. The directive raises their apprehension that Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors.” And further, strongly advises that President Obama ignore all their recommendations that are based on anything but nutrition.
Not surprisingly, the American Meat Institute, has also voiced their trepidations, stating that nutritionists don’t have the expertise to take on environmental questions. Yes, and politicians also do not have the expertise to comment on climate change … but they do it all the time! The bias is so overwhelmingly obvious here that is begs the question, why even bother having guidelines if they are developed according to what will make industries the most money (and conveniently please constituents who will open handedly fund future election campaigns)? Is Congress really concerned with our health … or the $8 million of lobbying cash they receive from the dairy industry?
Although the directive is not legally binding by any means, however, if the President were to ignore it, it would undoubtedly lead to more political turmoil.
But that is all besides the point. Whether or not the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee considers the environmental impact of our food choices or not, there is not arguing with the fact that Americans eat WAY more meat and dairy than recommended to begin with. The bottom line is, the choice is ours. If you are interested in improving your own health and helping lower your individual strain on the planet as well, reducing your consumption of meat and dairy products is the most logical route to take.
Congress might not genuinely be concerned with your health and the future health of the world, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be.
Image source: NYTimes