Should labels on food, commonly listing salt, fat, calories, now include water, energy, and land? Recent findings by the United Nations IPCC reveal world land use is not sustainable for growing the food we need. Agricultural practices including raising of animals meant for food, deforestation, erosion and renewal of topsoil, population expansion, and the energy and water required to produce food are all factors. Scientists term this the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” But what can you do, as an individual? Moving towards a plant-based diet can help.
Sir Paul McCartney is among those who advocate a plant-oriented diet; to help the cause, Sir Paul challenges you to write a song to promote “Meat-Free Mondays.” A promising development: the plant-based Impossible Burger, offering a carbon footprint 89% smaller than beef. But even plant choices have better and worse consequences for climate change. Will farmers who vie for water to irrigate crops in agricultural areas of the Colorado River now be awarded water rights based on their produce: some food uses more water? Rice farmers may switch to millet or maize, grains that use less water but still provide nutritional benefits.
Want to know whether to choose rice, fries, or pasta – rice uses the most energy, land, and water; pasta is second; potatoes use the least (and are the most nutritious). Enjoy avocado toast, but note: eating one avocado per week uses 3,519 liters of water annually. Order from the sandwich menu, deciding between a beef-burger or an omelette – beef is the worst, chicken is better, eggs are the best. Wine or beer, coffee or tea – beer uses the most resources, followed by coffee, wine, and tea. Here’s a way to calculate your diet in the era of climate change. What’s your climate diet? – calculate here.
Johnson, Scott K. “New IPCC report shows land use is part of solution to climate change.” 8 August 2019. Ars Technica. https://apple.news/AEOL8nw6OWSEM4XD3elBig/
McCartney, Paul (Sir). “Meat-Free Mondays.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E1NDjltMvk
Peters, Adele. “Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef.” Fast Company, 20 March 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90322572/heres-how-the-footprint-of-the-plant-based-impossible-burger-compares-to-beef.
Spang, E. W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, David H. Marks (2014) “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters. 9-105003. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta
Stylianou, Nassos, Clara Guibourg, Helen Briggs. 9 August 2019. BBC, Science & Environment. “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Check the environmental impact of what you eat and drink.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714
Thin Lei Win. “Swap rice for maize, millet and sorghum to save water and boost nutrition: experts tell India.” 5 July 2018. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/articles-india-rice-hunger/swap-rice-for-maize-millet-and-sorghum-to-save-water-and-boost-nutrition-experts-tell-india-idUSKBN1JV16P
United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Climate Change and Land: desertification, land degradation, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” 2 August 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/
Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice