Eat to be healthy and save the planet

By Paulette Cully
It is well documented that around the world pristine environments are being destroyed to produce some of the food that we eat in the United Kingdom. For instance, the Brazilian savannah or Cerrado is currently being destroyed faster than the Amazon; this is largely due to soy production (most of which is fed to the animals we eat), beef and other agriculture. A further example is that of Borneo whose tropical forests are being cleared to plant palm trees to produce palm oil for biscuits and fish fingers. If everyone in the world lived as we do in the UK we would require two planets by 2030. But now we may be able to save the planet over lunch. Researchers believe that we can and they say that if we all ate what they would like to see on our plates, Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by a quarter, our meat consumption would be reduced drastically and we would be a lot healthier at the same time.  All this comes in the guise of the Livewell Diet, which is a weekly menu assembled by nutritionists, which sets out the best ingredients to balance healthy eating with sustainable food production. The average weekly cost of the diet would be £29 per person.
At present an estimated 79kg of meat a year are consumed by the average UK resident and the Livewell 2020 diet is expected to reduce this to 10kg a year; thus reducing the pressure on natural resources.  Scientists from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at Aberdeen University have produced the diet commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which is designed to be familiar and normal. The diet is based on nutritional guidelines from the government for eating healthily. It will also help us meet the 2020 targets for greenhouse gas reductions, as laid out the in UK Climate Change Act by steering away from processed food (whose environmental impacts are due to their extra production, packaging, transportation and energy consumption) and                 meat.
For a more complete discussion and explanation of the complicated interplay between  human diet, energy, climate change, the financial crisis and the socially and environmentally unsustainable grain–livestock relationship it is recommended to read, Energy, Climate Change, Meat, and Markets: Mapping the Coordinates of the Current World Food Crisis in the Geography Compass journal. In the meantime the WWF will lobby the government and the food industry to use the Livewell diet as a blueprint and if we just adapt our diets slightly by eating less meat and fewer processed foods, and replacing them with more fruit, vegetables and grains, we’ll be making a positive difference for ourselves and the planet.

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