Plant-based Diet for a Healthy Planet

Garden of Eating

Hungry? Step Inside Earth Fair’s Garden of Eating!

Many of us take pains to do the right thing for the environment. We may recycle, take shorter showers, and turn the lights off when leaving a room. But did you know that you can eat your way into making an even bigger difference?

It’s true: food choices matter in so many ways. The great news is this is an area where personal health and happiness come together with conserving resources, building community, and addressing climate change – not to mention more compassion for the animals we share this planet with.

SD350 Planet-Based Diet Team

A recent SanDiego350 Planet-Based Diet Team book discussion of Comfortably Unaware. Click photo for the event presentation Powerpoint!

At this year’s Earth Fair on Sunday, April 19 from 10am – 5pm in Balboa Park, SanDiego350’s “Planet-Based Diet” team invites you into the Garden of Eating, where you can experience the pleasures of good food, good life, and good earth – and we promise, it’s anything but rabbit food!

Why Check It Out?

An overwhelming body of research shows that plant-based is planet-based. The UN says, “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

How can this be? In a nutshell, we are now rearing 70 billion livestock animals for slaughter annually on a planet of 7 billion people, with both numbers growing each year. Yet our resources are finite, and it takes quite a bit of them – and causes shocking amounts of environmental damage – to accommodate these animals before they end up on our plates.

Got Drought?

PBD quote 3Take, for example, freshwater depletion. Per Pacific Institute, the crop receiving most of drought-stricken California’s water is alfalfa hay (livestock feed) and a whopping 47% of California’s total water footprint is associated with meat and dairy. Yet: “Eating lower on the food chain could allow the same volume of water to feed two Americans instead of one, with no loss in overall nutrition” (Scientific American, “Growing More Food With Less Water”). While Shorter showers save about 2.5 gallons, National Geographic says the average vegan diet saves 600 gallons of water per day! With California’s water supply running out, there’s no single more effective way to help save it.

Other areas of resource depletion in which animal agriculture is being called a leading cause are deforestation, water pollution, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, and ocean dead zones. The documentary “Cowspiracy” explains this in further detail (check out their extensive fact sheet).

The Climate is Changing

And then there’s the creation of greenhouse gases and climate change, which is the focus of SanDiego350. Although energy and transportation are major contributors, animal agriculture is responsible for 35% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, which trap much more heat than carbon dioxide (UN FAO). In PBD quote 2fact, animal agriculture is reportedly responsible for more emissions than all forms of transportation combined (UN FAO), with one more recent study finding it is responsible for 51% of total emissions (Worldwatch Institute)!

Deutsche Bank Research says, “Greenhouse gas emissions from meat-eating warrant the same scrutiny as do those from driving and flying.” And Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the UN IPCC, begs us, “Please eat less meat—meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity.” He adds that doing so is the most immediate and feasible way to reduce emissions in a short period of time.

Do Fish Count?

Although fish are often considered a more environmentally friendly option, our population’s demand for seafood is simply greater than the oceans are capable of producing. Outrageously, one third of all fish removed from the ocean, with most discarded as “bycatch,” are fed to livestock. Scientists say the oceans will be completely depleted at this rate by 2048. Additionally, removing too many fish from the ocean sets off a chain of events that further warms the atmosphere. Due to this rapid depletion of wild sea life, about half of the world’s fish currently come from fish farms, which are incredibly environmentally destructive and often poorly regulated.

But Grass-Fed Beef and Cage-Free Eggs Are Fine, Right?

Those opposed to factory farming may be reassured by meat labeled grass-fed, cage-free, local, organic, or sustainable. But what do these words really mean in this sense? Although impacts may be less in some areas, producing animal versus plant foods still uses far more resources and creates more greenhouses gases under any circumstances. Far more plants can be produced on a given acre of land, and using fewer resources, than animal foods. And ultimately, creating demand for meat products is what necessitates factory farming in the first place due to scarcity of land.

Need, Not Greed

Finally, consider the fact that one-third of all arable land on earth is used to grow livestock feed while millions of human beings starve to death each year – yet the World Hunger Program at Brown University found that a plant-based diet can feed billions more people. This seems like reason enough to give veg eating a try, no?

Death and Taxes… and Meat?PBD quote 1

With all this destruction being caused by animal agriculture and fishing, why are meat and animal products still so prevalent? Apart from current preferences and habits, it’s a clear case of profit over planet. Gigantic tax subsidies ($38 billion for meat and dairy vs. only $17 million for fruits and veggies, per Meatonomics) keep the price of meat products artificially cheap compared to the amount of irreplaceable natural resources used to produce them, and the true environmental cost is deferred to future generations ­– and possibly ourselves.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Is a plant-based diet healthy? Most definitely! It is the American Dietetic Association’s position that vegetarian and vegan diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” and “are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle.” If our closest relative, the gorilla, can thrive as an herbivore, so can we!

Luckily, plant-based eating is a trend that’s here to stay. Vegan alternatives are getting better and better, and are now available in most grocery stores.

At the Garden of Eating, plenty of samples, demos, speakers, performers, factoids, and other features await you once you step inside, including nationally recognized environmental activist Rob Greenfield’s “Food Waste Fiasco.” Jimbo’s, San Diego Soy Dairy, and Be Wise Ranch have generously donated food and supplies for our food demonstration stage. Vegetarians and omnivores alike are welcome! No “vegan police” will be present. The hope is simply for you to come away inspired and excited about plant-based eating.

Garden of eating logoThe Garden of Eating will be located adjacent to the Timken Museum. Get more event info and RSVP here!

Bring your appetite, and we’ll see you there!

Graphics by Amy Duncan/Wonder Creative.

 

 

Recycling Water to Our Garden

Juan at Activist Training Workshop in August

Juan at Activist Training Workshop last August

SD350 Member’s Family Makes Water Recycling Simple and Do-able

Last September, SD350 sponsored an Activist Training Workshop.  One of the attendees was Juan Ahumada, a graduate student, Teaching Assistant and Undergraduate Adviser in the Communications Department at SDSU.  Juan had been looking for an organization where he might direct his energy and skill towards the purpose of combating climate change.  In this open letter for our blog, he describes how his family recycles water to their garden, helping to mitigate the 19% of California’s electricity used for pumping water, as well as the energy used in mechanized agriculture and transportation of food to market.  The simple methods of water conservation he describes here will become ever more important as we adapt to climate-change-induced drought.  The more families that practice home gardening with recycled water, the better our region will be able to deal with the consequences of climate change.  The following description of how Juan’s family does this is inspiring — and very do-able.   Bonnie

Greetings,

My name is Juan Ahumada, I am a SD350 volunteer and climate activist. I wanted to post a short blog on how my family and I go about recycling our water in order not only to have a beautiful garden, but also to be mindful of the water crisis that has plagued our state.

Could this be corn coning up with the verbena and cactus in a neighborhood garden?

All the plants in our garden are watered by recycled household water.

Having always been a low-income family, we have needed to adjust our life-style in order to save as much money as possible. One of the most important things we do to save money is pick fresh fruits and veggies from our garden.  To have this healthy benefit, we use recycled water.

Saving water and having a beautiful garden in the process is very easy to do. All you really need is a bucket, some land, and a little bit of time. My family uses water from baths and showers, hand washing, laundry, and dish washing in order to water virtually all of our plants. This not only saves us hundreds of dollars a year in water costs, but also provides us with fresh fruits and vegetables year round.

Most of our water — with the exception of outflow from the washing machine — is moved by hand via buckets to the garden. We simply lock up the bathtub drain in order to keep the water in the tub, then scoop the water up and put it in a bucket that is always kept next to the bath. Then when we are ready all it takes is a quick trip outside to pour the water into whatever plants need watering on that day. We repeat this same process with all of our sinks. On a daily basis we average approximately three-to-five buckets of water for the garden from this method alone

Here we've staked bean vines with branches, recycling garden waste, too.

Here we’ve used bamboo that also grows in our garden as stakes to hold up beans and tomatoes.

It didn’t take very long for us to notice that the most wasteful appliance we have in the home is our washing machine. In fact, for every load of laundry the machine will use anywhere from 2-3 buckets of water which we are then expected to just let go to waste. Well, instead we collect that water in a large tub and using either a hose or a water pump we transport the water to several locations within the garden.

The plants don't seem to mind soap bubbles and they discourage pests.

The plants don’t seem to mind soap bubbles and they discourage some pests.

 

 

By engaging in water recycling my family not only saves hundreds of dollars each year, but we are able to do so while still maintaining a beautiful year-round garden providing us with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.

The water we recycle easily makes up over 60% of the water we need to keep our garden healthy and productive. In return, our garden provides us with many different foods ranging from multiple species of cacti, prickly pears, to apple trees, a pomegranate tree, an avocado tree, cinnamon, and even sugar cane. For my family, saving water and gardening have always been a big part of our lives. We first did it out of necessity, but now we do it because it’s simply the right thing to do for the environment, and our health.

 

National Security and Climate Change

“There is a relationship between carbon emissions and our national security.”  General Gordon R. Sullivan (ret,) chairman of the Military Advisory Board and former Army Chief of Staff

RAdm Len Hering Speaks in Coronado about the Effect of Climate Change on National Security 

Human-induced climate change: Is it acknowledged in places that count? There must be institutions in the United States that have to deal with the very real consequences of climate change, and the military is one of them.

Why the military must concern itself with climate change was the topic of  retired Rear Admiral Len Hering’s lecture on Wednesday evening, November 12, at the Coronado Community Center. Entitled National Security and Climate Change, the lecture was sponsored by Citizens Climate Lobby, and Rear Admiral Hering was introduced by Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka (who, incidentally, rode his bike to the event.)  Hering addressed the problem of a growing human population and the many industrial-age human activities that are degrading the planet, causing climate change and its consequences.  What in particular concerns the military is the increase of national security risks around the globe.

Rear Admiral Hering’s background includes a degree in marine biology and experience dealing with problems related to issues of planet health encountered during his years as a captain in the US Navy, stationed here in San Diego. Following retirement from the Navy, Hering demonstrated leadership with the promotion and installation of sustainable technologies, most notably during his years at the University of San Diego. He is the current Executive Director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

Using the following series of maps, Hering made the point that the regions of the earth that will be most affected by extremes of precipitation are the world’s breadbaskets. One salient example he gave was the conflict in Syria, a country now in its 15th year of drought. Because its agricultural output has been seriously degraded by years of drought, Syria is a nation easily destabilized, which is exactly what events in the news tell us has been happening. The crowded Middle East, with dwindling resources to feed an increasing number of inhabitants is the current global poster child for the conflicts that will arise, as people identify with their own ethnic, national or religious group against others in the fight for the most basic of resources, water. In this way, issues of a political and religious nature camouflage the true one: survival of one’s own.

 

This series of maps shows the potential fir future drought as the 21st century progresses.  The maps use the Palmer Drought Severity Index, where a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme.  Regions colored blue or green are considered less likely to experience drought, whereas those in purple and red could face unusually extreme drought.

This series of maps shows the potential fir future drought as the 21st century progresses. The maps use the Palmer Drought Severity Index, where a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme. Regions colored blue or green are considered less likely to experience drought, whereas those in purple and red could face unusually extreme drought.

(Courtesy Wiley Interdisciplinary Review)

Another kind of human suffering described by Hering is the displacement of entire communities due to flooding and sea-level rise.  The example he gave was the loss of small farms in coastal Bangladesh to sea-level rise and flooding from storm surges that render the soil too salty for farming.  Climate-change refugees have spilled over into northeastern India especially.  The obvious result has been deadly conflict between the refugees and the long-time inhabitants of the region where the refugees have been resettling.

Hering’s talk juxtaposed such examples of human dislocation with the wastefulness of human activity in more prosperous industrialized nations.  The clear picture is that the poor will suffer the most, and long before we in the U.S. will feel the most devastating effects of climate change.

The loss of coastal lands will affect many in varying degrees worldwide. Miami and Coronado will see the loss of valuable property, including a prominent military base. The Philippines, with an average altitude of only eight feet faces enormous human losses, not just to sea-level rise but also to intense storms due to its location along the Western Pacific’s Typhoon Alley.  As many as 12 million climate-change refugees will likely be created. Other, smaller Pacific Island nations, balmy paradises like Kiribati, will cease to exist, their inhabitants all becoming refugees.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, causing enormous loss of property and dislocation of mostly poor people.  The inhabited areas of the Philippines, Hering pointed out, is mostly low-lying, averaging only 8 feet in elevation, and therefore vulnerable to sea level rise as well as typhoons.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, causing enormous loss of property and dislocation of mostly poor people. The inhabited areas of the Philippines, Hering pointed out, is mostly low-lying, averaging only 8 feet in elevation, and therefore vulnerable to sea level rise as well as typhoons.

Bringing the consequences closer to our own shores, Hering quoted Admiral Sam Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, as warning that climate change is the greatest long-term security threat in the Pacific region.

RAdm. Hering explained other climate-change-induced security threats: the opening up of Arctic waters, which will give hostile nations greater freedom of movement; ocean warming and the disruption of air and water currents, causing extreme weather events that result in loss of lives, livelihoods and property; the degraded health of the oceans affecting the food chain and ultimately the main source of protein for 70% of the world’s human population; diminished world water supplies causing the devastation of farms and farm-animal husbandry, leading to terrible food insecurities; the thawing of the permafrost which will accelerate the release of methane into the atmosphere and, in turn, further accelerate atmospheric warming.  Some of these are political threats, but others are existential, promoting fear, turmoil, irrational political movements and violence, all serious threats to peace and stability — and, in this globally-connected world, to our own security.

Throughout his lecture, Hering’s passion for confronting climate change and promoting sustainability was dramatized by the tone of his voice and the energy in his gestures. His strong belief in the responsibility of the U.S. and other prosperous and privileged nations came through in every aspect of his talk, which included food waste, general pollution, and industrial degradation as well as climate change.  A photograph of his grandchildren personalized a theme he returned to time and again: This is not about us; it’s about our children and grandchildren, the future of humanity.