Monday, May 30, 2011

Meatless Monday: For the Planet’s Health as Well as Your Own

Anonymous made a good point when he (or she) left a comment on my last week’s post, stating that for some the Apocalypse HAD arrived. I had not meant to be flippant when making reference to the rolling 6 pm global earthquakes which had not materialized. Clearly life will never be the same for survivors of the devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, and I would never make light of that.

Tornadoes have a direct link to the weather. While it can’t currently be proved that the strange weather patterns of this late Spring are caused by climate change, some scientists believe this is a possibility. This story in the Huffington Post contains updates on the Joplin tornado, describes the weather conditions favoring the formation of tornadoes, and offers some opinions from meteorologists on why this year’s outbreaks have been so severe. Huffington Post also offers ways in which you can help those in the disaster areas. Bill McKibben, the founder of, raised the question about the link between climate change and our recent bad weather in a widely-read Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post

Most scientists believe that the CO2 in our atmosphere is rising to dangerous levels, leading to global warming.  It is a fact that meat production is a huge contributor to this rise. An often referenced 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, here summarized by Scientific American found that “current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of ‘CO2-equivalent’ greenhouse gases the world produces every year. It turns out that producing half a pound of hamburger…releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles.”

The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) site is an excellent source of materials documenting what is wrong with the meat industry — from the creation of CO2 to the unethical treatment of the animals being raised for food.  PETA has also compiled an informational kit on going vegetarian/vegan. You can request a free copy in the mail or view it online. Included (along with the graphic images of factory farms) are an interactive quiz on animal traits, celebrity endorsements of PETA’s work from musicians Sir Paul McCartney and Joan Jett and actors Alicia Silverstone and Kevin Nealon, a treasure trove of recipes, and a comprehensive vegan shopping guide for a conventional grocery store. [Vegans like to grill and snack as we all do.] Even if you do not decide to embrace the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, perhaps you will come to appreciate the reasons behind the choice, and maybe find a recipe or two.

On this Monday of cookouts across America it seems a particularly good time to remember that Meatless Monday’s goal is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. [Bold type is mine.] I went in search of vegan Field Roast Grain Meat sausages for the grill and found some at our nearly local Whole Foods. Next Monday I’ll let you know how they turned out and I’ll even throw in my coleslaw recipe which I’ve been tweaking a bit.

Enjoy your holiday. Have a great week. And come back again soon.

I try to blog on food or food issues each Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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