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Help Yourself and the Environment

Story ID:4585
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various USA
Year:2008
Person:Bittman
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Mark Bittman is a reporter and writer. You may have occasionally read
his food colunm "The Minimalist" in the New York Times. He also wrote
a book called "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" even though he has no
intention of becoming a vegetarian. Still, I am grateful that he realizes
the importance of a greener diet.

Today I enjoyed reading his "The Simple-Till Six Diet" in the January '09
Reader's Digest. I didn't read his article in depth so I am not sure what the
title means, but I was more enthused by the picture of him holding an apple.
Thank goodness, he wasn't sporting a milk mustache. I hope that he doesn't
support the idea that milk is good for us. If that were the case - why do we
have so many incidences of osteoporosis? Many of the people afflicted are milk
drinkers.

I really read the article quickly but when I spotted the boxed material
labeled ANIMAL PLANET (animal letters were in red and planet letters
in green), I voraciously pounced on it. Yes, I get excited when I read any
articles re our food animals because I am hoping and praying that one
day the CAFOs will implode - of course, the animals will have been removed
and returned to green pastures where they belong.

A few years back - nothing was ever reported about the damage to our
environment re the harmful effects of meat consumption, but slowly but
surely -- more writers have been reporting on it, and I am glad that it has
found its way into the Reader's Digest through Mr. Bittman.

Sadly, not a great deal of people agree with those of us who do not eat meat
because of ethical reasons. But Bittman, though not a vegetarian, has
approached this from a different aspect by making a case for eating LESS
MEAT. Here is that box of information which commanded my attention.
I'm sure his article has much more to commend it, but nothing seemed
as important to me as this information:

"ANIMAL PLANET"
*"We raise 60 billion animals for food each year--10 animals for every human
on earth.
* Just to sustain current consumption levels (and consumption is increasing,
so this is conservative), we'll raise 120 billion animals a year by 2050.
* If you grow corn and eat it, you expend 2.2 calories of energy to yield 1 calorie
of protein. But if you process that corn, feed it to a steer, and take into account
the other needs that steer has in its lifetime-land use, chemical fertilizers
(largely petoleum-based), pesticides, machinery, transport, antibiotics, and
water--you're responsible for 40 calories of energy to get that same 1 calorie
of protein.
* A steak dinner for a family of four is the rough energy equivalent of driving
around in an SUV for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home.
* The average American meat eater is responsible for one and a half tons more
CO2 -equivalent greenhouse gas--enough to fill a large house annually-than
someone who eats no meat. "

Well investigated, Mr. Bittman. Thank you. Will this information matter to the
average person? I hope so. One never knows, though we have not always
responded wisely to other environmental issues. We know that plastic bags are
clogging up our landfills, so are we recycling them or buying reusable bags? I don't
think many people do. We know that plastic water bottles are also filling up our
landfills, and it is common knowledge that plastic generally does not disintegrate,
so are we using tap water or agitating for bottles made from glass? Again, I must
answer in the negative.

Even though I sound cynical, I'm hoping that at least some people will read Mr.
Bittman's illuminating article and will make an effort to cut back on meat
consumption. If we care enough about farm animals and the environment, I'm
sure we will make some changes in our lifestyle. Of course, an added benefit
per Mr. Bittman would be loss of weight as we adopt a pro-earth eating plan.