Food for thought: to diet or devour, this is the question

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have a desire to make the world a better place? If you are reading this from a Western perspective, you have probably been conditioned to think that the world can be saved through marginal aid donations to African charities aptly gilded with tones of altruism, yet often absorbed by undercurrents of pity. Coming from the East, the panacea to the world’s woes takes a much different tune; one written in words that look ahead to securing a future that wasn’t always a certainty until the economic rise undergone in year’s past.

By Justin Calderon

The word “sustainable” has been so promoted in recent years that it’s meaning has become diluted, obscure and uninterruptable to all besides over-worked researchers who are now jaded by the sound of it. Yet, despite the fuzzy terminology, this is exactly the idea that the world needs to dress their palates with if we want to make a difference. Ironically enough, overweight countries can do more for the future of underprivileged and famine-prone nations by changing their eating habits than by dropping some greenbacks off at a charity.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sustainable food is defined as “those diets with low environmental impacts, which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.”

That all sounds great. However, 51 per cent of the planet now resides in urban dwellings, a trend projected to continue by a growth rate of 1.9 per cent every year. This in turn reflects the beginning chapters of the so-called “Asian century,” where economic prosperity has replaced pity. From Doha to Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai, billboards today chime slogans thinking in a forward philosophy, encouraging societies that have just begun to feel confident with visions of their future. Yet in this hard-earned success, it is the new wealth being created in the East that promises to overburden natural, finite resources, and thus strain global food supplies.

I have previously written on the stress that high-protein diets can cause on natural resources, and with new wealth these foodstuffs are increasingly in the economic reach of Asia’s up-and-coming middle class, which enjoy satiating themselves in similar styles to those seen in the West.

This will be draining on finite resources. About 200 times the amount of water it takes to grow one kilogramme of potatoes is needed for one pound of beef, or 109,671 liters/kg compared to 547 liters/kg. Soybeans, good sources of protein, will use about 50 times less water than beef, or 2,191 liters/kg.

Agriculture uses about 70 per cent of our water supplies globally, but it is not the only source of the “invisible” drawdown of water. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia recently correctly noted that “the issue of food security is intertwined with other issues such as energy, environmental and water conservation.” It is an astute observation and points the interconnectedness of resources. Electricity needs water to produce power while large food-processing factories much use electricity to package their products.

Here is a truncated chart from IEEE Spectrum to aid this point:

Fuel source efficiency (liters per 1,000 kilowatt hours)

Natural gas – 38

Tar sands – 190-490

Coal – 530-2,100

LNG – 1,875

Fuel ethanol – 32,400-375,900

Biodiesel – 180,000-969,000

If your previously harboured delusions as to the viability of biofuels in the world’s future energy mix, you might be changing your mind now.

The holy grail of food security

Enter the dream of “sustainability.” Here, coupled with the extinction of thoughts that promote the sanctity of biofuels, we can begin to re-evaluate our eating habits. No, you don’t have to be a vegan to help alleviate the food supply pressures of the world, but it would help.

Sustainable diets, in general, feature much less meat and cheese intake in favour of more fish and diary products, such as yogurt. Researchers have realistically included chips, cookies and white bread into prototypes of sustainable diets, recognizing a kind of change that would be acceptable to the wider population.

However, according to guidelines published by the National Post, to be sustainable one should avoid:

  • Excessive portions of meat in traditional Western food, such as past, casseroles, tacos, pizza, etc.
  • Baked goods and granola bars over fruits, vegetables and peanuts
  • Cheese instead of milk and yogurt
  • Breakfast cereals instead of whole oats

Overall, a decrease in the consumption of ice cream, butter-based food items, eggs and high-sugar processed foods is common Western diets is considered much more sustainable.

Right now Asia is reaching out to their young and growing populations, and the time is ripe. Food habits don’t and should not follow those myopic diets already conformed in the West. Wet markets and traditional food of the Far East should be sustained and supported. I’m sorry, but the world doesn’t need more Baskin Robbins.

 

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have a desire to make the world a better place? If you are reading this from a Western perspective, you have probably been conditioned to think that the world can be saved through marginal aid donations to African charities aptly gilded with tones of altruism, yet often absorbed by undercurrents of pity. Coming from the East, the panacea to the world’s woes takes a much different tune; one written in words that look ahead to securing a future that wasn’t always a certainty until the economic rise undergone in year’s past.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have a desire to make the world a better place? If you are reading this from a Western perspective, you have probably been conditioned to think that the world can be saved through marginal aid donations to African charities aptly gilded with tones of altruism, yet often absorbed by undercurrents of pity. Coming from the East, the panacea to the world’s woes takes a much different tune; one written in words that look ahead to securing a future that wasn’t always a certainty until the economic rise undergone in year’s past.

By Justin Calderon

The word “sustainable” has been so promoted in recent years that it’s meaning has become diluted, obscure and uninterruptable to all besides over-worked researchers who are now jaded by the sound of it. Yet, despite the fuzzy terminology, this is exactly the idea that the world needs to dress their palates with if we want to make a difference. Ironically enough, overweight countries can do more for the future of underprivileged and famine-prone nations by changing their eating habits than by dropping some greenbacks off at a charity.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sustainable food is defined as “those diets with low environmental impacts, which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.”

That all sounds great. However, 51 per cent of the planet now resides in urban dwellings, a trend projected to continue by a growth rate of 1.9 per cent every year. This in turn reflects the beginning chapters of the so-called “Asian century,” where economic prosperity has replaced pity. From Doha to Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai, billboards today chime slogans thinking in a forward philosophy, encouraging societies that have just begun to feel confident with visions of their future. Yet in this hard-earned success, it is the new wealth being created in the East that promises to overburden natural, finite resources, and thus strain global food supplies.

I have previously written on the stress that high-protein diets can cause on natural resources, and with new wealth these foodstuffs are increasingly in the economic reach of Asia’s up-and-coming middle class, which enjoy satiating themselves in similar styles to those seen in the West.

This will be draining on finite resources. About 200 times the amount of water it takes to grow one kilogramme of potatoes is needed for one pound of beef, or 109,671 liters/kg compared to 547 liters/kg. Soybeans, good sources of protein, will use about 50 times less water than beef, or 2,191 liters/kg.

Agriculture uses about 70 per cent of our water supplies globally, but it is not the only source of the “invisible” drawdown of water. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia recently correctly noted that “the issue of food security is intertwined with other issues such as energy, environmental and water conservation.” It is an astute observation and points the interconnectedness of resources. Electricity needs water to produce power while large food-processing factories much use electricity to package their products.

Here is a truncated chart from IEEE Spectrum to aid this point:

Fuel source efficiency (liters per 1,000 kilowatt hours)

Natural gas – 38

Tar sands – 190-490

Coal – 530-2,100

LNG – 1,875

Fuel ethanol – 32,400-375,900

Biodiesel – 180,000-969,000

If your previously harboured delusions as to the viability of biofuels in the world’s future energy mix, you might be changing your mind now.

The holy grail of food security

Enter the dream of “sustainability.” Here, coupled with the extinction of thoughts that promote the sanctity of biofuels, we can begin to re-evaluate our eating habits. No, you don’t have to be a vegan to help alleviate the food supply pressures of the world, but it would help.

Sustainable diets, in general, feature much less meat and cheese intake in favour of more fish and diary products, such as yogurt. Researchers have realistically included chips, cookies and white bread into prototypes of sustainable diets, recognizing a kind of change that would be acceptable to the wider population.

However, according to guidelines published by the National Post, to be sustainable one should avoid:

  • Excessive portions of meat in traditional Western food, such as past, casseroles, tacos, pizza, etc.
  • Baked goods and granola bars over fruits, vegetables and peanuts
  • Cheese instead of milk and yogurt
  • Breakfast cereals instead of whole oats

Overall, a decrease in the consumption of ice cream, butter-based food items, eggs and high-sugar processed foods is common Western diets is considered much more sustainable.

Right now Asia is reaching out to their young and growing populations, and the time is ripe. Food habits don’t and should not follow those myopic diets already conformed in the West. Wet markets and traditional food of the Far East should be sustained and supported. I’m sorry, but the world doesn’t need more Baskin Robbins.

 

 

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