The world is changing rapidly for the worse. Climate change is real and even though there seems to be plenty of water and food to go around for all, this is soon going to change.
The planet is feeling the crunch on natural resources since the environmental pressures on food systems could increase by up to 90 percent by 2050. “If earth's vital ecosystems become unstable it could lead to dangerous levels of climate change with higher occurrences of extreme weather events, affect the regulatory function of forest ecosystems and biodiversity... and pollute water bodies such that it would lead to more oxygen-depleted dead zones in oceans,” says Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, in his study published in
The solution is far from simple. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, has chalked out a diet for the planet. It has brought together 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.
So, what exactly are we supposed to eat? The planetary diet, symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The other half consists of primarily whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses), unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat and dairy, and some added sugars and starchy vegetables.
We as global citizens, the key take-away is to eat more greens and less meat. Especially less red meat since most studies show meat and other animal products are responsible for more than half of food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
As Indians, the choices we make daily as a consumer are very important. We need to buy local vegetables and bring down the demand for exotic vegetables like broccoli etc. These exotic vegetables are detrimental since farmers prefer to grow these “cash veggies” than local vegetables and fruits, which in turn affects larger ecosystems.
They also leave a big carbon footprint as they need to be transported from one end of the country to the rest. When we buy fish, we prefer the boneless big fish like tuna or swordfish, but we are eating these big hunters resulting in large amounts of smaller fish and plankton, that thrive in the ocean leading to an increase of carbon dioxide production. Nutrient-packed smaller fish like sardines need to be included in the diet instead of boneless fish steaks. Imported meats must also be avoided.
We need to know how and where our food is produced and eat more locally sourced seasonal food. And more importantly, waste less food. When we toss out uneaten food, all the resources that went into growing the food - water, pesticides, fertilizers, transport, refrigeration, storage, packaging… all of it is wasted. We must avoid packaged and prepared foods which causes diseases like diabetes and obesity and brings toxic plastic microfibers that leach into our bodies.
We cannot turn back time, to when the rivers were unpolluted, the land was always fertile and the air was clean, but we can try to eat as our grandparents did. Keep it local, eat freshly made meals and try to live consciously, it may be the only way to save ourselves.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.