The Sustainable Vegetarian/ Vegan/Omnivore/ETC.

In the months ahead, I’m hoping to explore a little more closely what we CAN eat. What drove many of us to vegetarianism years ago was learning about the unhealthy nature of the beef and poultry industries — both for us and for the planet. In THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA, Michael Pollan took that line of thinking further, starting with his observations about corn, ethanol, and what we might call Big Grain. Monsanto, anyone?

What’s true of grain and beef is true of soybeans too. There goes a protein-rich mainstay of the traditional vegan diet. Now folks are turning to coconut oil for salvation. But you know, ANY monoculture crop is a problem — a BIG problem, sorry to say! Just google Indonesia and rain forests if you don’t believe me. Those coconut trees have to grow someplace, and it won’t be in New England.

So what CAN we eat?  The impetus to buy, cook and eat whatever locally grown foods may thrive in your neighborhood maybe isn’t quite as trendy as the idea of being vegan. Part of the problem is that everyone’s microclimate is different and that prevents locally-grown from easily translating into a global movement. But it shouldn’t. And locally grown is part of the answer.

But we’re not there yet.

Your thoughts?

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5 thoughts on “The Sustainable Vegetarian/ Vegan/Omnivore/ETC.”

  1. The vast majority of soy that is grown is actually used in animal feed. Most of the rest is used in processed food. Only a tiny amount is eaten as tofu etc as a food in itself. Eating meat and other animal products is hugely inefficient – you are better off eating the animal food than the animal 🙂
    Veganism isn’t perfect – as you suggest, nothing is, but it is a good starting point.

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    1. Thanks, and your site is GREAT! And yes, of course, you’re right, most soy goes to animal feed … I’m just envisioning that if we all switched to tofu, it would be an even greater incentive for soy growers to grow and market more.
      My point extends, alas, to virtually all of the grains. I am definitely not suggesting that meat is better for the environment, certainly not! Beef production’s been blamed for a raft of ills, and rightly so. Rain forests being cleared in Brazil is just one — never mind all the damage to the environment here in the U.S. So I take your point: If we all REALLY went vegan, the grains and legumes/pulses could be diverted to feed only us humans.
      Unfortunately, the rise of agriculture over hunting-gathering led to what may have been the first population explosion … so the fundamental problem is that there are too many humans. But we are not likely to solve that one anytime soon, short of drastic intervention, alas.
      Thanks for your post and your excellent website.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are quite right of course – over population is the biggest environmental problem addressing the planet but like you say this is unlikely to be solved any time soon. It was seem that as development improves birth rates declines.

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  2. Hi Lisa and thank you for inviting me to your website and blog. I will always comment when it comes to nutrition and will just say this continues to be a topic fraught with confusion.

    My perspective is, of course, framed first and foremost by the health implications of diet and I must admit I was mighty confused until I became acquainted with Weston A. Price’s research. His conclusions about the link between food and either chronic degenerative disease or vibrant health came when he studied the diet of those not touched by “conventional” (processed) food. His study, which spanned a decade and took place about 100 years ago, was compelling. He discovered what the healthiest people ate and he found not a single tribe or community of vegetarians. There was always some sort of animal (or insect) food found in those he studied though he secretly believed he would find healthy people who were vegetarian.

    His now famous book – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – is a compilation of his research along with photographic documentation of the facial structure and oral health of those he found to have the best health. He was a dentist afterall.

    So . . . I am an advocate for consuming saturated fats (butter, ghee, sour cream, pan drippings, etc.) from healthy animals along with other types of fat such as coconut oil and olive oil. These were and are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can consume and contain fat soluble vitamins that promote the absorption of the minerals found in grains and legumes.

    Yes, we are omnivores but we have a proclivity toward the carnivorous since we are monogastric animals with canine teeth. We secrete hydrochloric acid in the stomach which is meant to break down muscle fibers and other proteins.

    Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD has stated her conclusion after studying nutrition for a number of years – plant foods help keep the body cleansed of toxins while animal foods nourish us.

    I do wonder if we can evolve into a species that no longer needs to consume animal fats and proteins as it could be seen as a more “just” lifestyle but we haven’t gotten there yet. When we discover those species in our universe that don’t need nutrients from animal sources we will learn much from their physiology but looking at ours right now leads me to the conclusion that we will continue to be omnivores for awhile.

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    1. Mary Lynn, this is such a wonderful and thoughtful consideration of the issues we are facing. My current concern is for the survival of the planet as the biosphere we know and love. Of course the basic problem is that there are just too many of us here at the top of the food chain. Have you read “The World Without Us”? Thought-provoking, for sure.
      My book “The Gradual Vegetarian” advocated a transition from the heavy meat-eating diet so many of us knew as children — red meat three times a day was not unusual for the middle class — to a diet that first relied more on chicken and fish, then could lean more on vegetable sources including fats and dairy and eggs, the classic lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. In the third “stage” I examined macrobiotics and Herbert Shelton’s ideas, but both of those diets can include animal sources. As you point out, it is an enormously complex topic. My current interest is mainly sustainability, and we’ve already seen that a primarily meat-based diet for the whole planet just ISN’T. But my current inquiry, in the first post, was whether indeed a shift, let’s say, by the entire planet to vegetable proteins would really help. A correspondent from the UK quickly pointed out that indeed that kind of diet would be easier on the planet than everybody eating meat — much as did Francis Moore Lappe. My question about sustainability remains: Yes, we know that countries hastening to raise more beef are destroying rain forests and that’s ultimately disastrous. But let’s say we all started relying on soy products, since soy is high in protein (I know, it has its problems, but this is just by way of an example). What the heck is THAT going to do to the environment? Already the soil and waterways are polluted with the fertilizer and pesticides required to grow monoculture crops, and soy is already one of them in a lot of areas. So that’s just a speculative example. I’m inquiring: What can we as a species do at this point to feed ourselves without destroying what’s left of the biosphere?
      I love your final thought: Those species in the universe that don’t need nutrients from animal sources … they would surely also be species that have learned to moderate their population growth and even support other species’ populations … IMAGINE …

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