Smaller footprint, better diet (and a recipe)
Back in l930's, Fats Waller sang a funny song called Your Feets Too Big, kidding a date about the size of her "pedalic extremities," with lyrics that rhymed "colossal" and "fossil."
In the 21st century, we as a society worry less about the size of our feet and more about the size of our carbon footprint. To reduce the impacts of global warming, we must reduce the size of our carbon emissions.
Most Americans emit - directly and indirectly - about twenty tons of greenhouse gases a year, roughly five times the global average.
In the past I've spoken about reducing my footprint by riding the bus and by focusing on water conservation. Now I'm writing about something simpler: reducing carbon emissions by reducing consumption of animal-based foods.
In 2006, a study from the United Nations found that worldwide, 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulted from cattle production, a higher percentage than produced by transportation. And according to another widely-distributed study, eating red meat on a frequent basis emits about one and a half tons more GHGs into the atmosphere compared to eating a purely plant-based diet.
"However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet," said one of the authors. "It doesn't have to be all the way to ...vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you've already made a substantial difference."
The truth is I didn't stop eating meat for the sake of the planet. I stopped for the sake of my daughter, who asked me to while we were touring college campuses. But once I stopped, within a few days I noticed that my arthritis went away. If I ate chicken, beef, or lamb, I would experience more pain, more stiffness, sometimes within hours.
That was eight years ago. And this brings up a point I often make, when it comes to the choices we face for the sake of our world. The truly most self-serving thing we can do so often turns out to be the best choice for the planet as well.
I wasn't motivated by a desire to be saintly, but by a desire to feel better, healthier, to have more joy in my life and less aspirin, to suffer less pain. Think of the planet or think of your own life and the health of your family, of self-preservation, of joy, of happiness; I think you will come to the same conclusion.
As the United Nations study points out, it's not just a case of eating less meat, it's also a case of drinking less dairy milk. And speaking of the health of the planet, of viable solutions, of trees, here's a recipe for milk from trees.
(Similar recipes are easily found on the Internet, but here's my favorite):
Soak a cup of almonds overnight in water. Put the almonds in a blender with about three cups of water. Add a date, a splash of vanilla extract, and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Wizz it up. Strain through cheesecloth or a strainer. Pour it in a glass and drink -- it's a sweet, beautiful white milk. And for killer pancakes and scones, add the residual almond paste to the batter.
Now, doesn't this look nice?