TED Talk: Mark Bittman on how we eat

I got around to watching one of the TED talks that I mentioned in my first post of 2013 today – Mark Bittman on ‘What’s wrong with what we eat.’  I’ve embedded the link below because I think it’s well worth watching.

Some of my favourite quotes from the talk (in case you’re at work and can’t watch):

  • …Where we go from here is going to determine not only the quality and the length of our individual lives, but whether, if we could see the Earth a century from now, we’d recognize it. 
  • But with lots of intelligent people focusing on whether food is organic or local, or whether we’re being nice to animals, the most important issues just aren’t being addressed. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like animals, and I don’t think it’s just fine to industrialize their production and to churn them out like they were wrenches. But there’s no way to treat animals well, when you’re killing 10 billion of them a year. That’s our number. 10 billion. If you strung all of them — chickens, cows, pigs and lambs — to the moon, they’d go there and back five times, there and back. .. That’s just the United States. And with our hyper-consumption of those animals producing greenhouse gases and heart disease, kindness might just be a bit of a red herring. Let’s get the numbers of the animals we’re killing for eating down, and then we’ll worry about being nice to the ones that are left.
  • We don’t eat animal products for sufficient nutrition, we eat them to have an odd form of malnutrition, and it’s killing us. 

The reasons for eating a diet based on plants, rather than meat and processed foods are two pronged.  One, the impact of expanding livestock farming is indisputably linked to climate change.  Two, consumption of large quantities of animal products is conclusively linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

Armed with the right knowledge, changing the way we eat may be easier than changing the way in which we get around.   The concept of Meatless Monday is definitely gaining traction and has been widely featured in the media.  Food programs (Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules, everything Jamie Oliver’s ever done) are insanely popular, and while they don’t interest me at all, they are encouraging consumption of real food made from real ingredients.  Combining publicity with human curiosity and innate survival instincts (no one really wants to die young from so-called lifestyle diseases) may actually lead to real change.

People may still drive to go two blocks for a while yet, but I am genuinely hopeful about change in how we all eat.

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