An Even More Inconvenient Truth? (Part 2)

In the January issue of Common Ground magazine, this column addressed the report released late in 2006 by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, stating that cattle in the meat and dairy industries generate more global warming greenhouse gases than can be blamed on transportation and use of vehicles.(1)

Here we continue with a recent study by Italian and Swiss environmentalists that compares meat-based and plant-based diets, equivalent in calories and protein and all nutritionally adequate, with regard to their impact on our planets resources. These scientists found the typical vegetarian diet to use significantly less energy, land, and water resources and to be far more sustainable than a typical meat-based diet. Vegan diets that include no eggs or dairy products prove to be still less damaging, and further benefits are realized by choosing organic foods. (2)
Though the otherwise excellent documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” failed to spell out the immense effects of our dietary choices on global warming, fortunately the related website gives several helpful tips, buried on page 4 of “What You Can Do”.(2) These include:

* Buy locally grown and produced foods.

You’ll reduce use of fuel while supporting local agriculture. Local farmers markets reduce the amount of energy required to grow and transport the food to you by one fifth.

* Buy fresh foods instead of frozen
Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.

*Buy organic.

Organic soils capture and store carbon dioxide at much higher levels than soils from conventional farms. If we North Americans grew all of our corn and soybeans organically, we’d remove more than 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere!

* Avoid heavily packaged products.
Reduce your garbage and you’ll reduce carbon dioxide production.

* Eat less meat.
Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters. Their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane, which they exhale with every breath.

Better still, eliminate it out entirely!

Black Bean Soup

Black beans are a staple in Mexico, and Central and South America, and form the basis of wonderful salads, stews and soups. Vegetable stock gives flavour can be made from stock cubes or powder or purchased ready-made and. Use a little less liquid to create a fine stew. Lime juice, added just before serving, gives a bright note, in this recipe from “Becoming Vegetarian” (Melina and Davis, Wiley Canada) that was developed by the excellentVancouver chefJosephForest.

1 cup               diced carrot                                                     250 mL

1 cup               diced celery                                                     250 mL

1/2                   onion, diced                                                    1/2

1                        clove garlic, minced                                        1

1 tbsp              olive oil                                                           15 mL

3 cups              cooked black turtle beans or black beans        750 mL

4 cups             vegetable stock                                               1 L

1/4 cup           tomato paste                                                    60 mL

1-1/2 tsp        ground cumin                                                  7 mL

1 tsp                dried oregano                                                  5 mL

1 tsp                dried thyme                                                     5 mL

2 tsp                lime juice                                                         10 mL

salt and pepper to taste

In large pot, sauté carrot, celery, onion and garlic in oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in beans, stock, tomato paste, cumin, oregano and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Add salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning.

Makes 6 cups (4 servings)

Per 1-1/2 cup serving: calories: 256, protein: 13 g, fat 4 g, dietary fiber: 10 g, calcium: 131 mg, iron: 6 mg, magnesium: 90 mg, zinc: 1.4 mg, folate: 140 mcg

Part 3 of this article will appear in next month’s Common Ground


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations. Livestock\’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options. Steinfeld at al. 2006.

Full report: www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.pdf

Executive summary: www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.htm#sum

  1. Baroni L, Cenci L, Tettamanti M, Berati M. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.Oct 11 2006.
  2. An Inconvenient Truth. http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/whatyoucando/index4.html

Vesanto Melina, is a Registered Dietitian and consultant who lives in Langley BC. She is co-author of seven food and nutrition classics that include “Becoming Vegetarian”, “Becoming Vegan”, and “Raising Vegetarian Children”. Web: www.camd58.sg-host.com Email: vesanto@camd58.sg-host.com ; Phone: 604-882-6782.  


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