Staying GLAD in a SAD world

09 May

SAD, of course, stands for the Standard American Diet, characterized by lots of animal foods (meat, eggs, dairy), lots of refined and processed foods (breads, cakes, chips, crackers, spreads, sodas), and very little whole, unprocessed plant foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains).

SAD also stands for how we feel about where the Standard American Diet is taking us. Two thirds of residents of the US are overweight and half of those are obese. The rest of the world is working hard to catch up with us. As it is exported to other countries around the world, the Standard American Diet is making the world both SAD and sad.

Everyone wants to live like the Americans — in a large house, driving their own car, and eating lots of animal and refined foods. The only problem is that Americans make up 5% (one twentieth) of the world’s population but consume about 40% (nearly half!) of available resources. If everyone in the world lived like an American, consuming at the same rate as the average American, the world would need 800% of available resources (40% x 20). SADly, 100% of available resources is all there is.

Continued export of the expensive American way of life is setting the world up for a shopper’s riot worse than any Walmart stampede ever seen as nations, tribes, and individuals struggle to get “their share” of the world’s diminishing bounty.

This is the sad outcome toward which the SAD pushes us.

GLAD, on the other hand, stands for Green, Lean, Active, and Delighted. GLAD describes a way of life that strives to reduce its impact on the environment, to consume less, and to make itself sustainable.

GLAD also describes how we feel when we do our best to live this way.

Green means living in a way that is kind to the environment, that doesn’t depend on rainforest destruction, topsoil erosion, desertification, greenhouse gas emission, or pollution of the oceans.

Green means feeding ourselves in a way that is efficient and safe. Livestock production consumes about 54 calories of energy for each calorie of food delivered to a hungry human. Plant food production consumes only around 10 calories of energy for each calorie of food delivered. Livestock production accounts for between 18% to over 50% of greenhouse gases generated by human activity. Livestock accounts for about 20% of all farm worker injuries, according to the Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. Livestock production for food is neither efficient nor safe.

Lean means feeding ourselves in a way that will produce optimal health. Since the late 1800’s, a handful of researchers and doctors have documented the powerful health-producing effects of a diet based on whole, unrefined, unprocessed plants. As it turns out, what’s best for us is also best for the animals (we don’t have to kill them for food) and the planet (producing plant foods is much less damaging to the environment than producing animal foods).

In addition to the epidemic of overweight and obesity, in the US and other western countries (and everywhere else people are choosing SAD-like diets), chronic diseases of affluence are on the increase. Despite “wars on” the various killer diseases, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are becoming more common and killing more people.

Eating in a way that keeps us lean, by choosing a diet based on whole, unprocessed plants (vegetables, fruit, legumes, and grains) helps us avoid these chronic diseases and live a healthy, active life right to the end. The SAD generates disease and causes years of suffering before life finally ends.

The ability to be active is both a result of making green and lean choices and a contributor to the health outcome we want. We can be more green and more lean by using our muscles to provide some of our energy needs instead of burning fossil fuel (thereby driving mining and global warming). Being able to bike to work, for example, is both a reward for making healthy food choices and a way we can be even greener and leaner.

Delighted is where we wind up when we do our best to live GLADly. Choosing to be green, lean, and active naturally fosters an attitude of delight — with the world, with ourselves, with our cousins of other species.

So, be GLAD and help the world get over its SADness.

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Posted by on 2011/05/09 in ecology, nutrition


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