Monthly Archives: August 2011

My sister teaches about health and recently asked me for sources representing my views on agriculture, food production, and nutrition

Here’s her e-mail and my response
On 2011 Aug 28, at 16:25 , Sis wrote:

Hi, again. I have a question.

I am compiling material for a lesson on agriculture and food
production for class. I want to present different points of view so
that the students can evaluate and discuss the information. Could you
point me to some of your soureces of information that you use on
nutrition? Tom already sent me one site (thanks). Anything else that
is easy to pass along would be great.

Sure. I’m not sure what I already sent you, so I may repeat myself.

This first one is a report from 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. It estimates that 18% of greenhouse gases are generated by livestock production, more than any other single source. The PDF (19M) can be downloaded from the page above.

This is a follow-up report from the World Watch Institute that says that the FAO underestimated the greenhouse gas production of the livestock industry. They put it at about 51%. Again, the PDF can be downloaded from the page at the URL above.

The take away message I get from the above reports is that the most significant thing a person can do to help avert global warming is to stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

Of course, the meat, dairy, and egg industries have done what they can to obfuscate and oppose this information. I still think it’s true. In June, NPR published this story,, which talks about how 97% of scientists are convinced that global warming is real and caused by human activity but less than a quarter of the US population (13%) understand how strong this scientific consensus is.

What I find amazing is that, given this, more scientists aren’t vegetarian.

This is Dr. McDougall’s website. He makes his entire program available on it for free (, so a person doesn’t have to buy anything to put his recommendations into practice. His basic primer on nutrition (which to some extent reflects his philosophy about what to eat) is here: And of course, there’s lots more.

This is Jeff Novick’s blog. He is a Registered Dietician and teaches about healthy eating by focusing on foods low in calorie density (mostly fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, legumes, and grains, optionally with a small amount of nuts and seeds).

This is the website of the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Project (CHIP), run by Dr. Hans Diehl. His message is very similar to Dr. McDougall’s.

My big take-away from Dr. McDougall, Jeff, Dr. Diehl, and others, is that humans don’t need to eat animal products for health and in fact we’re generally healthier when we minimize animal products or avoid them altogether. Of course, there’s more than that to their message — minimize or eliminate refined products, keep dietary fat levels low, exercise moderately, get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and clean water, and so forth.

Again, various industries have a vested interest in making sure the public doesn’t understand how simple it is to eat in a healthy way. If everyone stuck to unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, the meat, dairy, and egg industries would go out of business. If people stopped being chronically sick because their diets got healthier, the pharmaceutical and medical industries would lose their markets of chronic patients who require care and medication for the rest of their lives. Health insurance would lose its importance and the insurance industry would lose revenue. The banking industry that finances expensive hospitals, medical equipment, and drug research would lose their investment if those facilities became unnecessary. So a large segment of the economy depends on a steady supply of sick people to justify the way the system works.

Of course, if everyone went veg tomorrow and all the chronic diseases went away, we’d still need a medical system. People would still have accidents and infectious diseases would still be a threat. What can be greatly reduced through diet and lifestyle is the epidemic of chronic degenerative disease.

I can probably dig up more if you want. Just let me know, and I hope this helps. Also, thank you for asking. It feels good to write all this down.


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Posted by on 2011/08/28 in ecology, nutrition