A new report in the medical journal Lancet suggests we must talk—and act—on food. The findings of the report were both challenging and hopeful. It asked the question: “how could we feed a predicted global population of 10 billion without destroying the planet?” The answer was: it’s possible, but only if we change our diets radically, particularly cutting global red meat consumption by a whopping 50%.
Clearly environmentalists need to address food; but when environmentalists (as well as Christians!) have a reputation for simply being killjoys, how can we do that and bring people with us rather than turn them off?
The report is useful to us. It doesn’t just tell us what not to do, but establishes positively what a nutritionally balanced and environmentally sustainable diet would contain – the ‘planetary health diet’. This need not cut meat entirely and gives options for personal and cultural taste. Moreover, as well as looking at how we can feed 10 billion people within environmental limits, it has an equal focus on good health. Adopting the guidelines would avoid 11 million premature adult deaths a year resulting from poor diet, such as the continuing increase in side effects of obesity.
Nevertheless, it’s a challenge. Taking up this ‘planetary health diet’ would mean Europeans, for example, eating 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds. But if we are to face the fact that our agriculture causes around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, half of that from livestock, we can’t avoid this challenge.
A good place to start is by talking and praying about it with other Christians. As we do so, we must emphasise the benefits for all – not just those who care about the environment. We must discover the joy in sustainable food that is different from what we have become accustomed to; and in being healthier for it.
A Rocha’s new resource on food can be found here.