A study has just come out of the University of Michigan claiming that the USDA dietary guidelines translate to a relatively high level of agriculture production-related CO2 emissions per person. In other words, if we continued to eat the amount of calories we already consume, but did so proportionately to the USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010” publication, greenhouse gas emissions would increase. Interestingly, they wouldn’t increase nearly as much if we kept those Dietary Guidelines proportions the same but only consumed the recommend 2,000 calories per day. The sub-text here appears to be, unsurprisingly, that Americans are overconsumers.
As one of the paper’s authors, Martin Heller, says, “Health and environmental agendas are not aligned in the current dietary recommendations.”
This study is timely for a couple of reasons. For starters, the Dietary Guidelines are updated and re-launched every five years, and the advisory committee is currently meeting and preparing for the publication of the 2015 Guidelines. According to Heller, for the first time, food sustainability will be a consideration for the advisory committee during its editing process. This is a significant opportunity to link the health of the planet to the health of the people living on it. It’s no accident that real, whole food that nourishes people can also be produced in a way that maintains or even enriches the soil in which it’s grown. Comparatively, the abundance of processed food on our grocery shelves and in our diets is filled with empty calories derived from monocrops that rely on fossil-fuel dependent equipment and amendments like pesticides and fertilizers.
Secondly, the UN Climate Summit is taking place here in NYC next Tuesday, September 23rd. World leaders will be gathering to (theoretically) introduce more aggressive proposals to combat climate change and this will (theoretically) be priming governments across the globe to agree to a legally binding climate commitment in 2015. Theoretically. After so many false starts and failed attempts, I’m understandably dubious of the meaningful progress that these bureaucrats are capable of making, but I’m optimistic about the momentum that this summit will generate for the climate movement as a whole, and for the food sector in particular.