Live Well
March 2019

When ‘Sustainable’ Just Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

I’ve been thinking about the word sustainability’ and considering that this term is no longer appropriate for our times. Sustainability implies maintaining a status quo. We’re at a time where this is no longer sufficient. We need to think about regeneration —which as defined by dictionary.com means “to re-create, reconstitute, or make over, especially in a better form or condition” —especially when it comes to food, agriculture and health.

A recent study by the EAT-Lancet Commission noted that our current food system is woefully inadequate in addressing the twin issues of mal- or under-nourishment and chronic disease associated with unhealthy diets, and in tackling the problem of global climate change. The study, called “Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems” (www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT) examines how food systems affect both human health and the environment. Specifically, current food systems tend to have negative effects on both human health and the environment (diabetes, obesity, malnourishment, climate change, biodiversity loss, contamination of water systems). Therefore, it is time to move towards a food system that can support both human health and the environment. As the authors of the report note in the summary of the report, “Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than does unsafe sex, and alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined. Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.”

If we are to consider regenerating the food system, we need to stop looking at nutrition, health and agriculture as three distinct systems. All three systems are highly interconnected and what happens in one affects all the others. For example, when we buy and eat processed foods, we are indirectly supporting large corn and soy farms that make extensive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; we are also damaging our health because these foods contain no nutrients. When we choose factory-farmed meat and poultry, we are allowing the deforestation of natural habitats, the depletion waterways and contributing to excessive carbon emissions worldwide; factory-farmed meat and poultry are often produced with hormones and antibiotics that we consume and which contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistance.

Our food choices matter, not just for our health but for the health of the environment and, ultimately, the planet. This is why it is crucial to begin to think about food systems through the lens of regeneration. We need to support farmers that look to regenerate the land they farm, and we need to choose foods that regenerate health rather than deplete it.

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Articles of Interest:

Here is a model the U.S. can look to to create a food system that makes sense. READ HERE

We’ve heard about the Green New Deal – what does it mean for food and farming? here are two interesting articles about the implications of the Green New Deal on agriculture: READ ARTICLE

In case any more proof was needed that processed foods are bad – READ ARTICLE

This article notes that many of the studies that found that eating breakfast was important component of weight loss were funded by large food companies. As consumers we need to be proactive in identifying nutrition studies that seek to promote companies’ products. READ MORE HERE