Will we all and only eat oatmeal porridge in 2050?
The answer is yes if we are to believe a recent article in the German newspaper Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung. In 2050 10 billion people will inhabit the earth. The challenge is to stretch our agricultural capacities within the limits of our environmental capacities. If we can’t, we will all have to eat oatmeal porridge in 30 years.
Personally I am not a fan of porridge, let alone oatmeal porridge. Besides I am not sure that’s a healthy food. That’s why, in my personal view, it’s an obvious but also astoundingly interesting challenge to prevent the ‘oatmeal porridge catastrophe’.
In a recent post on the facebook page of AgewithCare I argue that we work on a healthy lifestyle because we want to contribute to a sustainable healthcare system. The healthier we are, the less we need healthcare services. This is a rather simple goal. How we attain a healthy lifestyle is what AGE with CARE is all about. However, the integration of food, health and sustainability goals is a totally different piece of cake. This nudges the bar of our lifestyle much higher.
How do we try to move towards a dietary intake that is both healthy and respectful for the environment? We try this in several ways:
- We collect as much information as possible;
- We ask our friends what they do;
- We experiment with our kitchen garden and with very small steps we vary our food intake;
- We help others to grow organic food and eat almost exclusively organic food.
An important source to integrate our food, health and sustainability goals are dietary guidelines. There are many of these guidelines in the world, but only a few of them integrate these goals.
Many issues at stake
Fortunately most dietary guidelines, including those without sustainability claims, are similar if it comes to the integration of health and sustainability goals. In summary all highlight that a plant-based diet has advantages over a meat based diet. Meat has a far higher environmental impact. For over 40 years now we only eat chicken, turkey or fish, and only once or twice a week in relatively small amounts of 100-150 grams per person.
But if it comes to a more sustainable diet, more issues are at stake. Such as energy-efficient cooking and the prevention of waste. Such as plastic packaging or the prevention of the waste of food.
Rules of thumb
It would be a big help for us if we could rely on clear guidelines that integrate health and at sustainability goals and that are presented with the proper authority. Unfortunately these guidelines do not exist as yet. The question is what we can do ourselves as long as this is not the case. For us this comes down to the following rules of thumb (see also Portion distortion at your plate):
- Restrain the consumption of meat. Do not eat meat more than once or twice a week and only in small amounts. The same goes for fish. Avoid the consumption of red meat and processed meat or fish.
- Eat as much fresh foods as possible. This is healthier but also helps to avoid the use of plastic packaging and a freezer. Eat carrots and tubers and turnips over salads. Eat fruits and vegetables from the season and preferably from where you live. Alternate raw foods with cooked versions.
- Use little amounts of water and oil for cooking. Don’t overcook your food. See to it that you have to chew your food with some perseverance.
- Buy organic food because this serves at the same time health and sustainability goals. In organic agriculture no chemical fertilizer, insecticides or pesticides are used.
One of the more grueling problems is the lack of specific guidelines in which health and sustainability goals are integrated. Moreover, sustainability means that besides energy we also try to take into account issues such as child labor, human rights, labor-policies, equality, etc. To do this is not a straightforward task for us simple consumers. We have to rely on government information. But no such information is forthcoming yet. So if we want to prevent the ‘oatmeal porridge catastrophe’ we rely on the information our friends share with us.
Do you have any suggestions to integrate food, health and sustainability goals? You can answer in the commentbox.
P.S.: You can find dietary guidelines of more than 100 countries here.