Speaking of the environment

photo of Vesanto Melina

NUTRISPEAK
by Vesanto Melina

» A decade ago, climate change and global warming seemed somewhat theoretical to some of us, but evidence is now showing up in our everyday lives. In many parts of the world, these changes are being linked with the rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events: floods, storms and droughts. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more violent weather patterns. Events of concern in BC include heavy rainfall and snowfalls, heat waves and drought. These have led to floods, landslides, water shortages, forest fires, reduced air quality, damaged property, and illness and mortality. Since 1983, payouts by Canadian insurance companies for damages resulting from natural disasters have doubled every five years.

In BC, we have a number of lively and inspired organizations that focus on environmental topics, including anti-pipeline topics.

The cheapest and most sensible approach to reducing greenhouse gases from the current 732 megatonnes to a 2020 target of 620 megatonnes involves shrinking the oil and gas industry by limiting bitumen extraction, and not building more pipelines. (David Hughes, Pro-Pipeline-Fantasies-Knocked-Down)

Until recently, few environmental organizations featured dietary choices on their websites; the film Cowspiracy highlighted the disconnection between such organizations and their recommendations. Yet things are changing, with leadership such as the UN’s Environmental Program (UNEP). The expert panel of UNEP concluded that two activities have a disproportionately large effect on the planet’s life-support systems: (1) Animal agriculture – especially raising livestock for meat and dairy. (2) The use of fossil fuels.

As a consequence, the UNEP recommends a global shift towards a plant-based diet. The National Academy of Sciences has determined that, in three decades, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27% if we simply eat more fruits and vegetables and eat less meat, sugar and calories, and by 70% if we eat a vegan diet. This year, they strongly urge a global shift to a plant-based diet.

The David Suzuki Foundation points to the connection between food and climate change in the link: food-and-climate-change

The Earth Aware Toastmasters club is an interesting local group in which to explore environmental issues and share topics and perspectives. It meets Monday evenings, 7-9 pm, 1440 West 12th Ave., 2nd floor (12th & Hemlock), earthawaretm@gmail.com. Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that assists people in gathering an immense range of skills related to public speaking. This particular group, like many in the lower mainland, hosts a wide range of ages and diverse skills, from shy beginners to accomplished professionals. For many, English is a second language. This club recently celebrated its 25th birthday, having evolved from an EarthSave Toastmasters group that began in 1991. Each week features an environmental update. Some topics focus on the care of our planet; many other areas are explored as well, and some are just plain fun.

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver registered dietitian and co-author of award winning books on plant-based nutrition. Visit www.nutrispeak.com and www.becomingvegan.ca Email vegant.melina@gmail.com

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