There is a great deal of public discussion regarding sustainability in terms of population growth, changing food preferences, and the potential for negative impacts on agricultural production from climate change. Food preferences, at least, are a matter of personal choice and habit. Encouraging the development of food habits that will help offset the pressure on the food production system is one way to meet the challenges the world faces.
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These habits should ideally be formed in young adulthood. It is essential for people around the world to develop such habits. Having opinion leaders adapt to such living style and share it among his/her followers would double the effort of the adaptation and promotion of such living style. Colleges are an incubator for future opinion leaders. This essay suggests that colleges should teach their students about alternatives, which has the potential to help offset future crises in the food production system, to animal-sourced food.
There is little argument that the world’s population has grown dramatically in the last several generations. The population is expected to continue growing without leveling off for many years (Buttriss 236). At some point, people would have to compete with food (or maybe change it to “animals or livestock?”) in terms of living space, and, thus, pressuring the food production system (Webber).
The techniques of livestock husbandry have changed drastically as well. They have moved from small and dispersed to huge and centralized in response to market demands. The industrialization of livestock management is very harmful to the environment because, unlike traditional agriculture, where waste became fertilizer, it produces troublesome concentrations of wastes (The Government Office for Science)(Capper).
In recent decades, the demand for and consumption of animal-sourced foods (milk, cheese, meat, fish) has increased, most dramatically in the developing countries. Increased affluence and emulation of western food habits have propelled this shift in diet (Capper 233). Is there should be a quotation mark? This stresses food production because it takes more energy resources to grow animal foods than plant foods. After all, livestock must consume plants that have already used energy resources in order to create protein and other nutrients (Webber).
Climate change has made the immediate future of agriculture more challenging due to increasing temperatures and extreme weather patterns. While there is disagreement as to whether human activity is responsible for the observed changes, the reasons for the climactic upheaval are not necessarily relevant to this essay. The effects of climate change are discernable in phenomena such as increased pest activity and greater damage from violent storms. Rising ocean levels will obliterate agricultural acreage. (again, put quotation mark or use your own words) All these changes create potentially serious problems for agricultural production.
All these trends, in combination, will likely stress the world’s food production system (Buttriss). However, changes in demand could offset some of these problems. Dietary preferences are a matter of choice, whether based on tradition, status, novelty, flavor, health, or, just as easily, a concern for the environment. The dietary choice is an area where scholars believe that people can mitigate some of the negative impacts of all these trends, although with the saying that there are no single solutions or “magic bullets” (Capper 234).
There are certainly advantages to a diet that includes meat and animal foods because these items are so high in macronutrients such as readily digestible proteins: zinc, iron, selenium, calcium, and vitamins b3, and b12 (Wyness, Weichselbaum and O’Connor 70). Diets low in animal-sourced products, without supplementation, can cause “low birth weights, impaired cognitive and motor development, rickets and anemia.” (Capper)
It is also the case, as Capper contends that not all land is suitable for farming. Animals, especially species such as goats, can thrive in what Capper terms “fringe” areas that are inappropriate for crops due to soil conditions, terrain, or rainfall. Thus, there will probably always going to be a useful place for some animal husbandry. Additionally, as Capper suggests, the logical outcome of a complete conversion to veganism could have unintended consequences. For example, “agricultural animals would not exist, save for…within zoos or conservation parks” (Capper 236). Additionally, many byproducts of animals (e.g., for cosmetics, toiletries, glue, and leather) would have to come from other sources, perhaps the petroleum industry (Capper 236).
However, it is certainly possible to replace some portion of meat-sourced foods with alternatives that provide similar nutrients to slow the increasing conversion of resources to meet production (Webber). However, these alternative foods may require more careful and tedious preparation. They are learning to like these foods will give flexibility in the face of rising meat/dairy costs, or restricted availability, over a whole lifetime.
Those that have successfully adapted to a healthier diet can also serve as a role model for others. To achieve such a result requires a long-term commitment to eating ecologically. Such commitment ideally requires developing this flexibility early in life. When better than during young adulthood? This is the reason why college is one of the best places to start such practice as students during this time in their lives are more flexible in developing new habits and open to new experiences.
Colleges can play a role by helping to prepare their students, as the future leaders of their communities, to explore a less ecologically demanding diet in an effort to meet the food challenges that may be threatening our world. They can teach the science of the ecological (and health) impacts of current dietary trends and alternatives. They can offer vegan choices of grains, seeds, and legumes at the dining halls to provide students a chance to try out meat alternatives. They can provide seminars in food preparation so that students have the skills to cook meat and animal food alternatives for themselves.
Teaching students how to cook non-meat dishes in the dormitory or in small apartments would be particularly helpful because, at this stage of life, very few students have elaborate kitchens. Colleges could also encourage students to spread the word about diversifying diets to include meat alternatives. Like students, lower-income households may also lack the equipment or skills to cook meat alternatives.
Colleges can grant students with community service credit to encourage them to do community outreach and teach the lower-income families to proper ways to cook a delicious meal with non-meat groceries. [Such a cohort of students, accustomed to eating flexibly and not totally dependent on meat or animal-sourced foods, would, upon graduation, scatter throughout the country and world with the potential to change minds and influence behavior long-term. ] this sentence sounds a little bit weird
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A diet that could support sustainability should be determined by science rather than ideology or tradition; for example, local sourcing is not universally more sustainable (Webber). [However, it would likely include more grains and legumes.] what do you want to say with this sentence? These should probably include wheat alternatives tolerant of a range of soils and climates, like amaranth, oats, barley, rye, millet, tiff, flax, and hemp, for example. Legumes should include foods like beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts, for example. Eaten together, beans and grains provide the balance of amino acids needed by the human body.
Colleges have a unique opportunity to expose generations of future leaders to a different and more flexible way of eating during their prime time of personal development. This could, at least, prepare students to cope comfortably with a world food system that is facing increasing and complex pressures. At best, such a cohort of people, capable of switching to veganism when necessary, could influence others to adopt the same flexible approach to eating. This might not solve the problems of population expansion and climate change, but it could help numerous people to deal with them better.
Buttriss, J L. “Feeding the planet: an unprecedented confluence of pressures anticipated.” Nutrition Bulletin 36.2 (2011): 235-241. Web.
Capper, J.L. “Should we reject animal source foods to save the planet? A review of the sustainability of global livestock production.” South African Journal of Animal Science 43.3 (2013). Web.
The Government Office for Science. Foresight. The Future of Food and Farming (2011). London: The Government Office for Science, 2011. Web.
Webber, Michael E. “More food, less energy.” Scientific American 306.1 (2012): 74-79. Web.
Wyness, L, et al. “Red Meat in the Diet: An Update.” Nutrition Bulletin (2011). Web.