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Mark Bittman: western lifestyle causing global warming

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Jun 25, 2008



This is a great speech worth your time, by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.   Did you know that our massive meat consumption (which has increased per capita 250 percent globally in the past 50 years) contributes to global warming?


Bittman discusses the history of food since 1900, and he talks about while the mission of “kindness to animals” is good, it’s a red herring and by no means the biggest issue, since we’re killing 10 billion animals annually, thus leading not only to heart disease, but a serious threat to global survival.   Thirty percent of the earth’s surface is devoted to animal production, and this is expected to double in the next 40 years or fewer, if our dietary habits continue.   And 18 percent of greenhouse gases are directly attributable to livestock production.


Processed foods also consume lots of the earth’s resources, with 1 billion cans of Coke consumed DAILY.


He says “locavore” is Webster’s word of the year: it refers to people who eat only food grown locally.   (If you live in Alaska, obviously this won’t be as easy as for people in California!)


Conservatives, beware: while this speaker/journalist is dead-on with  his facts (reads the same sources GreenSmoothieGirl quotes constantly), he’s the usual “liberal media.”    Of more concern is that  he doesn’t practice  what he preaches.   He doesn’t dare call for people to eat lower on the food chain, since he states multiple times that he eats plenty of meat and plans to continue, but he waters down his message saying that we need to be more “aware.”   Huh?   Aware that we are personally contributing to the profligacy of our generation, but do nothing about it?   If you’re aware meat and dairy is bad for you and consumes far more than your share of the Earth’s resources, why not change?


“You eat more plants, you eat less other stuff, you live longer.”


–Mark Bittman (a  speaker/writer who needs to lead by example)

Posted in: Food Industry, Standard American Diet

14 thoughts on “Mark Bittman: western lifestyle causing global warming”

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  1. Anonymous says:


    Do you know if there’s a transcript for the speech? I have only dialup (it’s all that’s available in my rural area) and it would take way too long to watch that way. It took me half an hour just to watch your smoothie demo! 🙂 (Yes, I watched all of it!)

    Anyway, people who don’t practice what they preach really get on my nerves. It’s too bad that he eats meat while telling others not to eat meat. As far as I know, a simple awareness of doing things wrong never solved a problem without some form of action following it.

    I wanted to add something though. I live in serious farm country here in the Midwest. Every single one of my neighbors is a farmer in some capacity. The property we bought with our house used to be a working farm. So I have some experience with farmers. One of the things I learned recently is that the concern about corn being used for ethanol is largely misplaced. I’m not saying that ethanol shouldn’t be a concern but it seems to be a bigger concern than it should be. For every bushel of corn that goes to make ethanol, we are sending 6 or 7 bushels of corn to China. Want to guess why? It’s to help them feed animals that are then slaughtered for meat consumpion. Since China has seen economic growth, many people are now able to consume meat whereas in the past they ate a more traditional diet. Imagine all of the resources it takes to grow the food and then ship the food and then distribute the food. It’s definitely worth some time to think about it.

    One of the things I like the most about your program besides its simplicity is that I can grow almost everything I need myself. And I will have very little to throw away. Plant waste can go to compost or the chickens. And one way or the other, it will build up the soil on my property. I figure that after all is said and done, I will be contributing more to the earth’s resources than I take from them. Yay!

    Did I mention that I’m excited about your program? 😉


  2. http:// says:

    Sandra, you are so cute! I totally agree that the ethanol issue is a mess and is not the end-all answer to decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels!

    Thirty minutes to watch a 3-min. green smoothie demo!?


  3. Anonymous says:

    Ted is an amazing speaker! I sent this one to friends who are interested in the way i’m now eating. I have 4-6 people that are interested in learning more about a raw foods diet because of watching me eat. I just love sharing my knowledge with them. If i can change just one persons life for a healthier one I will be very happy. I have one friend who called me up crying that she can’t stand how unhealthy she feels and wants to learn more about what i’m doing. I told he I would be more than happy to help her when she was really ready and gave her your sight to start reading there. I’m waiting for her to get back to me. I’m not going to chase anyone down. They have to come to me with an open mind and a willingness to want to make the changes. Then I will be more than happy to show them how to cook and give them all my knowledge. I have shared my food with friends who loved what i made. Robyn, I now know how you must feel helping as many people as you do. It’s a great feeling to help people on their road to good health and healthy eating. Thanks again for leading the way for me & all others.

  4. http:// says:

    Go Leslee!!! And you’re so right that chasing people down doesn’t work. 🙂

    Sandra, I don’t know if there’s a transcript, but the speech has a slide show and would lose something in putting it on paper.

  5. I agree with you that this talk was somewhat lacking in integrity. It seems like he presented a lot of ideas and very few (if any) solutions. I had kind of mixed feelings about it overall.

  6. Anonymous says:

    While I am all for being good stewards of the earth, every time I read or hear something about global warming my brain starts fogging over. I love your blog, read it all the time. However I am not a subscriber to the human caused global warming theory. The really scary thing is it is being used as a tool to control. Just my .02.


  7. Anonymous says:

    On another note… I just heard a 60 minutes documentary on Gordon Hinckley and the Mormon lifestyle. Very interesting piece. I downloaded the podcast from iTunes today.

  8. http:// says:

    Although Gordon B. Hinckley’s interview with Mike Wallace was sliced and diced and didn’t do him justice, I just want to say that GBH is one of my all-time heroes, and the world is a better place for the 97 years he spent in it. I would encourage anyone here to listen to/read anything by that great man.


  9. http:// says:

    Jeff, my husband and several friends are with you, believing that global warming may be just part of a cycle and isn’t caused by humans and is heavily flawed science. But like you alluded to, I think, whether it’s a red herring that causes us to quit being so consumption oriented, or whether it truly threatens our survival if we don’t change, either way, it’s all good to reconsider what we’re doing and . . . at a minimum, eat more plants and fewer animals (regardless of any controversies about the “green” lightbulbs or the ethanol fuels). We send too much to the landfill, we use too many chemicals, we waste and gobble and dump and rarely look back.

    So that’s *my* $0.02. With that and a quarter, you can buy a phone call.



  10. Anonymous says:

    Yes, 30 minutes! I didn’t want to miss anything! 😉

    I don’t buy into the global warming thing either. But having said that, I am a conservationist. I believe in personal responsibility and good stewardship. If it saves me money, I do it whether that’s turning off my water heater during the day, reusing the rinse water from my washing machine, or washing ziploc bags to reuse. I absolutely hate waste! And I think that a lot of the resources that go into providing meat for people to eat could be used in better ways. It makes my head spin to think of all that goes into meat production. Fewer people eating meat and less meat production would reduce waste.

    I’m not totally against eating meat. I believe in the Word of Wisdom – eat meat sparingly – in times of cold and famine.


  11. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you guys about conservation, I hope my comment above didn’t sound too harsh. I buy enough wind power every month to power my house. I eat a plant based diet and might have a couple servings of meat per month at most. I started gardening last year and try to grow a lot of my own produce. I live only three miles from work so don’t burn much fuel commuting. And I do think we need to find a way not to be so dependent on fossil fuels. However global warming is not my motivation for doing any of these things.


  12. http:// says:

    Jeff, (1) you didn’t sound harsh, (2) I dig controversy because it keeps our critical thinking skills sharp and pushes us to be better, (3) if we all did what you are doing, we’d have a world we don’t have to be ashamed to hand off to our grandkids. You rock. 🙂


  13. Anonymous says:

    Mark Bittman does eat less meat than the average American and than he used to eat. If you read his NY Times blog, his Minimalist columns and videos, he talks about how he only eats meat a few times a week. He says he’ll probably never be fully vegetarian but he’s a very vocal proponent of eating less meat without completely eliminating it from one’s diet.

  14. Thanks for the link, I hadn’t seen that. While I would love to see him reduce his consumption of animal products even further, I believe his position may be the “gateway” to getting more Americans to eat more fruits and veggies. I imagine a lot of people would be less intimidated if they started with his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook, since it is coming from a more mainstream source, has excellent explanations of a multitude of produce items along with how to best handle them, and his recipes are not unnecessarily complex.

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