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Could a plant based diet be the solution to saving our planet?

Last week on November 21, Dr. Gad Levy, a senior research scientist with Northwest Research Associates came by Seattle Central College as part of the ongoing Conversations on Social Issues (COSI) that have been taking place in Room A of the library every Thursday. The reason for his visit was to raise awareness on how plant based diets may not only be better for our health, but our environment as well. The discussion brought up an array of topics, ranging from greenhouse gases, deforestation, nutrition, to economic availability. The main message of Dr. Levy’s presentation was to show that to make the world and ourselves healthier, cutting out meat is a very viable solution.

To kick off the talk, Dr. Levy explained greenhouse gases as gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. These gases contribute to the heating of our planet, in a process known as the Greenhouse Effect. Commonly known ones include carbon dioxide or methane, with the latter being associated with cows. Dr. Levy explicitly states that replacing all animal based calories or even just beef is key as “beef is the major problem.” With the meat industry producing so much cattle, there not only comes the problems of methane emissions but also deforestation for grazing grounds and the constant need to feed and maintain their populations. An example of these factors can be seen at the fires burning down the Amazon rainforest, done partially for the purpose to make more room for more cattle to be bred and eventually turned into food.

Transitioning into the health aspect, studies show that all nutritional guidelines relating to nutrients and protein can be maintained on a plant based diet, with the exception of cholesterol and vitamin D. With that being said, some grown food does provide vitamin D as well as sunlight, and cholesterol is naturally produced in the human body, with most of it coming from the liver rather than outside sources such as meat. 

Towards the end of the lecture, the room was divided into groups on why such an important change that seems so simple is complicated. There were multiple reasons brought up. One student explained that it has become a commodity rather than a luxury that it once was and has become an ingrained aspect of society. Another example mentioned was population growth and that to sustain that constant growth, meat is becoming integral and will continue to become even more important as the world gets more crowded. Another chimed in, mentioning religion and how meat is a central source to some cultures in the world. Regardless, the discussion showed that there is a lot at stake when an industry has to keep destroying land and environments to fuel its business. A diet based mostly or only on plants shows a genuine solution that anyone can partake in. If something doesn’t change, the devastation on the environment due to deforestation and greenhouse gases is only going to get worse. 

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