The idea came to me as I chaperoned a class trip to Philadelphia. There, walking on the same stones, touching the same railings that Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson touched, I was inspired by how they put their lives on the line for an idea. An idea that Abraham Lincoln later so eloquently captured in the Gettysburg Address:
…A new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the face I the earth.
I felt a wave of patriotism. And then dread. “Shall not perish…” Our nation nearly perished in the Civil War and has known real peril from dictators from Hitler to Osama bin Laden. On a nighttime ghost tour of Philadelphia, I heard about the Yellow Fever epidemic, which wiped out 10% of the city’s population. In the morning, I look around at the other school groups walking these streets. First the middle school groups–fully half of the children were overweight. Many appeared tired from the walk. Then the upper elementary students, like the class I was chaperoning–about one in ten were overweight. Already.
The next great threat to our country is upon us. If we do nothing, our future is bleak. Surgeon General Richard Carmona forecasted that:
–Surgeon General Richard Carmona
It’s hard to even conceive of this. Our children may be sicker and die younger than us. I once mentioned this fact at a large family dinner. Adult family members literally screamed that this can’t possibly be true. But this is our new reality. Junk food isn’t a leading cause of death, it’s the leading cause of death.
Most deaths in the United States are preventable, and related to nutrition. According to the most rigorous analysis of risk factors ever published—the Global Burden of Disease Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—the number one cause of death in the United States, and the number one cause of disability, is our diet, which has bumped tobacco smoking to number two.
–From Why You Should Care About Nutrition by Michael Greger. Emphasis added.
Our economy could literally collapse under the burden of our weight. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Oxford scientists “conservatively estimate that if future diets were to be aligned with dietary guidelines, it could save the U.S. between $197 billion and $289 billion each year—and the global economy up to $1.6 trillion—by 2050.” (See Lauren Cassani Davis’ The Economic Case for Worldwide Vegetarianism.
But there is also cause for hope. In one sense, the problem is easily solved. The things we need to do, are all things that genuinely increase the quality of our lives: eat delicious, fresh foods, engage in joyful physical activities, pray or meditate daily, and make time for a circle of family and friends. These are some of the key components of the lifestyles of people who live in the so-called “Blue Zones”–the areas of the world where people live measurably longer, healthier and arguably happier lives. (See Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.)
And what we do to live healthier, happier lives now, may save our children in another way. It’s now clear that, when all factors are considered, animal agriculture is the biggest cause of climate change. Lower estimates, that have reported animal agriculture as being responsible for only 15-30% of climate change, don’t take into account all emissions (CO2, methane gas and nitrous oxide), deforestation (particularly rainforest), desertification and transportation of animal products. (See Sources below.)
The Marshall Islands are taking water. Miami, Charleston, Wilmington, Norfolk, and Annapolis have regular “sunny day” floods.” Whether from climate change or diet-related diseases, it’s likely that children being born today will not live as long as us. Time is up.
In his Ted Talk, The Case for Optimism on Climate Change, Al Gore argues that the world-wide transition away from fossils fuels is occurring faster than expected. Now we must do our part. And it’s as simple as eating more produce, and fewer animal products.
Doing My Part
On Memorial Day 2015, I decided that if I could truly change myself, and somehow share my experience with others, then I’d be doing my small part to turn the tide.
It seemed fitting to begin with gratitude. I decided that if I only lived to age 60 I’d be grateful for a wonderful life. I had a wonderful childhood. Loving parents. A doting husband. A kind daughter. Supportive sisters. Too many friends to count. And for nearly two decades, I had the chance to inspire the next generation through my career as a children’s and teen librarian.
But I knew I had much more to give. So I decided to take a year to restore myself to health.
On this website, I’ll share what has happened along the way, in the hope that it will help others on the same journey.
Hickman, Martin. Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases. The Independent. October31, 2009. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/study-claims-meat-creates-half-of-all-greenhouse-gases-1812909.html. Accessed on November 16, 2016.
Goodland, Robert and Anhang, Jeff. Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs, and chickens? World Watch Magazine, November/December, Volume 22, No. 6. Available at: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294. Accessed November 16, 2016.
Herrero et al. Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 166–167, 779–782. Available at: http://www.animalfeedscience.com/article/S0377-8401(11)00517-7/abstract. Accessed on November 16, 2016.