View Full Version : A Problem of Public Policy
09-25-2009, 03:08 PM
It seems to me that there is a policy concern that surfaces when one acknowledges the superiority of a paleo-type diet, or any diet that is higher in meat-based protein that the average diet. If it is presumed that a paleo diet is more healthful than others (and I believe this to be the case), there arises an interaction between the policy goals of promoting health and ensuring sustainability.
A 2003 study of the issue found that "The meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than the lactoovovegetarian diet.
Here is a link to the full text: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/660S w/f/s
Pretend, for now, that the superiority of paleo-type nutrition in conferring health benefits is universally accepted. We would then be in the position of either endorsing that which is best for the individual and worst (or at least not best) for the group - in this case the world (or a county, continent, region, etc.), or in asking people to accept a diminished potential for health in order that the group see greater benefit.
I should note that the above referenced study finds that both "meat-based" and lacto diets prove unsustainable in the long run, but either way, I think that there are some serious choices of ethics to be made.
Sorry for the long post. I'd love to hear what other people think.
09-25-2009, 03:40 PM
From a perspective of environmental sustainability, both modern industrial agriculture (massive monoculture plantings) and modern meat production (massive CAFOs) are unmitigated disasters. It's such a disaster from that perspective that arguing about which is worse is absurd.
Sustainable meat production is literally solar powered meat. See http://www.polyfacefarms.com or http://www.marinsunfarms.com/index.html
09-25-2009, 03:54 PM
I don't think that it's useless to consider the differences in sustainability between the two. To my mind it is likely that, whatever measures are taken to increase sustainability will not affect the inherent difference between a high-meat and lacto diet, in terms of sustainability. Thus, in relative terms, we are still confronted with the issue of "higher cost to the environment but higher benefit to individuals" vs. "higher cost to individuals but lower cost to the environment"
09-25-2009, 04:13 PM
If the switch is from eating more industrial grains to eating more industrial meat, you might be able to make a case (this can be argued either way). If the switch is from eating industrial grains to eating solar powered meat (and vegetables), the environmental and health benefits are both net positive.
09-25-2009, 05:20 PM
Of course a net positive is a good thing. But so long as there is a difference between that which is best for a given person and that which is best for the planet on which we rely, there will be an ethical question. In other words, so long as "solar-lacto" is worse for a person but better for the environment and "solar-meat" is better for a person and worse for the environment, the question will remain.
It seems reasonably clear that a doctor's responsibility would be to recommend only that which most promotes the health of his/her patient. Similarly, an environmental scientist would be bound to recommend that course which offers the best possibility for long-term environmental health. The predicament falls on those who are concerned about both.
I am not arguing for any one answer to that question. I just thought of it recently and was interested in what other people thought.
09-26-2009, 10:11 AM
but....solar-lacto isn't better for the environment than a normal solar farm....a solar powered farming system makes use of animals to keep the land fertile, and it is perfectly sustainable/environmentally friendly. In fact, one cannot make a solar powered farm without animals. Honestly, I think that the real problem is that, as a race, we humans have surpassed our carrying capacity. CAFO's are not sustainable whatsoever: they consume land, they don't use it. It is a population problem, and regardless of lacto-ovo or whatever dietary approach we take, land will run out if CAFO's are not abandoned.
09-26-2009, 03:45 PM
Honestly, I think that the real problem is that, as a race, we humans have surpassed our carrying capacity.
I agree with this completely.
I am not at all familiar with solar farms, but what I hear you saying is that a solar farm provides equal amounts of lacto and meat products, without difference in effect on the environment. If this is the case, my question is, can the production from these solar farms equal demand? In other words, does a switch to solar farms necessarily require a diminished food output?
If the production will be less, then would we not be increasing the effect of "overloading" the environment, in this case on people, rather than the environment?
The negative effect on people I am envisioning is rising food prices and a disparate impact on those least able to afford basic necessities.
09-27-2009, 10:58 AM
per acre of land, more usable, edible biomass is produced than in an agricultural farm. However, grass farms cannot be as large because they require more maintenance per acre. No idea about the cost of the food, but I will say that the only reason agricultural products are so cheap now is because of government subsidies. Paradoxically, it is these subsidies that are putting farmers under.
09-27-2009, 02:22 PM
Hmm...well thanks for the input guys. I'll have to look more into these solar farms and subsidies and whatnot.
10-01-2009, 01:31 PM
Scott Kustes did some good posts on the sustainability of a Paleo diet:
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