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World/Globe Keychain fob

Sustainability and Meatless Monday Campaign

The world/globe, which I carry on my keychain (a gift from a dear friend) lies on a Johns Hopkins throw, given to me by the Alumni office when I hosted students accepted to Hopkins from Pittsburgh.

I am working to make Meatless Mondays Pennsylvania-wide. As the US is becoming more aware of the gravity of climate change other countries of the world are still not quite there yet. Meat consumption is on the rise, and recently the ban on meat serving for religious reasons is receiving a  huge flak in India—which is perceived to be a  "vegetarian" country, but in reality is not, as I explained when I gave a talk at Carey School of Business: Green can be GR$$N.

So, I am rededicating myself to reducing meat consumption globally to protect the health both people and planet, and hence my object.

Meatless Monday is a national public health campaign in association with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is not a weight loss program nor is it a vegetarian campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce consumption of saturated fat, in accordance with US Human Health Services and American Heart Association recommendation. In addition it could be healthier for the planet .

The access for all to safe and nutritious food all the time is a challenge to public health advocates in many communities in the U.S. and the world. In a time of globalization, the popular meat ‘Western diets’ and the methods to produce them are not sustainable on a global scale.

Wendell Berry said, “How we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.”  According to the world animal feed body, animal protein production will treble by 2050 in order to meet population growth and rising living standards in countries like China. Under current farming practices there is no way the world can support a tripling of meat production. It takes an average of 6 lbs. of grain to produce 1 lb. of meat. How much greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere by the production of food shows that the difference between a meat based and plant based diet amounts to the same as driving a SUV vs. a small sedan. It seems the food people eat is just as important as the kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in global warming, as a result of production of food. It was no surprise that automobiles are at the top the list of environmentally damaging products. The biggest surprise was meat comes in at No. 2.

On further evaluation, on comparing the energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions underlying five diets—American, red meat, fish, poultry and vegetarian—the vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy efficient. However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. The environmental damage caused by essential products, such as food, cannot be eliminated, but can be substantially reduced. You don't have to turn vegetarian , just cutting back a hamburger or two a week can really help.

The adverse effects of dietary animal fat intake on cardiovascular diseases is by now well established. Similar effects are also seen when meat rather than fat intake is considered.

There is no question that humanity is headed for self-destruction unless we do something about it. Since the dawn of civilization, we have grown to over six billion human beings on this earth and growing. As responsible citizens, each one of us can find ways to contribute to lessen the impact of our sojourn through this planet and leave it as hospitable as we found it, if not better.

Kanak Iyer

PhD, MPH ’97

Kanak runs a Registered Investment Advisory in Pittsburgh, PA, and is the current President of Asian American Chamber of Commerce, also in Pittsburgh. She served on the PA Governor's Commission on Asian Americans, and Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto's Advisory Council on Global City Committee. She works on global sustainability initiatives.


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