Sustainable Food: because “There is No Planet B”


Sustainable Food


Last Thursday I held a meeting on Sustainable Food with the students of the Donegani Technical Institute in Crotone.
I would like to publicly thank the kind director Prof. Laura Laurendi and the dear Prof. Rosanna Frandini, not only for the constructive initiative, but above all for making
sustainability in general (including food sustainability) a key teaching point; just think that among the practical decisions taken is the one not to install junk food vending machines in the school: we are talking about saving 1,500 students!
During the conference, I tried to explain in broad strokes the importance of being sustainable, not only by choosing bikes or public transportation over cars,
but especially at the dinner table.
How the actual food system has such a huge impact on the environment.
Why human health is inseparable from the health of the earth; and in this topic I tried to make the point that the
foods that have the least impact on the environment are the ones that are best for human health.
Next, before moving on to solutions, I explained to them
what kind of future we could soon be facing if we do not revolutionize our food choices and ourselves.
Finally, I shared some simple tactics
for being more sustainable than yesterday.
The willing (and very patient) can watch
(with English subtitles) a summary of this challenging meeting that lasted the beauty of almost 2 hours.

For those in a hurry, here is a brief summary of the topics discussed below; topics that I would say are relevant and, if you will, very uncomfortable, especially if you are young and with the classic need to associate the words
hope and dreams with the future!


Sustainable Food vs Actual Food System

The food system we have adopted is seriously damaging our health and that of the planet; at the same time it poses a real threat to sustainability.
I begin by saying that this was not always the case.
It is only in the last 50 years that the food system has become a burden on the shoulders of the planet.
In the early 1970s, the world’s most important and developed nations agreed to introduce a new way of farming globally; undoubtedly more efficient, more productive; with the “laudable” goal of overcoming hunger.
This massive change was called the “
Green Revolution” and had a very noble and reassuring motto: “FOOD FOR ALL.
In reality, however, what happened was that thousands of years of agricultural knowledge and tradition were abandoned to make way for industrial agriculture; in other words, an
agriculture totally dependent on synthetic fertilizers, over-irrigation, herbicides, insecticides, genetically modified seeds, and an unspeakable use of fossil energy.

Well, the Green Revolution has not only failed miserably in its primary objective (to date, more than 800 million people are still suffering from hunger), but it is considered the genesis of all our current problems, revealing its true face, which is a “toxic revolution”.
The result is that today we no longer get sick just because we are hungry, but, especially in the rich West, we get sick and die because we are
: we eat too much and badly.
Not only that, but our illnesses and those of the planet increase indirectly because of the substances used to make the invasive practices we have adopted more efficient.
So we have doubled and sometimes even tripled productivity, but I don’t think it has been worth it.
With the numbers it is easier to understand better.

The black numbers of the food system

1) Food production accounts for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

2) %50 of the world’s habitable land (i.e., land not covered by ice or deserts) is used for agriculture.

3) Agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.

4) The food system causes 80% of deforestation.

5) 78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication* is caused by agriculture.
(*: Eutrophication is the pollution of waterways with nutrient rich pollutants, i.e. nitrates and phosphorus – to name 2 – which have a devastating effect).

6) 94% of non-human mammals are livestock (pigs, cattle, sheep, horses).

7) 71% of birds are poultry (chickens, hens, turkeys, geese, etc.)

Surely the most devastating sector of agriculture is livestock farms. Let’s see why.
Looking at the table above, we notice some terms related to numbers such as:

Greenhouse gas emissions
– arable land
– freshwater use
– eutrophication of oceans and waterways
– biodiversity

These terms were not chosen at random; together they provide the criteria for defining whether a food has a high impact on environment or not, so it helps us to choose the sustainable food.
In short, under each of these parameters, meat is the food with the greatest impact. Followed by milk, cheese, chicken, eggs and fish.
And when food of animal origin comes from intensive livestock farming, its impact increases by leaps and bounds.

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The black numbers of intensive livestock farming

1) 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from intensive livestock farming, and meat alone accounts for 60 percent of all food sector emissions.
Put simply, for 1 kilogram of meat, we emit about 30 kg of CO2 into the air: UNSUSTAINABLE! Let me remind you that a modern car emits about 100g of CO2 to travel 1 kilometer!

2) But its footprint on water consumption is also catastrophic.
To produce 1 kilogram of meat, we need about 600 liters of fresh water; in reality, meat needs much more: about 15 thousand liters of water for just 1 kilogram of meat (although the producers claim that 14 thousand 400 liters of water is taken from rainwater).

3) And then there is the waste water issue which is rich in nitrites and phosphates (as well as pathogens) comes from livestock farms, where normally from 5 to 100 thousand animals are kept; they cause enormous pollution: for 1 kg of meat, 300 grams of waste water are produced. A single drop can pollute a large amount of water!

4) Intensive livestock farms also require a lot of land, not so much for the housings in which these poor animals are crammed, but for the cultivation of huge amounts of soybeans, grains and hay, which are used to feed the animals.
Damage upon damage, as their feed is grown through even more intensive and invasive agriculture.
It all adds up to 326 square meters of land, an area slightly smaller than a basketball court, for just 1 kg of meat!

5) The numbers are frightening, just consider that about 80% of the world’s soybeans are destined for intensive farming.

6) Finally, the huge damage to biodiversity: 30% of biodiversity loss is caused by intensive livestock farming

So far we have talked about the damage to the environment and human health, but I cannot refrain from talking about what can be defined as the shame of humanity in the 21st century; I am referring to the total disregard for the atrocities reserved for innocent living beings.
Intensive livestock farms are true lagers, no pun intended; where poor animals are forced to live crammed together, never seeing the sunlight, never having walked on a pasture, chained in place, separated from their young, forced to fatten up as fast as possible.
I am reminded of the words of the great Italian scientist Margherita Hack: “We often wonder whether animals have a conscience. But the real question should be whether we have a conscience when we minimize the cruelty to which animals are subjected on intensive farms”. Nothing more to add.

Given what you have read so far, sustainable food production should immediately become humanity’s top priority; but if we look at it in terms of the population bomb, then the urgency becomes absolute.

The 2050 Warning: The Population Bomb

Adding to the already tragic situation is the dreaded date of 2050.
We have gone from 4 billion inhabitants of this poor planet of ours in 1970 to 8 billion today, in just 50 years; and projections speak of 10 billion in 30 years.
Based on the black numbers we just saw in agriculture, what do you think we are going to feed people if we are already at the peak of productivity today?
Clearly, if we don’t change course now, we will most likely condemn future generations to a life of hardship…and/or eating crickets (here’s the most comprehensive and objective article on eating insects).
Also because between the growing population and the declining food supply (and let’s not talk about quality), the future outlook is bad for yet another reason: the scarcity of the Earth’s renewable resources.
Find out more about the Earth Overshoot Day, read this article.


We have come to realize that the food system has not kept its promises to end world hunger; on the contrary, it has increased the number of mal-nourished people by providing them with abundant amounts of bad food, produced with invasive practices that are harmful to us and to the planet; all of this is causing devastating damage that is falling on us today and especially on the young, the heirs of the future.

So what can we do?

We are not yet without solutions, we are not yet at the point of no return; provided we do not waste any more time.
The most interesting thing is that we do not have to make unspeakable sacrifices; not even to go back 50 years!
Technology can certainly help us; but the crucial element is our desire to be part of the solution: we need to revolutionize our food choices; small adjustments are enough, or big ones for those who are able and willing to be “in the forefront”, so to speak (in this regard, I recommend my CHEtarian diet, the only one that takes into account all the elements of sustainable food and human health); in practice, we need to take a serious interest in solid Food Education.

Food education, in my opinion, should be included in school curricula, as enlightened schools like Donegani in Crotone probably do.

Just to be pragmatic, we should:

– pay attention not to waste food, but with the certainty of not suffering food poisoning (expired food can still be good for a long time);

– be determined to reduce or eliminate foods with a high environmental impact, without the risk of suffering a nutritional deficiency;

– choose food coming from sustainable agricultural practices and refuse, whenever possible the products of intensive agriculture and farming;

– desire to return to a healthy diet, by reducing or eliminating industrial ultra-processed food;

– prefer local and seasonal produce, better if bought in farmers market and/or small scale suppliers;

– we should talk about our food choices with our family and friends to create more awareness about the importance of sustainable food systems.

And all of this will let you save money; especially if we consider long-term health and environmental expenses.

Well, in this way we could achieve unimaginable goals.

For my part, as you well know, I have been “fighting” for about 4 years to create awareness on these issues; and to reach more people, I write my contents in three languages.
And I will continue to do so, despite a thousand sacrifices, because I hope by now it can be clear to everyone the emergency in which we live.
So thank you to everyone who supports me with donations and appreciation; thank you to everyone who understands the importance of participating in this Food Revolution.
We are at the end of the year and so it’s time to make good resolutions for the coming year; so please let 2024 be the beginning of a better world: let’s give ourselves the gift of change, because it really depends only on us.

Happy Holidays and Happy Revolution to you all


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