Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day, part one

Happy Earth Day!

My email inbox is full of "Earth Day" offers today. Special offers on women's clothing, kids' clothing, shoes and eco-friendly cleaning products. These companies entice us to "show the planet some love" by giving them our money and adding more "stuff" to our lives.

I have an alternative for Earth Day. Let's educate ourselves about the earth, our animal friends and our commitment as human beings and stewards of the earth.

Forks Over Knives

I have long been hearing about Forks Over Knives, a 2011 American documentary directed by Lee Fulkerson. Truth be told, I didn't pay much attention. I have been a vegetarian for so long (19 years) that I thought there wasn't much more I needed to know. I'm committed. I'm not going back.

But my husband and I finally watched this documentary on Netflix yesterday and found that it has something to offer us all, including know-it-alls like me and even the diehard meat eaters among us. The movie examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The film traces the personal journeys of pioneering researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

synopsis t colin campbell farm Synopsis

In the late 1960's, Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned with producing “high quality” animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world. While in the Philippines, he made a life-changing discovery: the country’s wealthier children, who were consuming relatively high amounts of animal-based foods, were much more likely to get liver cancer. Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.

These discoveries inspired Campbell and Esselstyn, who didn’t know each other yet, to conduct several groundbreaking studies. Their research led them to a startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Oh, and I just love the title because, as any vegetarian can tell you, we rarely eat with knives.

Watch the trailer for an idea of how powerful this film is.

Becoming Vegetarian: My Journey

I became a vegetarian because I didn't feel right about eating animals. It was right around the time that I read Margaret Atwood's "The Edible Woman." Here's a description of the novel:

Ever since her engagement, the strangest thing has been happening to Marian McAlpin: she can't eat. First meat. Then eggs, vegetables, cake, pumpkin seeds--everything! Worse yet, she has the crazy feeling that she's being eaten. Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, but she really just feels...consumed.

The book somehow mirrored my own growing discomfort with eating meat. I was living with my parents at the time. A typical dinner was meat-based - pork chops, steak, filet mignon - with a side of potatoes and a nice green salad. My mom will recall that my portion of meat became smaller and smaller until I would have just one bite "for protein."

I know not everybody wants to become vegetarian. My sincerest hope is that people will give some thought to what they are putting in their mouths and where it came from. Try to cut out some meat and dairy from your diet, even if it's for a couple of days a week. You don't need meat to survive. If you don't do it for the animals, do it for yourself. And if you don't do it for yourself, do it for the earth.

The High Cost of Meat Consumption

According to EarthSave:

  • It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.
  • Because of over-consumption of fish, all 17 of the world’s major fishing areas have reached or exceeded their natural limits. One-third of the world’s fish catch is fed directly to livestock.
  • 70% of US grain production is fed to livestock.
  • 5 million acres of rainforest are felled every year in South and Central America alone to create cattle pasture.
  • Roughly 20% of all currently threatened and endangered species in the US are harmed by livestock grazing.
  • Animal agriculture is a chief contributor to water pollution. America’s farm animals produce 10 times the waste produced by the human population.
As Forks Over Knives points out, we could feed all the hungry people in the world (and many more) with the grains that currently feed animals raised for meat. That's powerful stuff.

Have you seen Forks Over Knives? What did you think?

the veggie nook


  1. Now I want to see Forks Over Knives and make myself more educated!!

    1. That's awesome Keith! I hope you enjoy it. :)

  2. Sounds interesting! I'm a vegetarian simply because I don't like to eat meat (texture, taste, thinking about the poor cow...) but hearing information like this makes me feel pretty good about that choice. Just don't make me give up cheese, Jo.

    1. I often hear information (like about tainted meat, etc.) that makes me extra happy to be a vegetarian. :)

      I know cheese is the hardest. My husband and kids still eat it, but I'm thinking about cutting back on their consumption too, based on this movie. Baby steps, Ruthie. ;)

  3. What a great post! I've only seen some of Forks Over Knives but don't have my copy anymore.

    Two other great talks to watch are the TED talk titled "why animals should be off the menu" and Gary Yourofsky 'best speech you will ever hear' (the latter goes for 70 minutes, his style may not be for everyone but stick with it).

    The China Study is pretty much what turned me vegan!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations. I will check those out too! Yes, the China Study is pretty incredible. Gotta love Dr. Campbell.

  4. Awesome! Im not a vegetarian, but I dont eat a lot of animal products, i only use milk/eggs for cooking/baking, and I eat yogurt, i dont eat meat to often. Back in the fall I became more educated about the harmful GMOs found in a lot of processed food, it scared me, so Ive been buying organic (packaged foods) for several months now instead. Although I do still indulge from time to time in sweets that are pretty far from being organic...Im trying though! That movie looks awesome, I'll check it out!

    1. The GMOs are scary for sure. It makes buying organic worthwhile!

      Sweets are so tempting, but at least if most of your food is healthy, your body can recover from the sweets. That's how I justify myself anyway. :)

  5. Awesome info Jo-- and I loved learning more about your own journey! Definitely going to look into the documentary as soon as the semester ends.

    1. Thanks Tabetha! Yes, check it out when you have a chance. How exciting that you are nearing the end of semester! :)

  6. What a great post! Food Inc. changed my life. And I learned so much from Forks Over Knives. Thanks for sharing part of your journey!

    1. Thanks Heather. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :) A great documentary can be very motivational for sure. :)