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Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice

The whole idea behind the concept of "ethical eating" is that we think about the food that we're putting into our mouths. And by this we don't mean the nutritional value, whether it's good for us or whether it's going to go straight from our lips to our hips. Ethical eating is consumption wedded to awareness and intention. It is about educating ourselves about the true costs of the foods that we buy and consume. It's about facing up to the ugly facts of the agriindustrial complex. It's knowing, for example, that while we've increased the average yield of an acre of farmland from 24 bushels of corn in 1930 to more than 160 bushels per acre today, to achieve this astonishing improvement we apply about 1.5 billion pounds of nitrogen to the soil each year in the form of fertilizers. And that about half of that nitrogen is taken up into the atmosphere and falls as acid rain or stays up there as greenhouse gases, or it washes into our watersheds, causing massive algae blooms that choke off all other aquatic life.

The UUA Congregational Study/Action Issue for 2008-2012 is Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice. There are certainly many aspects to ethical eating, but one that is very important is the amount of waste of food and resources in this country. We are certainly fortunate to have the variety and quantity of food that we enjoy, and at prices that are affordable for most of us. But the prices we pay do not reflect the true cost to the earth and to future generations.       
We want berries and melons in the middle of the winter and we get them, though the cost to the environment of having these foods shipped from the farthest parts of our country and even other countries is astronomical. The CO2 emissions and wasted fuel from the trucks, ships and planes that are used to bring us this food adds greatly to climate change. And once the food gets here, because we want our food to be perfect, much of it has to be discarded — not given to less fortunate people who would be thrilled to have fresh produce, even with a bruise, nor composted, but thrown out. 
We want affordable eggs and meat, but the cost to the environment and our farm animals is very high. Spending their lives in cramped spaces, and slaughtered cruelly, our farm animals are not viewed as sentient beings to be treated with respect but as property of the giant agribusinesses, while their refuse is one of the major components of global warming. 

More people are eating fish because of the health benefits, resulting in over-fishing. We are quickly depleting our oceans and seas of these resources; as the oceans rise as a result of global warming, we can expect to see even greater loss of fish. This will be tragic for all the peoples of the world, but particularly for those who count on fishing to feed their families and make a living. 

These are just a few examples of the impact of our food choices. The last few years has seen a movement back to making food choices that are good for the environment, good for our local farmers and good for our health — eating fresh, local, organic foods whenever possible. But, when this is no possible, we can help by making conscious decisions about what we are going to eat — always thinking about the sustainability of the food we are eating, its impact on the environment, and any cruelty issues with our meat and dairy products. If we are going to leave future generations with the wonderful varieties and quantities of food that we have enjoyed, the changes must begin now.

To find out more about how to improve our planet 
with Ethical Eating Click Here!