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The Attenborough Challenge: Plant-Based & Mindful Eating

by Maureen McAllister, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP

It is not logical that millions of modern adults and children around the world are suddenly becoming insulin resistant." -John M. Poothullil

I decided to make one of the more contentious points of Attenborough's plan, (and arguably the hardest given the lure of emotional eating,) the second part of the challenge. This way I have eleven months to work on it, as opposed to one or two. How successful I am will come down to a shift away from perfection-based eating and thinking towards growth-based [insert pun here].

Why is this important? Essentially, “we must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters." We are a species of carnivores who have hit exponential growth in population models. Attenborough explains it rather simply with cheetahs: "large carnivores are rare in nature because it takes a lot of prey to support each of them. For every single predator on the Serengeti, there are more than 100 prey animals. Whenever we choose a piece of meat, we too are unwittingly demanding a huge expanse of space. The planet can't support billions of large meat-eaters. There just isn't the space."

This premise extends directly to how much land we utilize in our current farming practices with animals. A Life On Our Planet broke it down for us: "Half of the fertile land on earth is now farmland. 70% of the mass of birds on this planet are domestic birds. The vast majority, chickens. We account for over 1/3 of the weight of mammals on earth. A further 60% are the animals we raise to eat. The rest from mice to whales, make up just 4%." Although most people accept that cows specifically are major contributors to global warming through their release of methane and the supporting science, it is not surprising that some in the farming industry are still struggling to accept this reality as their livelihoods have so far depended on these practices. However, change drives innovation, and we learned as much about that in 2020 as we did during the Industrial Revolution--industries and the people behind them are capable of creating new paths forward to keep pace with the modern world.

"A rotary milking machine which milks up to 150 cows an hour at Wageningen University’s Dairy Campus."

If we as a species were to move towards a largely plant-based diet, we would need only half the land we use at the moment, and could also drastically increase the yield that comes from that soil. The Netherlands in particular, a very tiny country, has become notorious for its ingenuity in farming practices as the world's second-largest exporter of food --second only to the United States-- with a fraction of its land. It is an interesting read if you have the time, and inspiring! I'll settle with sharing one quote:

"Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent."

"A sea of g