Lusty pasta marinara, crunchy, salty kale chips, chili-spiked black bean enchiladas -- eat 'em up. You can create positive change and rack up karmic points with every bite, with every meatless choice you make, and have a good time, too.
How does what you eat affect the world? The short answer, the one I like, is chaos theory. Chaos theory maintains everything is connected, the beat of a butterfly wing in Nepal affects you in New York. Sounds a little like magical thinking, but that kind of magic -- interconnection -- I believe in. Because we are interconnected.
There are seven billion of us at the table now and across the globe, and we're facing a case of too many mouths and not enough food. So how hungry are you, anyway? And what are you hungry for?
Before you fork up a steak, let me feed you some statistics:
According to the United Nations, at minimum, meat production accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
The world grows enough grain so every one of us seven billion can have two pounds of it per day, plus all the produce you can eat (and you should eat more than you do). Alas, a third or more of that grain goes to feeding livestock while one out of every six of us goes hungry. Earth Policy Institute president and fun guy Lester R. Brown credits our insatiable demand for meat as one of the driving forces behind global food scarcity.
I totally love cows. That's why I don't eat them. But I'm not here to go all PETA on you. If we raised -- and ate -- less livestock, we'd have more arable land to devote to growing food for human consumption and be able to start putting the brakes on climate change.
Maybe you don't care about carbon and cows. You're pretty terrific, anyway. I'd be happy if you stuck around. And that may mean changing your dinner plans. According to our friends at the CDC, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are the three biggest killers in the country and they're more prevalent among meat-eaters. These illnesses are linked to diet and lifestyle. This means by making a personal tweak or two, they can be prevented. So tweak, already. The world needs you.
Even if you're glowing with health, you'll still have to pay the price of America's meat obessesion. We all will. And it's a big-ticket item. According to the American Heart Association, the cost of cardiovascular disease may hit $800 billion in a few years. If the whole country made the game-changing choice to step away or step down from eating meat, we'd be a stronger society -- or at least healthier and richer, an excellent start.
The chances of that happening? Not so likely. Ultimately, food choices can't be forced or legislated. Eating is an intimate act. But if you play it right, it's also a pleasurable and a life-sustaining one -- not just your life, but everyone's.
Your health, our economy, our environment -- all compelling reasons for a meatless diet. Here's another -- accountability. Or call it what I do -- conscience. You do have one. Once you know these statistics, you can't unknow them. And then you're going to have to choose.
If statistics move you, terrific. But the real reason to transition to a pro-produce diet isn't what you feel in your wallet but what you feel in your heart. Conscious or compassionate eating needs a catchier name, but the concept's real and doable, the food's fantastic and it doesn't take another minute out of your overcrowded schedule.
Choosing a meatless diet or even one meatless meal each week gives us all a place at the table. A pro-produce diet gives you nourishment galore, great eats, and means you get your daily dose of creating positive change in every bite.
Follow Ellen Kanner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/edgyveggie1