You may be chilly now, but on the global scale, things are heating up. Recent findings by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conclude climate change will affect food security by 2050. Crop yields are forecast to be lower, and food prices, accordingly, will be higher, with staples like rice going up as much as 78 percent. That means we're going to have to work hard not to go hungry. Or as Charles Darwin might have put it, we adapt or perish.
One way to adapt could have huge positive consequences. The United Nations International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management has called for "a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products." A UN panel analysis indicates meat and dairy production accounts for 70% of our global water supply and more than a third of our land use. We're going to need every inch of arable land to grow food. Reducing meat consumption might be what saves us.
No one liked what Darwin had to say, either. All the guy did was observe the natural world. Darwin didn't make up the idea of natural selection. He wasn't pushing any kind of agenda, just reporting his findings after years of research -- findings which pissed many people off. We're supposed to be God's appointed rulers of this earthly dominion, damnit, and it really fried our collective ass to think all that separated us from the apes were a few links in the evolutionary chain. It was easier to brand Darwin as a heretic and a wingnut than to buy his theory on the origin of the species. Many people still deride Darwin's notion and the man's been dead since 1882.
Similarly, the link between meat production and climate change has its host of detractors, too. It's easier to blame or defame the messenger than it is to change, to reduce the amount of meat we eat or face the fact we're out on a rapidly melting polar ice cap (thanks, climate change).
Maybe, despite the evidence, you don't believe in global warming. Or you think it's just part of God or nature's plan, that the planet is (intelligently) designed to throw climate curveballs every millenium or so. And in the long run, we're all going to die, anyway. That doesn't mean we need to hurry the process along, globally or personally.
The new USDA and Human Health Services dietary guideline tell you what you've already known -- making the move to a plant-based diet is good for you. Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society links daily meat consumption with heightened mortality risk. Eating meat shortens your life.
Change is hard, whether it's a matter of changing your world view or your diet. But all evidence points away from eating meat, if you want to stick around. To quote Darwin, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. . . but the one most adaptable to change."
It's not to late to adapt. That's what life on earth is about. As Darwin wrote, this is where "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
Cauliflower and broccoli are both members of the brassica family. You can use either vegetable in this easy Mediterranean recipe. Serve as a side dish or make it a main event by tossing with pasta or serve over whole grains. It's adaptable. Darwin would approve.
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 head cauliflower or broccoli (or a little of each), broken into florets (about 4 cups)
a handful of kalamata olives
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and paprika. Whisk till combined. Add minced garlic and cauliflower or broccoli and toss gently to coat the vegetables with the dressing.
Spread your brassica on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.
Give the vegetables a turn and a toss and add the kalamatas. Continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables crisp and darken at the edges and yield when pierced with a fork or (more fun) when you bite into them.
A version of this post originally appeared on February 7, 2011.