While we are consistently following our diet the last thing that surfaces in our head is, “How much land does my whole diet require to get produced?” Well, who would think about the land and expenses while the pizza is so extra cheesy? To be honest, not me. However, now I realize that acknowledging such things opens a door to be environmental and planet-conscious.
Likewise, it is a less known fact that what we eat is more important than how much we eat. To determine the amount of land required to produce our food what we eat is more important. As we get richer, our diets tend to diversify and per capita, meat consumption rises along with economic development. Unfortunately, it exerts increasing pressure on land resources and the planet itself. Similarly, looking at the current global scenario, affluence society tends to consume more than an average society. Eventually, this can impose a great impact on our planet.
Increasing affluence and its impact
Increasing affluence is the main driving agent for the human footprint on biologically productive areas, and one of the main causes of biodiversity loss. According to a study in 2004, high-income countries required more biologically productive land per capita than low-income countries. Similarly, population growth and a change to more affluent diets including higher meat and dairy consumption result in the need to expand or intensify agricultural and forestry production (Foley et al., 2011, Godfray et al., 2010, Kastner et al., 2012).
Talking about the United States all alone. Prosperous people in the United States tend to consume food that requires large amounts of land and water to produce. It is no surprise that in America, higher-income people consume more vegetables than those with lower income. But what may surprise you is their diet choice or consumption burdens the environment.
Major classes of social and economic effects that affect the characteristics of the U.S. food system are,
Levels of income, wealth, and distributional equity;
Broader indicators of quality of life, such as working conditions, job satisfaction, and freedom of choice to pursue taste and lifestyle preferences; and
Associated impacts on worker health and well-being.
It may bring immense shock to you that. If everyone were to adopt the average diet of the United States, the world would need to convert all of our habitable lands to agriculture. Even though we would still be short of 38 percent land. Likewise, for a diest like New Zealand’s, we’d need almost twice as much habitable land as we have right now.
What can we do?
Despite the increasing competition in the world for biologically productive land. Wanting to reduce our agricultural land pressures along with the need for a healthy and adequately nourished population is tough. Theoretically speaking, if we want to restore natural ecosystems by using only 13 percent of habitable land for agriculture. Adopting the average diet like that of Liberia or Mozambique would be appropriate. However, such diets are typically low in diversity and results in severe levels of micronutrient deficiency, malnutrition, and malnourishment.
What a country can do is make a nutrition guideline for its citizens. A suitable diet guideline is a must for both high-income and low-income people to maintain a certain balance. Moreover, high-income countries like the United States, Australia, or Newzealand should adjust to average diets in order to reduce their relative impact.
Besides that, what we can do as individuals is that we should be more thoughtful and responsible consumers. The next time you eat your favorite food or follow your dietary routine, make sure how much of an impact it may cause to the environment and planet.