Ecological footprint of diet

What is your diet in terms of ecologically equivalent calories? How does this compare to the diets of other animals? This assignment serves the purpose of helping you understand how each one’s diet reflects the diet of other living beings as well as the availability of food in the environment. Through this assignment one can gain the experience of at least considering his diet, more carefully in reflection to his surrounding environment and other living species, but merely understand the translation of his diet in ecologically equivalent calories (and thus, in influence to food sources available).

It is as to say, that our diet itself (and every living being’s diet) has its own ecological footprint to the environment. As we have in previous assignments and class sessions discussed, ecological footprint is the ecological coincidence of one’s living habits to the environmental sources available.  In terms of energy, the EF determines the amount of energy (in calories) one consumes in relation to the amount of energy that is available to that living being from its surrounding environment. In other words, the EF compares the shortage of environmental sources created by a specific species (or group of species) to the environment’s ability to renew those sources.  

Let’s have a look to four different types of diet a living being can possibly require:

Diet Source of diet Number of calories Ecologically equivalent calories Total ecologically equivalent calories
100% plant Plant 2.000 2.000 2.000
0% animal Animal 0 0
90% plant Plant 1.800 1.800 3.800
10% animal Animal 200 2.000
50% plant Plant 1.000 1.000 11.000
50% animal Animal 1.000 10.000
0% plant Plant 0 0 20.000
100% animal Animal 2.000 20.000

1.Humans in position of each diet annually

If we were in the first category, we would need : 2000×365(days)= 730000 ecologically equivalent calories for a year.

If we were in the second category, we would need: 1387000 ecologically equivalent calories for a year.

 If we were in the third category, we would need : 11000×365(days)= 4.015.000 ecologically equivalent calories for a year.

 If we were in the fourth category, we would need : 20000×365(days)= 7300000 ecologically equivalent calories for a year.

2. Strictly plant-based-diet vs strictly meat-based-diet

 If our diet was strictly based on plants (vegetarian diet) we would have to consume 2000 ecologically equivalent calories per day. On the other hand, if our diet was strictly based on meat (100% animal diet), we would have to consume 20000 ecologically equivalent calories per day  which is 10 times the calories of the vegetarian diet. If our diet was strictly plant-based (1st category), and we were to add a 10% of animal meat in our diet, our ecologically equivalent calories would increase by 1800 (total: 3800) per day.

3. Vegetarian or meat eater?

Personally, I would consider my diet slightly meat-oriented. My diet is approximately based: 60% on animal meat and 40% on plant food (not that I eat a lot of meat, but it is slightly more in proportion to what I eat from plants). In translation of my 60% animal-food and 40% plant food, my total ecologically equivalent calories are: 12.800 (800 from plant and 12.000 from meat), which is 10.800 calories more than those of someone who eats according to a strictly plant-diet (100%plant).

4. Globalization of American Style of diet

According to a very interesting article I read in the internet, although human behavior towards food-gathering has changed dramatically since the very early times (H. sapiens), our organisms seem to have remain stable in terms of food requirements. For instance, in ancient times, humans needed to hunt for meat (hunting required a great amount of effort and thus calories’ consuming) whereas now, humans eat the same amount of meat, only they consume almost anything (in energy) for it.

 The American Style of diet is a very interesting indication of what modern humans consume and how they get to that food. This diet is not only very rich (perhaps too rich) in meat but more importantly, it indicates the almost exclusively passive way of modern humans’ eating.

If more and more nations started adopting the American Style of diet (a lot of meat), there would probably be inefficiency of animal meat for all the populations (not only of humans but of other meat-eater species as well) . Also, the total ecologically equivalent calories of those populations would grow significantly and this could indicate an increase of cholesterol proportion in humans. Since modern humans have decreased their activity so much, an increase in our diet’s calories could turn very dangerous for our body functions (digesting, blood pressure, amount of cholesterol etc.).

A global adaptation of the American Style of die might also possibly lead some animals to extinction. As we have many times discussed, food sources on earth are constant in amount, an extreme change in humans’ diet (extreme increase in meat consumption) would probably make some sources of food inefficient and some animals that are most regularly used for meat consumption could be in danger of extinction.

Finally, another important issue that is raised by this model of development is that estimations show that increase of meat in human diet, increases CO2 proportion on earth, increasing the greenhouse effect. 

References

“Meat and meat products in human nutrition in developing countries”. FAO Corporate Document Repository. Retrieved on October 23, 2010 from:

http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0562e/t0562e05.htm

Challem, Jack. “Paleolithic Nutrition:Your Future Is In Your Dietary Past”.The Nutrition Reporter. Retrieved on October 23, 2010 from:http://www.thenutritionreporter.com/stone_age_diet.html

Media source. Photo. Retrieved on October 23 from : http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/12/04/world/meatgraphFull.jpg

Other pictures. Pictures. Google engine machine. Retrieved on October 23, 2010 from: http://www.google.com

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About meerkat21

hello everyone, i am an undergraduate student at ACT (American College of Thessaloniki) majoring in management and finance. through this blog i will try to communicate with you in a better way. i will be posting material relevant to our ecology course and try to engage your interest as much as possible.
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