New research shows white people deserve the most blame for how their eating habits impact climate change, and argues new policies like the Green New Deal need to take race into account to save the planet.
“The food pipeline – which includes its production, distribution and waste – contributes significantly to climate change through the production of greenhouse gasses and requires significant amounts of water and land, which also has environmental effects,” according to Joe Bozeman, a at the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Environmental Science and Policy. “If we are to draft policies related to food, they can’t be one-size-fits-all policies because different populations have different eating patterns which have their own unique impacts on the environment.”
Bozeman, the lead author, and other researchers looked at food and water consumption estimates in the Food Commodity Intake Database – an EPA program that measures what Americans eat and drink – and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gauges daily intake. The academics then compared those figures with estimates on the environmental impact of specific foods “obtained from various databases and from the scientific literature,” according to EurekAlert!, “The Global Source for Science News.”
According to their analysis, the researchers found that white individuals produced an average of 680 kilograms of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide each year that can be directly linked to what they ate and drank, while Latinx individuals produced 640 kilograms of carbon dioxide and blacks produced 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide each year.
In other words, white people supposedly eat more “environmentally intense” foods, like apples, potatoes, beef and milk, Bozeman said.
“While the difference may not seem enormous, these numbers are per individual, and when you add up all those individuals, it’s very clear that whites are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of their food choices,” he said.
“Whites tend to drink more water and milk,” Bozeman explained. “Milk itself requires a lot of water to produce when you consider livestock cultivation, so that is part of what we think is pushing their water impacts higher.”
Bozeman, who is black, broke it down in a video featured on the University of Illinois website.
His research was published by the Journal of Industrial Ecology this week.
“Our food preferences have a direct impact on the environment. However, previous research has largely ignored the role that demographics play. My colleagues and I have addressed this problem by performing a study on climate change adaptation as it relates to food consumption,” Bozeman said in the video.
“What was interesting is that we found that different racial groups affect the environment differently. While whites affect the environment the greatest in things like greenhouse gas and water, blacks affect the environment the most in land.”
“Our take home message is this,” he continued. “Scientists and policy makers should consider sociodemographic factors from the onset, because one size does not fit all.”
How exactly the research might fit into the Green New Deal’s call for a “just transition” to 100% renewable energy in 10 years isn’t clear. The legislation’s main proponent, socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has repeatedly complained about how the “climate crisis” disproportionately impacts minorities and others with special victim status. The GND also stresses a need to move away from so-called “environmentally intense” foods.
Bozeman’s research was funded in part by the university and in part by Bayer-Monsanto – a multinational agribusiness with a long history of dealing in herbicides, GMOs, DDT, PCBs and other environmentally nasty stuff.
Just Thursday, Monsanto was ordered by a California jury to pay Edwin Hardeman $80 million after finding the company’s weed killer Roundup was a “substantial factor” in the man’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer diagnosis.
Hundreds of other similar lawsuits are still pending against the company, NPR reports.