Climate Change and Our Plates
A month ago, Dave stumped me with a late-evening question, posed as we got ready for bed after Netflix, tea, and date squares: “What would you be willing to give up eating for the sake of climate change?”

I had to sleep on it. “Red meat,” I said next morning, “lamb and pork.” It was interesting to note that my answer aligned with a dietary change we had undertaken a year ago. At the time, we resolved to eat less meat and more beans and lentils to help manage my cholesterol levels and to support my program as a long distance runner. This recent decision similar, but with a specific turn: to eat noticeably less red meat – specifically lamb and beef – and less dairy, and to rely on pulses, poultry and pork for protein.

airboat on lac du bois
van gogh!
airboat on lac du bois
Now before you throw your cowboy hats at me and decorate my column with this morning’s coffee grounds, please remember that Dave and I are already firmly in the sustainable locavore camp; we buy our meats directly from local producers, and have for decades.
But I can’t ignore the daily evidence of climate change, and the damage we have collectively done to our planet. I don’t have grandchildren, but I believe that for all those grandchildren waiting to be born, we must each make our contribution – even if it feels too small to count for anything. Collectively, just as we caused the problem, we might be able to slow the damage.
My decision is based on data from sources including the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Science magazine, The Lancet, The Climate Atlas of Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, PLOS ONE (a science-based journal), Watch Your Head newsletter and the New York Times.
field of greens Paradise Hill's hydroponic lettuces 2701259-R1-010-3A.
field of greens Paradise Hill’s hydroponic lettuces
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
I cook from scratch and we eat as low on the food chain as we can. Beef, lamb and dairy production requires the most resources and generates the most greenhouse gases, so we eat less of them. Poultry and pork are mid-range producers of greenhouse gases, and are raised in a shorter timeframe; plants are at the bottom. So we eat more vegetables and plant-based protein like beans and lentils, and more pork and poultry than beef and lamb.

We eat meatless meals – most breakfasts, many lunches, several dinners – weekly. We avoid local foods grown in winter greenhouses requiring tons of fossil fuel. Sustainably grown foods, organically grown when possible (and affordable), are our first choice: manure and compost store carbon in the soil, while synthetic fertilizers in the soil produce nitrous oxide – worse by 300 times than carbon dioxide for trapping heat in the atmosphere.

canola & sky
canola & sky
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
We make efforts to be careful with our food: human beings worldwide lose or waste one-third of the food we produce. I use soy milk or almond milk: water usage is not the only criterion when choosing a “milk” beverage” despite the recent savaging of almonds by the media. Other factors are CO2 emissions (highest in cow’s milk, lowest in soy and oat milk); and land use (highest in cow’s milk, followed by rice milk, lowest in almond milk). Eating is complicated. Keep it simple. Keep it planet-friendly. First let’s eat – choose from among the vegetable-forward dishes in the Recipes archive – and then we can talk some more.

“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”

~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards, University of Saskatchewan President’s Office Nonfiction Award

“Food is a wonderful agent for storytelling... and Bread & Water demonstrates this brilliantly.”

~ Sarah Ramsey, starred review, Quill & Quire

“[Bread & Water is] An amazing feast... riveting... eloquent.”

~ Patricia D. Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press

“[Bread & Water is a] sensuous experience; she brings her poet’s eye and ear to everything within her purview.”

~ Professor emerita Kathleen Wall, Blue Duets

“A deep love of the art of cooking that includes the language of fine dining (cassoulet, confit) even if the lamb was raised in Olds and she picked the rhubarb herself... she impressively manages this collision of worlds with a wholesome, approachable style.”

~ Megan Clark, Alberta Views

“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”

~ Don McKay, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize

“The writing [in Wildness Rushing In] is honed and textured, the senses so alive that you can practically taste the language. There are moments of brilliance rare in a first book.”

~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards

“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "

~ Lee Kvern, Alberta Views

“[Foodshed is] A rich encyclopedia of facts, farm-gate lore and original recipes... a politically engaging narrative in which Hobsbawn-Smith articulates the challenges and joys faced by small-scale producers... don’ t let the alphabet theme fool you. This is no tame nursery rhyme; it is a locavore call to arms.”

~ P.D. Robertson, The Globe & Mail

Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist
Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist



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