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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

We regularly ask CEC’s Staff, Board, Partnership Council, and President’s Council to offer their perspectives as thought leaders in the Santa Barbara community. In this ongoing series, they share about the books, articles, films, apps, podcasts, and other multimedia that are influencing their thinking, including how these tie into CEC’s work and the climate crisis at large.

Podcast: Food For Thought: The Joys and Benefits of Living With Compassion and Purpose

Author: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Reviewed by: Nadra Ehrman, CEC Board Member

What the podcast is about:

Food For Thought is an educational podcast with a personal, relaxed approach about the many aspects of the vegan lifestyle – including the ideology behind veganism, nutritional facts, and the cultural aspects of a plant-based diet. It also addresses environmental topics such as zero waste, recycling, and plastic pollution reduction during COVID-19.

Why I listened to it:

As podcast host Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Most vegans will tell you that they became vegan for one reason, but that they remain vegans for a number of reasons.” This made me reflect on how the vegan lifestyle chose me, despite deep cultural and emotional ties to meat. Unlike many vegans and vegetarians (and probably to some of their disdain), I am a meat eater at heart.

Growing up in an African-American family there was a saying: “You either know how to eat meat or you don’t.” To “know how to eat meat” meant that a person cleaned every morsel off the bone until there was nothing left – a tradition passed down by elders who grew up poor, without much access to meat. My grandmother jokingly told me she didn’t know there was more to a pig than its snout and feet until she was an adult. Although it’s impossible to deny, the connection between an animal’s life and the meat on our plate is oftentimes missing.

My perception of this disconnect and my growing awareness of the environmental effects of meat production prompted me to ask “Do I need to take a life to sustain my own?” The answer was no. Plus, the positive health benefits were highly appealing. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease – which run on both sides of my family – are very real health threats for communities of color.

This podcast also gives me creative ideas, like reimagining Thanksgiving without a turkey dinner as the centerpiece. Initially, it also helped me by pointing out that I could control the pace of switching to a plant-based diet. I could start with a meatless Monday, swap out an Italian sub for a veggie delight, and still have an impact without feeling deprived.

Why it’s relevant to CEC’s work or the larger conversation around the climate crisis:

  • In many indigenous philosophies there is a spiritual connection to the hunt. The idea of wasting any part of the animal simply doesn’t exist. Anthropologist Wade Davis, author of The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters In The Modern World, argues that the history of presumed superiority to these philosophies is one reason why we’re struggling with climate change. In a country where 40% of food is wasted, the lack of reverence and gratitude for the life-giving energy that meat provides is clear – and all that waste winds up in our landfills, decomposing into methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
  • The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report found that a widespread shift to eating less meat would significantly lower emissions.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 7.1 gigatons of CO2 is released from global livestock, making up 14.5% of all GHG emissions. This does not include water use, agricultural runoff and deforestation for new pastures. Regenerative livestock practices like the ones that CEC works actively towards are coming full circle with new methods inspired by ancient indigenous wisdom, mixed with technology. While this is hopeful, conventional livestock practices continue to dominate the industry, and I chose to break from it altogether.

Main takeaways and actionable items: 

  • Reducing the amount of meat you consume provides an immediate benefit for the environment.
  • Anyone from any income bracket can take small steps, like incorporating a few more plant-based meals per week into their diet, to positively impact their health and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Other connections: 

Read:

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Nadra Ehrman is a CEC Board member and a property management professional with the Towbes Group. Sheas been a leader in promoting sustainable business practices and green certifications of residential properties throughout the Towbes portfolio, and is a member of the Green Business Alliance, a business networking arm of the Santa Barbara Green Business program.

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