December 5th 2010
The sustainable Christmas dinner
This Christmas Magnetic Islanders will, like a fair chunk of the 7 billion people who are ever more tightly squeezing onto our planet, be siting down for what is generally the biggest feast of the year. What we decide to feast on however is becoming an increasing troubling question. At the time of year when we wish peace and goodwill to all, are we extending that goodwill to the health of our planet and the creatures we share it with? Lots of our usual choices could well be damaging our environment and future generations. So what are the best foods for a sustainable future?
First up, vegetarians take the lead when it comes to minimising our impact. As the driest inhabited continent on Earth it takes about 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef and about 30% of Australia’s greenhouse gases come from the methane-emitting backsides of grazing animals like cattle and sheep. Methane is thought to have over 70 times the planet-heating capacity of carbon dioxide.
There is also now widespread aggitation against the cruel treatment of battery/caged hens and stall-raised pigs. Avoiding products which cannot guarantee that the food does not originate in such circumstances is a matter for individual consumers and clear labelling.
An excellent, informative and free guide to the consequences of human food choices, produced by a group of state based vegetarian organisations can be found (here).
Seafood is for many a healthy choice with the rich omega 3 oils and low fat benefits but eating fish from sustainable sources is another matter. While our local waters are comparatively well managed due to factors such as the excellent no-take zones on the Great Barrier Reef, 13 of the 17 major fisheries of the world are in serious decline. Favourites such as prawns are still caught using techniques which effectively clear-fell the sea floor leaving nowhere for other creatures to live. By-catch (everything the fishers were not trying to catch) is thrown overboard dead or dying and sometimes by the ton. Long line fishing and drift netting is enormously damaging to other animals including turtles, dugong, dolphins, whales and sea birds.
So, should we eat seafood at all? Ethical questions about animal cruelty aside, there are certainly better seafood choices that can be made. One excellent way to navigate the shoals of seafood sustainability is the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide. It’s a very handy handbook which they sell to raise funds and we urge you to assist them with this for $9.95 (click here) A shortened version is however available online and can be found (here)
Calamari or squid, farmed oysters, trevally, bream, and our delicious mackerel, whiting and flathead are among the better choices so there is no particular need to feel denied for choice.
Food miles is another aspect to sustainable choices so one might say that locally caught is best and with the wet well and truly upon us we might be thinking that our own efforts in the backyard garden are growing futile. There are however many asian vegetables and leafy greens which are very happy in these conditions. Your Editor is happily devouring Ceylon spinach, rocket, portulaca (click here), basil, kan kong, as well as a hardy Thai Ponderosa pink tomato that wont give up. Papaya, passionfruit, mangos and many of our most delicious tropical fruit are now coming into season too.
Readers might like to suggest other foods we can grow through the summer below and refer to ABC's Gardening Talkback guru, Phil Murray’s excellent tips (here)
Story: George Hirst
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