Dan Irwin, Kara Broene, and Savannah Grammo
Comparative Cultural Cuisine
The dietary habits of a population and how these habits affect their countries’ environmental footprint will be the essence of this research paper. Focusing on the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Italian Republic and the People’s Republic of China, the analysis of the food consumed and cultivated by each country will provide insight to how each cultures food impacts their respective ecosystems. The focal point will not be on the countries food habits but the food consumption of the majority of the population. When concluding the presentation of research and analysis, the goal of the researchers is for the reader to better understand the impression that growing and consuming food has on a countries’ environmental footprint, and that it may lead to questions concerning their own country’s impact.
As we all know, eating habits tend to vary greatly among different cultures. The result of this variation leads to the basis of our project, the environmental impact of different eating habits. We focused on three equally diverse countries, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Italian Republic and the People’s Republic of China. Through our research we found out that not only eating habits by itself effect an environmental footprint, but the process of production and transportation of the food tends to effect it as well. This is a very important topic to pay attention to, due to increasing ecological footprints around the world. Through our research, we are able to provide insight on how to improve food consumption and production.
In the Italian Republic, commonly known as Italy, being ecologically conservative is not a large part of life. Italy ranks relatively high on the Ecological Footprint scale, 25th out of 141 countries worldwide (GoGreen). When it comes to space needed to produce resources, food takes up more Global Hectares (GHA) than anything else (GoGreen). Major proportions for food: 20 thousand GHA for crops; 18 thousand GHA for meat and other protein and three thousand GHA for fishing and seafood (Eureapa). Sulfur dioxide is a major pollutant in Italy; the country is ranked ninth out of 178 countries for levels of CO2 emissions (GoGreen).
Italian food has three major categories for its food: crops, land based protein, and seafood. Major ingredients in Italian food include the crops grown are tomatoes, olives, grapes, and wheat (Italy). Because Italy is a developed country there is plenty of access to pesticides. These pesticides are used on crops and when the chemicals are caught up in runoff, pollute the rivers and streams in Italy. Italy is a peninsula, meaning it is surrounded on three sides by water, and therefore the polluted waters from pesticides eventually reach the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian government has fewer restrictions on the usage of pesticides than in the United States, so there is no legal related method of limiting the chemical runoff from fields. The land-based proteins include, primarily, pork and dairy products (Russo). Because of the industrialization of rural Italy there is less space to raise livestock, such as pigs. Pork, as previously mentioned, is the third worst meat in regards to carbon emissions. Italy’s high levels of pork consumption have contributed greatly to the country’s high levels of CO2. Seafood is a major part of the Italian diet (Understanding Italy). Therefore, when these important waters are jeopardized, the Italian people are put at economic risk. As previously stated, runoff is a big problem in Italy. When this runoff reaches the Mediterranean Sea the chemicals it contains kill off aquatic life. This aquatic life includes vegetation, fish and sea mammals.
In Italy concerns over the massive Muslim immigration is also flowing over into the culture’s food. When practicing Islam, followers are forbidden from consuming anything that has or has come in contact with pork products. In response to this restriction a number of butcher shops have become strictly clean meat oriented so as to cater to the Muslim immigrant influx (Russo). This has caused problems in pork industry. The factories struggle with overproduction due to a lack of consumption by the Italian population (Russo). Consequently uneaten meat is often left to rot and produce chemicals that are harmful to the environment (Russo).
In the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan the biggest environmental problems are a lack of water and soil degradation. However, Afghanistan boasts the best ecological footprint per citizen in the world (Happy Planet Index). This high ranking for low emissions is because of the incredible lack on industrialization in Afghanistan and the minimal access that farmers have to pesticides. Afghanistan is also relatively low on the CO2 emissions scale, ranked 138thout of the 178 countries (GoGreen).
Of the grains grown in Afghanistan, the staples of the Afghani diet are wheat, barely and rice (CIA). These foods do not have a large effect on the environment other than contributing to soil degradation. Since pesticides are rare the crops are not responsible for large amounts of chemical runoff. In regards to soil derogation, the lack of fertile land in Afghanistan makes it so that rotating crops is very difficult. Since Afghani farmers rely on what these fields produce to survive allowing one field to lay dormant for a season is not practical (AFSA). Finally, the Afghan people rely greatly on the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are capable of growing in the dry heat of Afghanistan (Garabedian). Again, there are minimal effects from the lack of pesticides and so few water sources that runoff is not a big issue. When pesticides are used the farmers are taught to use them properly by the Afghan Farm Service Alliance or AFSA (AFSA).
As previously mentioned, Muslims do not consume pork, so with the country being an Islamic state the consumption of pork is nearly non existent. Because of this, the country lacks the CO2 produced by pork production. One the other hand, sheep and lamb are an Afghani’s primary source of meat protein (CIA). These meats are the only significant impact that Afghanistan has on its environmental footprint. Lamb is the number one CO2 producing meat. Yet, most lamb that describes this statistic is processed. Afghanistan has almost no industry so the meat that they consume is usually strait from the field to the table, only stopping to be cooked by the consumer. This results in Afghanistan maintaining its low levels of CO2 emissions.
Like the Muslims in Italy, Afghanistan has a big problem that has been affecting its ability to produce food for more than a decade. This problem is Opium. Afghanistan as a whole produces more than 100 thousand GHA of Opium a year. This large quantity of Opium can be partially attributed to the fact that Afghanistan has been a war stricken country on and off for more than 40 years (CIA). Because of these wars the number of Afghani’s who are below the poverty includes 36 percent of the population (CIA). Consequently, an Afghan farmer can make more money growing and selling opium than anything else. As a result, the farmers are not producing enough food to feed the country’s population. This means that the food must be imported and because Afghanistan is a land locked country so no port access; all supplies must be shipped into the country. Another consequence of being land locked is that the people have no access to fishing, at least not to the same extent as many of its neighbors.
The People’s Republic of China has a surprisingly small ecological footprint. Although China’s per capita Ecological Footprint of 2.1 gha is just 80% of the global average of 2.7 gha, China’s total Ecological Footprint is the largest in the world in view of its large population size. The per capita Ecological Footprint of the USA is 7.2 gha, ranking it 6th in the world; but its relatively small population gives the USA a total Ecological Footprint of 2.2 billion gha, lower than that of China (WWF).
China needs to find ‘innovative solutions to reduce its footprint’. The nation is already consuming 2.5 times its biocapacity, the capacity to regenerate natural resources and absorb carbon emissions. Carbon remains the largest component of China’s overall Ecological Footprint, increasing from 10 percent in 1961 to 54 percent in 2008. The report shows that rapid urbanization is having a big impact on China’s footprint, as urban areas are producing a much higher per capita footprints than rural areas. China can do more to move towards a green economy and proposes that the nation better define ecological redlines in specific areas, increase natural resource protection, and develop stronger policies that help improve biocapacity. China is at a turning point; the choices they make today regarding consumption and production will be determine the country’s future. Choosing a sustainable development path is essential to China’s ecological security and its people’s well-being, and because they are the second largest economy in the world it will have a critical influence on global sustainable development (Herald Tribune).
The manufacturing of animal products for human consumption (meat and dairy products) or for other human needs (leather), leads inevitably to the production of waste. Under traditional conditions, the quantities of products processed in a certain area used to be small and by-products were better utilized. This resulted in the production of smaller quantities of waste than at present. If the concentration of waste products increases, nature’s mechanisms become overburdened and pollution problems start to occur (NTDonChina).
China’s diet is the main reason why their ecological footprint isn’t topping the charts. China’s typical food dishes consist of, fried rice, jiaozi (filled dumplings, guotie), kung pao chicken, fried pancakes (including green onion pancakes), zongzi (rice balls, wrapped in leaves), peking duck, baozi (filled steamed buns),steamed fish,and tofu dishes. As you can see their is very little meat in their diet which is the underlying reason why they host a 2.1 gha (TWFP).
China has revealed its major vulnerability, that feeding its own people. Its a race to get to the top of global manufacturing has extracted the heavy cost of fouling its water, land and air so that it must look outside its boundries to keep its increasingle unsustainable growth on track. In a stunning piece, China’s predicament as a coal/water dilemma. In order to continue its manufacturing miracle unabated, China must rely on the use of coal, its number one energy source. Coal requires a massive use of water, both in mining and in burning. Coal industries and power stations use as much as 17% of China’s water (Daily Kos).
Concluding Italy is that the country has a high CO2 emission rate because of industry. The farmers of the country use pesticides that are not regulated by the government and therefore cause a large amount of runoff. This runoff contains chemicals that when introduced to rivers, streams, and the Mediterranean Sea are capable of killing aquatic fish, mammals, vegetation and other organisms. This causes a major problem for the Italian people because a large portion of their diet consists of seafood. The other major source of protein for the Italians is pork, but pork production has been excessive because of the influx of Muslim immigrants who do not consume pork because of Sharia law.
Afghanistan is a low ranking country in regards to CO2 emissions. While this is good for the environment the reasons for the lack of emissions is not. War, poverty and a lack of industrialization have prevented the Afghani people from growing food or producing products to keep up their economy. Like in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan lacks in consumption of pork because of the Sharia law that governs Islam. The majority of the population is Muslim and tends to consume sheep and lamb more than most other meats. Lamb is the worst meat for CO2 emissions but this is usually because of processing. Afghanistan lacks the resources to processes meat so many of the CO2 factors of lamb and sheep are not applicable. The biggest reason that Afghanistan is having problems with food is that an Afghan farmer can make a lot more money by farming Opium than any other crop. This has caused a food shortage nation wide and as a landlocked country there is little that can be done to fix this other than to ship in recourses. Overall the low emissions are not entirely worth the poverty and corruptness of the people who work in Afghanistan.
Its not China’s eating habits that make their total ecological footprint 2.9 billion gha, it is caused mainly from its carbon emissions. China makes up for 23% of the worlds carbon emissions, unlike Afghanistan. Their CO2 emissions has increased severely, from 10% in 1961 to 54% in 2008. This has increased mainly because of food production and their heavy use of coal. Their use of coal has lead to extreme water pollution, coal requires a large amount of water in mining and burning and this eventually lead to about half of China’s rivers to dry up since 1990. China’s food production has caused many detremental effects to the environment and its only getting worse. China needs to most attention because they have the largest total footprint. If this research study was conducted in the 1980′s, it wouldn’t be a research study in the first place. China needs to find strategies to eliminate their exessive CO2 emissions and use of coal as an energy source. China is the second largest economy in the world, it will have a critical influence on global sustainable development, which is why the need to make a change.
In conclusion, all of the countries we researched do have negative effects on the environment,whether it might be CO2 emissions, waste in food production, or excessive opium manufacturing. The point is that not every country has the same environmental issue and that many factors could contribute to an ecological footprint. As a whole, we are not living within sustainable means and we need to change this for the future of our world. As corney as this may sound it is true, we need to be aware of detremental environmental effects so they can be reduced.
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