Editor's Plate: We Forgot Earth Day!

May 15, 2020
Use the pandemic's end as a turning point.

In all the daily news over the coronacrisis, an important anniversary and milestone was largely overlooked last month. April 22 was the 50th Earth Day. As it passed quietly in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, two things struck me:

  • There were reports from around the globe that the worldwide slowdown in manufacturing and car travel was clearing the air above such smoggy spots as Beijing, Delhi and Los Angeles.
  • Some are looking upon the pandemic as a turning point, an opportunity to wipe some slates clean and start over with new thinking about business, people and life in general.

To that first bullet: I read in National Geographic that, even after decades of improvement, air pollution still kills more than 100,000 Americans every year. (Sure, it would be hard to confirm that number, but difficult to refute, too.) I don't want to live in a world without manufacturing or cars, but I don't want to leave to my grandchildren one in which they can't breathe.

To the second bullet: We've been writing a lot about plant-based proteins and analogue or even cultured meats. One of the biggest arguments proponents make is that they don't despoil the Earth—using up too many resources, taking up too much land, emitting methane gas.

One more point: "Our food system is broken," you've probably heard that one a lot lately. This time it came in an email to me from Cher Mereweather of the Provision Coalition Inc. "Globally we waste one-third of everything we produce and rely on a take-make-dispose system that damages soils, pollutes groundwater, contaminates air and fills up landfills, while billions of people go hungry every day," she wrote. Sounds a little harsh, yet probably accurate.

To tie up all these loose ends I've created: Maybe the end of this coronacrisis should serve as more than just a return to normalcy. A turning point after much reflection. Maybe we do need a "new normal" (much as I've despised that term till now). A world that has dialed down the pace just a bit to care about the condition of Mother Earth and all 7.8 billion people on it.

A lot of you food and beverage companies already are taking steps. But it's going to take more, and not just from you, but from me, too, and every one of us. A little less waste, a little more recycling, maybe not meat every day. We may not have faced Armageddon over the past two months, but it was a good scare. Time to get priorities in order.

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