In the part of the world where I live, environmental sustainability and healthy living are trendy. Many people talk about both, share stories on Facebook and Twitter about environmental crooks and heroes, exchange tips and recipes with quinoa, coconut sugar, acai berries and other exotic ingredients.
Environmentally, I feel guilty when I drive my diesel car and when I sometimes cheat with waste sorting, which, ideally, should result in eight different piles: paper, plastic, glass without deposit, bottles with deposit, batteries, used clothes, garden waste, and the rest. Also, my family flies around the world whenever we get the chance. In this respect, we are one family among many other “climate sinners”, and tons of fuel are burned every day. According to National Geographic, a US study in 2010 estimated that about 10,000 deaths occur per year due to flight pollution. It’s just that diesel is cheaper than gazoline, flying is faster than going by train, ship, or bus, and fierce price competition among airlines makes it temptingly cheap to fly. The likelihood that the number of flights will decrease, is small. Only in case of substantial price changes and/or oil shortage it might happen.
It’s a challenge to eat healthy today, and the recipes, I used before, apparently are no longer sufficient to provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Not even when I want to “sin” with a chocolate cake, can I use my old recipe: Instead, it needs to be a raw food cake, because oven cooking destroys nutrients and may even cause toxins! But what if old-fashioned chocolate cake tastes better? If you sin, you might as well do it properly, in my opinion.
The other day, I heard a communications expert being interviewed on the occasion of Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s anniversary. He was telling what Danish viewers typically complain about: A TV series, which had triggered a storm of complaints, were the Danish brothers Price’s food programs, because these food-loving brothers developed a motto “plenty of butter” for their cooking.
Butter is almost anathema by today’s health gurus, and any food writer with self-respect will replace butter in recipes with linseed oil or similar. The communication expert predicted this will change over time, and that butter someday might be hailed as healthy and indispensable. A liberating thought.
Of course, good nutrition is important for our health, and of course it is important to protect the environment, not least for the sake of future generations. Only, sometimes I feel a little burdened by today’s tyranny of health, and sometimes I could wish for more coherence in things. Like for instance, when everybody jolly well must eat Acai berries and Goji berries, both full of antioxidants, but transported to Europe from South America on extremely polluting cargo ships. In the Netherlands, where I live, lots of sea buckthorn, elderberries, and blackberries grow in the wild, but apparently, very few people go out to pick.
I think it is about having a realistic and pragmatic approach to what can be implemented in everyday life. As consumers most of us can act more sustainably, for example by biking or taking the bus and by using a washing line instead of a dryer. We can grow fruits and vegetables in our backyards (or even at busstops, if you embrace guerilla gardening). It’s organic and good exercise as well. Of course, not everyone has a backyard, but then at least, when shopping, we can pick the food which is grown locally and not transported halfway across the globe. This is a call and reminder to myself as well as to everyone else, because I’m far from an eco-saint!