We can eat ourselves and our planet healthier with wise food choices

Game Changers: System change from the top down will allow us to continue to eat happily for generations to come

We don’t have time for diet denial. We know the climate denial playbook thanks to the work of journalists and NGOs such as Greenpeace. Among the worst offenders were fossil fuel brothers Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers knew no one was going to believe billionaire oil barons who questioned climate science. So they funnelled millions into think tanks, community and trusted peer groups to tell people that climate change was more of a theory than a reality.

It worked like a charm. Journalists platformed the slickly-trained denial brigade while scientists warning us about the dangers struggled to be heard. The result has been a catastrophic delay in our response to an existential threat.

In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission report brought 37 scientists together to answer the question of whether we can feed a future population of 10 billion people within planetary boundaries. “The answer is yes, but it will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production and reducing food waste,” the report found.

Food production accounts for a third of global greenhouse gases. Livestock farming makes up 57 per cent of that. EAT-Lancet recommended a global diet that was low in meat and high in vegetables and fruits. It could be summed up with food writer Michael Pollan’s pithy advice: “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”


The meat industry swung into Koch mode. PR experts brought meat industry-funded scientists into media-training ready to rebut. The culture warriors went to war with a familiar set of talking points. Questioning a meat-heavy diet was an attack on individual freedom, the rights of struggling families and struggling farmers. The choice became binary between eating meat at every meal and becoming vegan. Big Meat vs Big Lentil. In all the noise it was easy to forget that the EAT-Lancet diet included meat, dairy, fish and eggs, just far smaller quantities of them.

We are encouraged to think of things as good or bad. A more useful question is to ask how something functions in the ecosystem. Factory farming is a wasteful and polluting way of producing protein. Regenerative agriculture can help to rebalance things. And food can be a fix. Recently the non-profit environmental group One Earth tried to cool the fiery debate. There were too many “specialised communities” with strident attitudes and stringent diets, they said. So they came up with the planetarian diet for the 95 per cent of people who are omnivores. With wise choices, we can eat ourselves and our planet healthier. And system change from the top down will mean we can continue to eat happily for generations to come.