P.rhyme was a diet, flexitarian, now a food and environmental philosophy. On the rise. The people who follow her are flexible vegetarians (from the crasis of the respective English terms flexible and vegetarian), but they could also be defined as conscious omnivores or ecocarnivores. They have decided to reduce the consumption of animal sources for the benefit of the planet, for an ethical choice.

    Red meat on the periphery of the diet is the first goal of flexitarians (photo Getty Images).

    Pope Francis has just spoken of the importance of sustainable nutrition in a letter addressed to the European Youth Conference: “In certain areas, it is appropriate to consume less meat: this too can help save the environment”. For the future of the world, he added him, it is not enough to deal with fossil fuels, we must reduce the superfluous. And the excesses at the table are.

    The need for an ecological change in the food system, advocated by the scientific community and the UN, has opened a front for reflection on the “right food”, in which the well-being of the individual cannot be imagined at the expense of the well-being of plants, animals and the environment. . There is no health without sustainability.

    Is the Flexitarian Diet a Mediterranean of origins?

    Flexitarians accept these demands but do not take drastic positions. Maybe they start by eating one lunch a week without meat or dairy, to gradually increase the number of meals without animal protein.

    We could say that theirs is the original Mediterranean diet, in which meat appeared on holidays or was used to flavor dishes. Basically, a diet with a plant base, moderate portions of fish and eggs and small amounts of meat and dairy products is adopted.

    But here are ten reasons to embrace a flexible vegetarian philosophy.

    1. Global warming

    In this scorching summer, he swears at global warming. The natural greenhouse effect is essential to life, but now the heat is becoming excessive due to the gases that we humans emitburning fossil fuels and turning forests into pastures and farms. The changing climate also depends on what we eat.

    The quantities of climate-changing gases produced by livestock, as a whole, are more or less equal to those of all transport, according to estimates by the FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

    And a large portion of the emissions come from methane, which is the waste product of ruminant digestion and which is a very powerful greenhouse gas..

    In general, beef, kid, veal and lamb have the greatest climate impact per gram of protein, while vegetables tend to have the least. Pork, many types of fish and poultry are in the middle, cheeses a little higher for carbon footprint.

    Plant-based protein sources, such as legumes, whole grains, and nuts are the most climate-friendly options.

    2. Health

    The foods with the greatest climatic impact coincide with those that are not the best for health, if consumed in excess.

    The scientific journal The Lancet published a sobering report: if the population of industrialized countries, compared to its standards, were able to double the consumption of vegetables by 2050 and halve those of sugars, refined flours and red and processed meats, global warming would slow down and at least 11.5 million premature deaths per year due to unhealthy eating habits would be avoided.

    The guidelines for a healthy Italian diet advise not to exceed the consumption of red meat once a week and white meat twice. Instead they suggest eat legumes at least three times.

    3. The fine powders

    Intensive farming, all of them, including chickens, are mainly responsible for the emission of ammonia, which derives from the fermentation of sewage, that mixture of water, urine and feces of animals. Ammonia in the air forms fine particles, PM 2.5, the very small particles capable of penetrating the lungs and entering the blood.

    The quantity of industrial farms has grown a lot in the Po Valleyhelping to make it one of the most polluted areas in the world.

    And Legambiente recalls that in the four regions of the Po-Veneto area there are more than 85 percent of all pigs and more than two thirds of all cattle reared in Italy: a density of animals that has few equals in Europe and that represents the equivalent by weight of 50 million human beingswell over double the resident population.

    4. The consumption of water and soil

    Intensive farming consumes soil, energy, water. And soil degradation (not only due to livestock) exacerbates a number of global problems, including drought, which Coldiretti says threatens more than 30 percent of Italian agricultural products.

    The Global Save the Soil Movement was bornsupported by the United Nations and the World Food Program.

    5. Forests destroyed

    Thousands of hectares of forests are destroyed to obtain areas intended for intensive farming and the cultivation of food that will become feed.

    Thus we lose pieces of the earth’s lungs and the oxygen that the woods could have released into the atmosphere, but what is perhaps even worse for global warming is that burnt trees emit a lot of carbon dioxide.

    6. “Spillover” risk

    Clearing for pastures and destroying natural habitats means leaving monkeys, rodents and bats homeless, reservoirs of viruseswho will approach human settlements to find the shelter and food they no longer have.

    Disrupting ecosystems is equivalent to paving highways on which the most dangerous germs run towards us. At least six out of ten new human infectious diseases in the past decades, from AIDS to Ebola, from MERS to the last, Covid-19, are viral zoonoses, caused by a germ that came from an animal with the so-called spillover, or the leap of species.

    7. Antibiotics

    More than 70 percent of all antibiotics used on the planet are believed to be used for animal husbandry, with the risk of increasing the spread of bacterial strains increasingly resistant to drugs among humans.

    Vegan and vegetarian diet without errors: the nutritionist's advice

    8. Animal welfare

    One cannot never think of the fact that the meat that is brought to the table comes from animals. Magazine Other consumption has dedicated a substantial investigation to poultry farms.

    We read impressive data: «Worldwide, 50 billion chickens are slaughtered every year. In Italy alone, the fifth largest producer in Europe, there are over 2,770 farms, almost all with over 5 thousand heads ».

    9. More organic farming

    If humanity were to orient itself on flexible diets, we would have an enormous amount of land available, currently occupied by livestock, directly and indirectly. And those lands could become fields for organic farming.

    Crops without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have lower yields than conventional ones, which is why it becomes necessary to use more soil to have the same amount of product.

    If it were decided to convert the whole world to extensive agriculture such as organic farming, millions of hectares would have to be made arable by taking them away from forests and grasslands, which at the moment is unsustainable. Unless, in fact, the soil currently used for herds is converted.

    10. A luxury for the few

    In a study that appeared on Nature in January 2021 we read that Red meat provides only 1 percent of the calories to the Earth’s population, but accounts for 25 percent of all emissions which derive from the use of the land, that is, from the cultivation of cereals, legumes or vegetables, from the pastures of the cows and the farmyards of the hens.

    “The food that will save us” by Eliana Liotta (The ship of Theseus)

    Therefore, a quarter of the greenhouse gases that rise into the atmosphere for agriculture and livestock derive from the production of a food that contributes to a very small share of the energy needs of the eight billion people who inhabit the planet. THEfood is like a frontier between destinies. Between those who have too much and those who have too little.

    Eliana Liotta (photo by Carlo Furgeri Gilbert).

    Eliana Liotta is a journalist, writer and science popularizer. On iodonna.it and on the main platforms (Spreaker, Spotify, Apple Podcast and Google Podcast) you will find his podcast series The good that I want.

    Receive news and updates
    on the latest
    beauty trends
    directly in your mail

    «The text draws many ideas from my book The food that will save us (La nave di Teseo), written in collaboration with the European Institute for the Economy and the Environment ».