According to a new study published recently in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, the majority of white Americans eat a diet that heavily feeds into climate change — no pun intended. As Popular Science details, in comparison to other major races and ethnic groups in the U.S., white Americans produce the most greenhouse gas emissions with their food habits.
What could white Americans possibly be eating that is so detrimental to the environment? Dairy.
White Americans consume a much larger quantity of dairy than black Americans, the study found. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are approximately 270 million dairy cows worldwide, with each one’s manure producing greenhouse gasses. “Poor handling of manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources,” WWF states. “And unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as prairies, wetlands, and forests.”
“Demographic [groups] affect the environment differently based on the food they eat,” said lead researcher Joe Bozeman, a doctoral student at the Institute of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This was the first time a scientific study proved this theory. “Data jumped out and said, ‘Okay, this is what’s happening right now,'” Bozeman said.
The hope, said Bozeman, is that their study leads to more sociological approaches to climate change research.
“There was a lot more interesting research and publications done in other countries,” Bozeman said. “For whatever reason, there seems to not be as many clear and practical studies done on how race, food, and climate change affected folks in the United States.”
The dream continues folks. Never did this Ph.D. student imagine @PopSci would publish an article on our climate change study on race and food! Check it out if you can (access link below). #PhDchat #Phdlife #UIC #Food #Energy #Water #climatechange #race https://t.co/s5hqGGbjyG— Joe Bozeman III (@JoeFrankbozeman) April 11, 2019
Bozeman and his team compiled data from existing studies to assess food-energy-water (FEW) impacts, those being land usage, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions of foods including apples, potatoes, dairy, and meat.
My diet is particularly bad for more than just the planet— Gretchen Lynn (@Bubola) April 12, 2019
They then figured out the consumption rates of these foods among white, black, and Latinx racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. To do so, they used the “What We Eat In America” chart from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The findings of this study also show that black Americans’ diets use the most land per person. And white Americans’ diets also use the most water.
Of course, this study has sparked controversy by those who claim the findings are “racist.” Um… they’re really not, but…
If no one else is going to say it, I’ll say it: that’s racist @PopSci.— Madison Finley (@Madandshaggy) April 12, 2019
However, just like the existence of climate change, society will most likely never agree on the facts. Anything can seemingly be labelled “fake news.”
You'r article, due to the blatant and constant bashing of "white people" throughout, just accomplished what you say the researchers do not want. Congratulations for further dividing the country. Singling out a single race for destroying the environment is the definition of racist pic.twitter.com/DjW7z6dTbR— Will Summer (@willlie_e) April 12, 2019
The one downfall about this study is that the findings encompass a very broad spectrum. Of course, not all white Americans are eating diets that contribute to climate change. And the general usage of “white, black, and Latinx” people leaves a lot of American citizens out of the equation.
Even so, the study definitely gives Americans something to think about. Perhaps giving up milk and cheese would be beneficial for our gut and the earth.
Cheese is our issue y'all.https://t.co/4i2pc2Fh99— 🌑⛈️Blooable⛈️🌑 (@Blooable) April 12, 2019
Honestly, this guy has a point. Shoot.
Welp. There it is.
Oh, shit, Jane.— susan gross (@pricklyeater) April 11, 2019
Let’s just tell it like it is.
White Americans are particularly bad for the planet.
It’s not just about our damn diet.
And, yeah, I’m a white American so I feel pretty fucking confident in this assessment.
If anything, this study should simply make us think more about our carbon footprint, despite our race or ethnicity. What can each of us do to lend a hand to slowing climate change?
Trying to wean ourselves off dairy and meat products is a great first step. Even just cutting down our weekly consumption can do a lot of good.
Sometimes scientific facts are hard to swallow. But the silver lining is that they inform us on how to be better humans.
Americans — yes, all of us — can do better.