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How Sustainable Is A Primal/Paleo Lifestyle? - New Series

Posted Jul 20 2009 10:00pm

manhattan 300x225 How Sustainable Is A Primal/Paleo Lifestyle?   New Series
Can we feed all of these people healthfully without destroying the world that supports us?

Over the next several weeks, Mike and I are going to be discussing something that came up in a conversation we were having. Basically, we’re going to be taking on the Primal/Paleo lifestyle from several angles, looking at sustainability. We think this is kind of a “million dollar question,” if you will. We live on a world with limited resources and a vast population, so coming up with ways for everyone to be truly healthy, while also not outstripping the land and sea, is incredibly important.

Off the top of my head, the areas we’ll be looking are:

  • How to make our meat and egg consumption sustainable
  • How sustainable is our fruit and vegetable consumption?
  • Dealing with waste products
  • The Primal lifestyle and Healthcare sustainability
  • Eating Primal while eating cheap
  • One final philosophical question

Of course, we’ll add anything else that comes to mind as it fits. If there are other areas that you think should be tackled, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Why Are We Even Discussing This?

There’s a very simple answer to that. Most of us here realize that in some capacity, a primal-style diet is what works best for our bodies. That means unprocessed foods like meat, eggs, seafood, fruit, vegetables, etc. It means little in the way of grains, especially the gluten grains. It means eating as close to natural as possible. It also means that animal products are a necessity in some capacity, whether one sticks to eggs and dairy (ovolacto-vegetarian), fish (pescatarian), or includes red meat and poultry.

Looking At Population Density

A major component of what it’s possible for us to do with our diets on the whole is exactly how many people we have to feed. So let’s look at some numbers:

Population Density of The World, The United States, and The Paleolithic Era

Population~570-600 Thousand307 Million6.7 Billion
Land Mass148,940,000,826,630,940,000
Pop. Density~0.004/

* I’m using the best data I can find on the Paleolithic era and applying some simple math to come up with total world population. I’m not 100% sure on that population density for the Paleolithic era, but it’s a decent starting point. Even if the actual numbers are a factor of 10 or 100 higher than what I’ve come up with, you can see that we’re dealing with vastly different worlds.

Of course, that’s all somewhat misleading because we’re averaging extremely highly populated places like Tokyo, New York City, and Mexico City over not so highly populated places like Wyoming and Alaska. For instance, the population density of New York City is 2181.6 people per square mile. On the other hand, the state of Wyoming has a density of 5.4 per square mile. For a city like NYC, that kind of density obviously affects the ability for everyone to eat both primally and locally.

As an aside, the discussion will be based largely around the United States for several reasons:

  • We consume the most animal protein.
  • We have the most abundant data to play with.

What This Discussion Isn’t

This isn’t going to be a discussion all about “going green” or limiting our toilet paper usage. Most “green” solutions are what I like to call “yuppie green,” mostly the illusion of being environmentally friendly while not actually doing much of anything. It’s not a discussion of global warming or greenhouse gases or any other such popular “green” topics, though I can’t promise they won’t surface if they fit.

That’s not to say there aren’t some valid ideas out there about sustainability and being environmentally-friendly, but most are half-hearted attempts to appear environmentally-friendly, rather than actually being something people are committed to.

Before we can lay down the ground rules of a Primal Revolution for everyone, Mike and I think it’s important for us all to figure out where we currently stand. So we’re going to attempt to “separate the wheat from the chaff” (guess that’s a poor cliche to use in this context, eh?) and find real ways to make the Primal lifestyle sustainable.

Something Else It’s Not

I can promise you that we’re also not going to recommend the impossible, a return to hunter-gatherer ways. Frankly, I enjoy that once I hit Publish on this post, I could run to the airport and be in Australia or Thailand or Brazil in a relatively short period of time, a journey that would take me most of my life without the fruits of civilization. Therefore, it’s a look at a) respecting our genetic code, b) respecting the world around us, and c) enjoying everything we have available at our disposal.

happy cows are healthy cows 300x225 How Sustainable Is A Primal/Paleo Lifestyle?   New Series
You talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here.

Next Week: Meat Consumption and Sustainability

Studies have come out recently that show that limiting meat consumption is a key for reducing the amount of land needed to support each person. On the one hand, I don’t think any of us want to promote a lifestyle that is necessarily impossible for a majority of the world’s population to use. But on the other hand, we all want to eat as close to natural as possible for our health. How can we reconcile these differing values?

Next week will be the big first installment of the series tackling this issue. We’ll be looking at several key questions:

  • How much meat can the world’s available land produce?
  • How much meat is necessary for a Primal lifestyle?
  • Can we support ourselves Primally given the two above numbers (and some simple math)?

What other topics would you like to see addressed? Do you have any particular expertise in animal or produce production that would help us pull this data together?

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