The Fat of the Land: Linking American Food Overconsumption, Obesity, and Biodiversity Loss

Abstract

Americans’ excessive consumption of food harms their health and quality of life and also causes direct and indirect environmental degradation, through habitat loss and increased pollution from agricultural fertilizers and pesticides. We show here that reducing food consumption (and eating less meat) could improve Americans’ health and well-being while facilitating environmental benefits ranging from establishing new national parks and protected areas to allowing more earth-friendly farming and ranching techniques. We conclude by considering various public policy initiatives to lower per capita caloric intake and excessive meat consumption, and to translate this temperate behavior into substantial environmental protection.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank David Pimentel, Eric Widmaier, Barbara Mullin, Elizabeth Platt and Deborah Shulman for help in addressing specific topics discussed in this paper. They are also grateful to the three anonymous readers for the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, whose comments and criticisms have helped them tighten and amend their arguments.

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Correspondence to Philip J. Cafaro.

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Cafaro, P.J., Primack, R.B. & Zimdahl, R.L. The Fat of the Land: Linking American Food Overconsumption, Obesity, and Biodiversity Loss. J Agric Environ Ethics 19, 541–561 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-006-9008-7

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Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • consumption
  • environmental protection
  • food ethics
  • obesity
  • overconsumption
  • sustainability
  • temperance