Insights · July 16th, 2007

What do Albert Einstein and Weird Al have in common, besides the first name?

I’ll give you a hint: Pythagoras (of geometrical fame) and Pamela Anderson (of bosomy fame) share the same trait.

Stumped? Here are a few more clues. Young women are most likely to be in this group, as are U.S. west-coast dwellers. People who do it are more physically active, and have smaller waists. And, these days, even the elderly are joining in: they’re vegetarians.

But what does this have to do with the future? A few surprising facts to impress your friends:

• In August 2006, the University of Chicago released a study indicating that the average American diet produces an extra ton and a half of greenhouse gases each year (compared to a vegan diet), including a hefty dose of methane from, well, cow farts. Plus, “manure lagoons” associated with pork production emit nitrous oxide. In fact, turning in your regular car for a hybrid car does less to reduce greenhouse gases than does turning in your regular diet for a vegan one. Tastier, too.

• Seniors – and there are going to be a whole lot of them pretty soon – are moving towards vegetarianism in growing numbers. Faced with weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and increased cancer risk, seniors are listening to the increasing scientific evidence on the benefits of plant-based foods. Plus, it turns out that lentil soup, tofu stir-fry, and ratatouille are all yummier than a daily Dixie cup full of pills. While the exact numbers are difficult to track, HealthFocus Inc. finds that shoppers over fifty are buying less red meat, and vegetarian organizations report that increasing percentages of their memberships are over fifty.

• Hungry? Thirsty? Help yourself to eleven pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water. That’s what it takes to produce one burger, according to The Global Warming Diet by Laura Stec and Eugene Cordero. There are a whole lot of hungry people in this world, as you know, and clean water shortages are a major crisis already (getting worse by the day). Now that’s a pretty good humanitarian rationale for having an avocado sandwich instead.

At just 1% to 3% of the population, true vegetarians are still pretty uncommon. And yet, there is a palpable mainstream movement away from meat. A few decades ago, a plate without meat in the middle of it was called a side dish. Today, even daily meat eaters are trying a meatless dinner one night a week. As the authors of that University of Chicago study remarked, “It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.”

Of course, there’s another way to help the environment with your diet. According to Japanese ice-cream manufacturer Lotte, ice cream reduces your body temperature so you don’t need as much energy-guzzling air-conditioning.

Pass the soy ice cream.

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World by John Robbins


Art & Society Environment & Energy Innovation
Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

Contact Nikolas