What will you put on your new MyPlate?
You’ve probably heard by now: the Food Pyramid guidelines have been replaced with new ones in the form of MyPlate. Last week the USDA served up a new graphic icon to emphasize the importance of healthy eating and portion control in the American diet. The plate is divided into four sections, with vegetables and fruits occupying half of the plate and proteins and grains on the other – dairy on the side. The USDA hopes their MyPlate concept provides Americans with a more user-friendly guide to determining appropriate proportions and balanced meals.
The new dietary guidelines, which were actually released in January, include suggestions to reduce the intake of salt and saturated fats while limiting calories and portion sizes. And no surprise here: the new guidelines stress the need to include more fruits and vegetables on our plates. But there’s more than one good reason to consider moving to a diet heavier on the produce. A recent report released by the United Nations found that the rate at which other cultures are adopting the typical Western diet -- heavy on both meat and dairy -- is flat out unsustainable. Other findings indicate that this type of diet is one of the largest contributors to fossil fuel consumption, and that vegan diets will be necessary to feed a global population that’s predicted to surge to 9.1 billion by 2050.
One way to make sure your MyPlate is balanced with goodness is to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies – this is the ideal time to hit your local farmers market! Neighborhood farmers markets provide a perfect setting to get your kids involved in choosing healthy options and learn a little more about where their food comes from. And it’s easier than ever to find these local sources because farmers markets are still on the rise! Another option to help you score the freshest, most local and sustainably produced edibles are food cooperatives – test your knowledge about food co-ops with our latest Green Quiz.
Learn how you can help spread the word about the importance of local food and farms by visiting EarthShare member charity American Farmland Trust online today. And don’t forget to cast your vote for your favorite market in their annual Farmers Market Contest!
What’s up with the wild weather?
When we take a step back and consider all of the extreme weather events the world has seen in the past year it can get very disturbing and overwhelming. From the relentless heat wave in Russia, flooding in Pakistan and Australia, the Japan tsunami, and, most recently, a wave of devastating floods and tornadoes in the U.S., many are asking more questions about the potential link between extreme weather events and increasing global temperatures.
The fact is that as the environment changes, the factors that breed weather and storms change, too. Higher temperatures increase the water-holding potential of the atmosphere, making more water vapor and moisture available for mega storms. Conversely, in a drought, higher temperatures translate into even more intense droughts and heat waves. While natural weather variables such as El Nino and La Nina contribute to the shifts in ocean surface temperatures that affect atmospheric moisture levels, combining those natural weather variables with the effects of global warming increases the potential for larger storms. For more info, studies and specific findings, check out the Environmental Defense Fund’s online guide to extreme weather and global warming.
Remember those brutal winters of the last few years? If you’re one of many who don’t quite understand how climate change and global warming could increase the intensity of our winters, check out this video from Climate Scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt of the National Wildlife Federation. And our summers? Well, according to a forthcoming paper from Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, they could be getting hotter. In fact, they predict that many parts of the earth face "the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat."
Things get a little trickier when it comes to tornadoes. While more moisture in the atmosphere may encourage tornadoes to form, wind shear -- another necessary component in forming tornadoes -- may actually decline from the effects of climate change. Some scientists expect that by the end of the century the added water vapor from climate change will overcome wind shear, but create even more opportunities for thunderstorms.
The jury is still out on just how much our weather patterns and events will be impacted by rising temperatures down the road. Scientists agree that more moisture and more heat lead to more extremes, but some feel that additional hard evidence is needed to get all the answers.
Still, with more extremes headed our way and with 42 million people already displaced from 2010 natural disasters alone, it’s not going to hurt to take a hard look at what our society can do to curb the effects of rising temperatures and climate change. Check out our roundup of resources in Too Late to Change? and Take Action climate change guides, and get involved.
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