Transforming Our Food System

From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director


A new report identifies the global food system as the main cause of habitat and biodiversity loss over the past 50 years. Its authors identify three strategies to reduce the threats to wildlife from food production: 1) shift toward plant-based diets to reduce demand for meat and dairy, 2) protect native ecosystems from being converted into agricultural land, and 3) adopt farming practices that support biodiversity.

The second two strategies are only possible if the first is achieved, since replacing livestock production with plant-based foods would use less land, water and energy. These are the same tactics that have underpinned the Center for Biological Diversity's Take Extinction Off Your Plate campaign for the past six years. Read on to learn more about our work to transform the food system and address unsustainable population growth and consumption.

Better Than a Box of Chocolates

Healthy relationships awareness event

Valentine's Day date night plans may have been disrupted by the pandemic, but that doesn't mean couples weren't getting wild. That's why instead of flowers or chocolates, Center volunteers gave away 10,000 Endangered Species Condoms this month. People distributed the condoms at socially distanced Valentine's Day celebrations, including this display in a residence hall at a Michigan university encouraging healthy relationships with partners and the planet. Have an idea for a socially distant condom giveaway? Email us.

Population fact

Confined chicken

Food Policies to Fight Climate Change

One way state governments can reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions is by requiring departments and agencies to buy fewer meat and dairy products and shift toward plant-rich options. Procurement policies can also address climate change by minimizing food waste and tracking food-related emissions. The Center is supporting a bill in Connecticut that would do just that.

We're also supporting legislation in Hawaii that would ban cruel confinement of egg-laying hens and the sale of eggs from cruelly confining facilities. Extreme confinement is not only inhumane — it also contributes to air pollution, water contamination, habitat degradation and climate change.

Here's one thing you can do: Share our policy guide with your local and state officials to encourage them to adopt climate-friendly food policies.

Hand heart

The Language of Love

According to the book The Five Love Languages, everyone prefers one of these ways of expressing love: quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service or receiving gifts. But despite the $27 billion Valentine's Day industry pushing us to shower loved ones with teddy bears, flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, receiving gifts is actually the least common love language — meaning this holiday consumerism is wasteful and unnecessary.

In an article for The New Republic, the Center's Population and Sustainability Organizer Sarah Baillie discusses how expressing love with gifts has become a problem for relationships and the environment, and how people can rethink gift-giving for future holidays.

Here's one thing you can do: Even though Valentine's Day is over, there are plenty of meaningful, eco-friendly ways you can show your loved ones you care throughout the year.

Webinar graphic

Webinar: Eat for the Climate

Food and nutrition professionals play a unique role in influencing what people eat, what's available on menus, and how we perceive healthy diets. The Planetary Health Collective is an emerging movement for these professionals to use their passion and skills to cultivate a fair, climate-resilient food system. The first step is helping these experts better understand the environmental side of the equation. Population and Sustainability Director Stephanie Feldstein presented at the collective's kick-off event "Eat for the Climate: The Food and Environment Connection" on how meat and dairy production affects wildlife and the planet, and how food and nutrition professionals can support diet shifts. Watch the recorded webinar.

Here's one thing you can do: Share the Planetary Health Collective with food and nutrition pros in your community or join the movement if you work in the field.


Ending the Global Gag Rule

As he promised, President Joe Biden quickly revoked the "global gag rule," which prevented international organizations from receiving U.S. funds if they provide, promote or support abortion services. While this is good news for global health and empowerment, unfortunately the gag rule will be back next time there's a Republican in office. The only way to stop this game of political football with reproductive rights is by passing the Global HER Act, legislation reintroduced this session to permanently repeal the gag rule.

Here's what you can do: Stay tuned for ways to support the Global HER Act. And learn more about why access to abortion is an important part of reproductive autonomy.


Study: Traffic Jams Birds' Brains

Songbirds around the world have adapted to more than their fair share of challenges, from reflective windows to predatory pets, and learned to thrive in cities. But new research found that despite these birds' resilience, traffic noises make it harder for them to think. When exposed to the sound of cars and trucks rattling by, birds took twice as long to learn new skills, like remembering where to find hidden food. This is something we have in common with birds — loud traffic noise has also been found to impair humans' ability to focus on tasks.

Here's one thing you can do: Tell California officials to shift the state's fleet to electric vehicles and require 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030. Electric vehicles help reduce noise pollution as well as the climate pollution that threatens songbirds.

American bumblebee

Wildlife Spotlight: American Bumblebee

The charismatic black-and-yellow bumblebee has long buzzed across America's grasslands and open spaces, helping sustain crops and ecosystems. But those open spaces are disappearing fast. As grasslands have been destroyed by urban sprawl and converted to pesticide-laden monocrops over the past 20 years, these powerful, fuzzy pollinators have suffered an 89% decline.

But there's still hope. The Center and the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students of Albany Law School petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect American bumblebees under the Endangered Species Act. You can help by urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the bumblebee before it's too late.

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Photo credits: Crops via Canva; Stephanie Feldstein staff photo; healthy relationships awareness event by Evelyn Herrmann; chicken by Preston Keres/USDA; hand heart by Saiph Muhammad/Unsplash; "Eat for the Climate" webinar graphic courtesy Planetary Health Alliance; protest by Michelle Ding/Unsplash; robin by Thomas Willmott/Unsplash; American bumblebee by Matthew Allen/iNaturalist.

Center for Biological Diversity
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Tucson, AZ 85702
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