Links: Our Food, Our Climate, and Biodiversity Loss

Links: Our Food, Our Climate, and Biodiversity Loss

Red wolf communities once populated the continent, from Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas in the west, to Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the east. Were they still here, they’d be naturally curbing the population of white-tailed deer. They are completely gone from our state, chased off by hunting and agribusiness.

Our age has been coined the Anthropocene. We have gone so far as to alter the climate that protects all living beings on Earth.

To make room for grazing, we buried huge swathes of prairie and forestlands. Why have we felt so free to blanket the great North American plains with chemically dependent monoculture crops and feedlots? Only because the interests of the wolves and coyotes, ferrets and foxes, cranes, owls and curlews posed no obstacles in our moral framework.

Today, are we different? No; we continue to displace indigenous beings for agribusiness interests.

Over the most recent three years, taxpayers have funded Wildlife Services killings of 188,670 coyotes, 74,630 beavers, 8,183 foxes, 2,108 bobcats, 1,267 black bears, 1,007 gray wolves, 784 cougars, and 12 endangered grizzly bears.

So this is another reason to divest from animal agribusiness. Not only is it a massive emitter of methane and a heavily carbon-driven food system, but it’s killing the free-living animals. Wolf kills are going on now – in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming – as wolves are reviled for eating into the profits of sheep farming.

Same story for the grass-fed beef cattle. Wolves and coyotes, free-roaming horses and burros, and many other untamed animals are targeted because ranchers don’t want them there. While grass-fed is promoted as an environmental benefit, in reality, all cattle are grass-fed. They start on pastures, then wind up at feedlots and are eventually trucked to slaughter.

Organic, biodynamic, regenerative, and now targeted grazing have been praised as the answer to soil health. On the African continent, cattle farming is being rebranded as sustainable. But all are systems in which massive amounts of water and feed are diverted to animals who are bred into existence only to be used and slaughtered. We do not have the water, forage, feed or grass to sustain this business. And cattle grazing is leading the threats to biodiversity.

Meanwhile, dairy cows are kept in intensive confinement and machine-milked. Dairy farmers are now using water sprayers and air conditioners (more electricity!) because milk production wanes as summer temperatures rise.

Intensive confinement for any animals becomes like a petri dish for diseases and viruses. Recently, bird flu has apparently jumped from intensive commercial bird farms to the Harbour seals of Quebec. For struggling species, there is a lot of collateral damage from animal agribusiness

Loops Upon Loops

Agribusiness, mostly grazing and feed production, is the key driver of deforestation. And then, human-driven climate disruption itself degrades still more forests. And degraded forests have a hard time absorbing CO2. Thus, more global heating.

We know the heating of this continent is causing strange disasters that take tolls on human lives. Are we paying attention to what it’s doing to the rest of the planet’s living communities?

Bark beetles thrive unnaturally in a warming West. They are free to eat up the pine bark, thwarting the growth of pine seeds that serve as food for endangered bears of the Yellowstone.

This is an example of the links between our food systems, climate, and extinctions. It’s somewhat hard to wrap our heads around these links, and it’s easy enough for most of us to pay no attention until climate crisis arrives at our own doorsteps. And yet, as with the famous effect of the butterflies flapping their wings, everything is connected. When any one ecosystem unravels, the entire biocommunity of a continent eventually suffers for it.

The best answers might not be easy, but they are simple.

We stop breeding cows into existence for consumer demand. We stop using land for feed crops for industrially confined, mechanized dairy animals.

Already, the livestock sector (meat and dairy production, grazing and feed crops) covers 27% of the Earth’s total land surface. That’s more than the Earth’s forested lands – which are rapidly being degraded and destroyed for animal agribusiness.

And if we divest ourselves from animal agribusiness, with its high carbon and methane emissions, its waste runoff, and its indifference to aware beings? This will help us shift to direct use of land to grow human food – as opposed to allocating it to the global feed markets that create economic dependencies and usurp far more planetary space than humanity needs.

And it will align our food system with the Quaker testimonies of simplicity and peace. Consider the radical approach to these testimonies taken by the well-known Quaker humanitarian Benjamin Lay. Preaching an anti-slavery message all the way from London to York in the north of England, Benjamin Lay walked. Why? Lay was protesting the oppression of both the stablehands and the horses. Lay refused to subjugate others in the human community – and beyond. Benjamin Lay would find plenty to protest today.

Lee H., Radnor Friends Climate Action Committee


Banner photo of red wolf pup: public domain (
Potluck and Fellowship Food: Preparing Easy, Low-Carbon, Animal-Free Foods to Share  

Potluck and Fellowship Food: Preparing Easy, Low-Carbon, Animal-Free Foods to Share  

Banner image - tiles spelling out plant-based"
Enjoy cooking? Eat “low on the food chain” and decrease emissions, land use, global deforestation and habitat loss.

On the level of personal impact, divestment from animal products has more climate-preserving power than divestment from fossil fuels. Planning a plant-based potluck or fellowship hour is as vital as reducing our annual mileage or easing our heating requirements. And we can enjoy every bite of the commitment! Here are a few recipes for friendship and gathering. Those without a specific credit are adapted from Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine (P. Feral & L. Hall, Nectar Bat Press, 2010).

Tapenade and Radishes on Baguette

This friendly hors d’oeuvre recipe was created by Mark Basile. The plate may be assembled a few hours ahead of time, and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.


1 baguette, cut into half-inch diagonal slices

2 bunches fresh radishes, thinly sliced

3/4 cup of pitted Kalamata olives

¼ cup of green, pitted Greek olives

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Fresh chives, snipped with scissors into pieces an eighth of an inch long

Salt and ground pepper

Place all olives into a food processor and mix into a rich paste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Cut baguette slices in ovals, 2 to 3 inches long. Spread a thin layer of tapenade on bread pieces.

Thinly slice the radishes. Place them on top of the tapenade and press lightly to hold in place. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and top with a sprinkle of snipped chives. Serve chilled.

Black Bean Soup

This high-protein dish serves 12.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups diced carrot

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced celery

1 tablespoon each of minced garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.

10 cups vegetable broth

1 can diced tomato

1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium soy sauce

6 cups cooked black beans

½ cup chopped parsley

Heat oil in an extra-large soup pot. Sauté the diced vegetables lightly, then add everything but the parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add the parsley and additional salt and pepper if desired.

Yellow Split Pea Soup

Made with mild yellow split peas, this dish serves 12.

Ingredients 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

6 stalks each of celery and carrots, diced

3 cups washed, dried yellow split peas

3 potatoes, chopped in bite-sized chunks.

12 cups vegetable broth

2 teaspoons curry powder; 1 bay leaf; 2 teaspoons thyme; ground pepper; salt.

Sauté onion, celery and carrots in olive oil for several minutes in soup pot. Add the dry split peas, vegetable broth, curry powder, bay leaf, thyme, potato, salt, and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for one hour, or longer until the peas are soft.

Lentil Soup

The lentil is second only to the soybean in protein content, and can be grown by small farmers all over the world, including very dry areas. It’s the perfect food. This soup serves 8.


3 cups dry lentils, rinsed

12 cups salted cold water

4 cups each: large, chopped carrots and celery

medium, chopped onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cups canned tomatoes

Cook lentils in water for 45 minutes, partially covered. Add vegetables and oil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir often. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chickpea Curry in a Hurry

This one comes courtesy of LouAnne McDonald, a Friend in Connecticut. It is adapted from a Lorna Sass recipe.

1 cup brown or brown basmati rice

2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles;

2 cans (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well in colander

2 tablespoons minced garlic

4 teaspoons curry powder

2/3 cup unsweetened, dried grated coconut

16 oz baby spinach

Start cooking the rice ahead of time—it takes a lot longer than the rest of the recipe.  The amount of water added should be double the amount of rice.  We use a stainless steel rice cooker.

In a large saucepan, combine the next five ingredients.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and add the spinach in batches.  At first it will seem like too much spinach, but the spinach shrinks down as it cooks.  (Throw the spinach in straight from the bag; it doesn’t need to be chopped.)  Cover and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve the curry over the rice.  (For potlucks, you might add the cooked rice to the curry and stir well.)

Makes 6-8 servings.

Chocolate Layer Cake

This delightful dessert also comes courtesy of LouAnne McDonald. It is based on a recipe from Health Coach Mary Lawrence, founder of Well on Wheels, LLC.

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup vegan sugar (all organic sugar is vegan) or Sucanat

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Also need plastic wrap.

Liquid Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla soy milk

1 cup water

¼ cup canola oil

6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) raspberry seedless all-fruit jam

¾ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


2 cups firm silken tofu (1 1/3 pkg)

2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

6 tablespoons maple syrup (3/8 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (one 12 oz bag)

5/8 cup raspberry seedless all-fruit jam

Raspberries for garnish (or slivered almonds)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Sift flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. In a blender, pour soy milk, water, canola oil, jam, maple syrup, vanilla and almond extracts, and vinegar. Blend on high speed for 1 minute, until smooth. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into prepared cake pans a bake 20-25 minutes.  The sides of the cake will pull away from the pan and the surface will spring back when pressed lightly. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out cake onto a wire rack and cool. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and freeze 30 minutes.

For the icing: In a blender, mix tofu, flour, maple syrup and vanilla; if you have a Vitamix or other powerful blender, don’t overdo it! Transfer mixture to saucepan and add chocolate chips. Warm over very low heat (“simmer”), stirring often until chips have melted and blended completely. Refrigerate for several hours. To assemble: spread each top with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Frost the cake with the icing, and garnish with raspberries piled in the center.

Warm & Welcoming Apple Sauce Cake

This is easy to make and comes out great every time.


½ cup safflower oil

1 cup organic sugar

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup raisins

1 cup hot apple sauce without sugar

A handful of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Mix the oil and sugar. Combine the spices and raisins with flour and spoon this into the oil/sugar mix, alternating with hot applesauce. Cream until smooth.

Pour into greased and floured 6-by-10-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.

Shopping at Giant Food?

First, the fellowship staples…

Coffees, Teas, Creamers, Sweeteners, and Butters

Most any fair-trade coffee or tea is vegan-friendly as well as socially responsible. Good coffee creamers that blend smoothly into your coffee are available. Check the (non)dairy case at Giant. Examples are Califia Farms Almond Milk Creamer Vanilla and Silk Oat Yeah, in vanilla or oatmeal cookie style. (You’ve likely heard about the severe water shortage in California. Oat may be preferred to almonds in terms of water use.)

For best blending with coffee, pick a plant-based creamer rather than a plant-based beverage or milk. Plant “milks” and nut “beverages” are great—but intended for breakfast cereal and to use as milk for baking.

A good, pollinator-friendly replacement for honey is stevia or agave nectar. Either is great for coffee or tea. Organic sugar is also vegan.

Need some good vegan butter for the table? Giant has some nice ones. Try Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter. It’s a gourmet offering made by a small but renowned woman-owned company in California. It’s preservative-free and perishable, so refrigerate promptly after the gathering.

Vegan Crackers and Cookies at Giant

Nature’s Promise Organic Clubhouse Crackers are vegan. Giant’s Clubhouse Crackers are vegan. Mary’s Gone Crackers is a popular vegan brand. Most rice crackers and some of the wovenwheat, organic, or grain-free styles are vegan. Usually they will say “vegan” somewhere on the package. Look out for butter, cheese, milk, or whey in the ingredients list. Those are all dairy (not plant-based) ingredients.

Partake Foods is allergen-free and one of today’s rising Black-owned business. The company has cookies in many grocery stores now.

What About Cheese?

Ask a staffer to point to the vegan cheese aisle. At Giant, a good sliced vegan cheese is Chao, by Field Roast. Great for finger sandwiches or cut into squares for crackers. Violife is also very good. There are many other kinds, but these two are standouts for taste and consistency.

Giant’s Vegan Recipes

Check out Giant Foods’ All About Eating Vegan page. It has a nice summary of why people eat vegan, and includes several attractive, illustrated recipes:

RECIPE: Pumpkin-Lentil Stew • RECIPE: Kale-Quinoa Salad with Edamame • RECIPE: Spicy Air Fryer Crispy Tofu Bowl • RECIPE: Vegan Chocolate Tart • RECIPE: Spanish-Style Stewed Spinach and Chickpeas

How Are Eggs Replaced in Recipes?

If you have a recipe that calls for eggs, the easiest substitute is Ener-G Egg Replacer. Walmart has it. The directions are easy (mix with water). You can keep it in your cupboard or your fridge for many months. It’s basically just a tapioca flour.

If you prefer to shop at Target, look for Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, in-store or online. For just 4 dollars, you get the equivalent of 34 eggs for baking. Bob’s Red Mill is an employee-owned company. (Giant’s liquid “egg substitute” is made of eggs, so it’s not vegan.)

Eggs really have a big carbon impact, as chicken operations are tied into the global feed market, which is transportation-intensive, and uses extensive land, not to mention water—all for feed crops rather than direct human food. These factors make animal agribusiness energy-costly and emissions-heavy, even when the animals involved are not ruminants.

Fair Trade + Vegan: Making the Connections

Mindful shopping helps support producers who care about poverty alleviation, gender equity, rights of children, and worker safety. Fair trade matters—especially when shopping for cocoa and chocolate, coffee, and tea. Vegan offerings bring the interests of other conscious beings into the picture. As we seek to protect the environment, we’re mindful of the animals who inhabit it. As we question the use of harmful chemicals, we address the emissions of methane, waste runoff, and other dangerous effects of animal agribusiness. Vegan offerings complement mindful fair-trade standards.

Bon Appétit!

You might also be interested in… how electric cars fit in with a personal commitment to Earth care.

Photo credit: Fuzzy Rescue, via Pexels.