China’s Changing Diet: Environment and Health Impacts

In Part 1 of the China’s Changing Diet blog series, we provided an overview of the recent shifts in how Chinese citizens eat and live as a result of economic growth, urbanization and food availability. In the following section, we will discuss the local and global impacts of these shifts and how Chinese health experts have addressed these through the newly-revised Chinese Dietary Guidelines.

Diet changes have lasting impacts on health and the environment locally and globally

In China, the incidence of obesity and its related complications have increased rapidly alongside dietary changes. The overall prevalence of overweight and obesity among Chinese people was increased by 38.6% and 80.6% respectively during the period of 1992-2002.[i] In 2012, 30.1% of adults were overweight and 11.9% were obese. 9.6% of youth were overweight and 6.4% were obese.[ii] Taking into account the sheer size of China’s population, over one fifth of all one billion obese people in the world now come from China.[iii]

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Move Over Ag, We Need a Secretary of Food

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff addressed President-elect Obama’s soon-to-be-made choice for Secretary of Agriculture, asking whether or not a “U.S. Department of Food” would better reflect the change our country needs to see realized in our food policy. 

Kristoff notes that “a Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming.  But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers.  In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.”  As such, what we need now “is actually a bold reformer in a position renamed ‘secretary of food.'”

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Obama’s Picks for Energy and Environment Posts

The Obama Administration’s team to lead the Environmental Protections Agency and Department of Energy appears to be in place.  Officials close to the Obama transition team announced that Lisa Jackson, the former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and current Chief of Staff for NJ Governor Jon Corzine, is expected to be named to the EPA’s top position in the coming weeks.  Jackson, who spent 13 years at EPA, would be the first African American to serve as EPA Administrator. 

Nobel Laureate Steven Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who won a Nobel Prize for physics in 1997, is in line to be nominated as Obama’s Energy Secretary.  As noted by the New York Times, Dr. Chu will play a central role in directing the research and development of alternative energy sources needed to replace fossil fuels in a era of constrained carbon emissions.   A proponent for controlling greenhouse gas emission, Chu’s research has included work on biofuels and solar energy.

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Happy 25th Anniversary, Chesapeake Bay

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. In the two and half decades since the landmark Bay action agenda was agreed to, Maryland’s watershed clean up initiative has received mixed reviews on its success. As the Washington Post noted, “Despite a quarter-century of work, the bay’s biggest problem — pollution-driven “dead zones,” where fish and crabs can’t breathe — has not significantly improved.” Yet there are important environmental improvement initiatives on the way.

The Post’s editorial page yesterday hailed Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s efforts to protect the Chesapeake by limiting further development along the Maryland shoreline and enacting new measures limiting agriculture runoff from chicken farms, the leading source of harmful nitrogen and phosphorous found in the Bay.

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