Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Year of the Bean

The Year of the Bean
Beans are our legacy. They could also be our ticket to surviving the 21st century.


Reprinted from The Aquarian, Spring 2016.

The UN has named 2016 the “International Year of Pulses.” No, they're not talking about that throbbing vein in our necks. Put more simply, this is The Year of the Bean. And it's about time.

Beans, lentils, legumes, pulses – call these protein-rich, pod-enclosed seeds whatever you like – are our legacy. Most of us come from cultures where cheap beans, not costly meats, were – and in some cases still are – a staple protein. But most of us have strayed from that traditional cuisine. We have abandoned the rich variety of leguminous flavours, shapes and colours for the flashy cheap date of factory-farmed meat, milk, cheese and eggs.

We need to do a one-eighty. Why? Because it's 2016.

Beans and other pulses, together with their partner in cheap, plant-based protein, cereal grains, are the greenest, most sustainable way to feed the world.

In a report several years ago, the United Nations Environmental Programme cautioned that as we hurtle toward a collision between mounting overpopulation, diminishing agricultural capacity and accelerating climate change, “a substantial reduction of impacts [will] only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Last year, the nutritional scientists tasked with advising the U.S. government on its Dietary Guidelines for Americans (commonly known as the Food Pyramid or MyPlate) wrote to the decisionmakers in Washington:

A dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet. The U.S. population should be encouraged to move towards the dietary pattern noted above while decreasing overall total calories.”

So when the UN dedicates a year to the bean, it's not just pumping a commodity.