28 March 2013

Hungry Planet - Greenland

The Madsen family (Inuit), living in Cap Hope, Greenland, and their one week worth of food (from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio).

Their PICTURE is here.

This family's diet contains (8.9kg of food per person, per week):
  • 21% starches (bread, muesli, pasta, rice, etc.)
  •   9% sweet foods (chocolate, sugar, cookies, etc.)
  •   1% dairy (butter)
  • 64% meat fish, eggs (seal, ox, geese, polar bear, meat balls, etc.)
  •   2% fruits
  •   3% vegetables
Beverages (6.2 litres per person, per week):
  • 65% milk (more than half litre of milk per person per day)
  • 35% juices and soft drinks, no alcohol is consumed (one glass of these drinks per person, per day)
More than half of this family's diet is meat, fat, fish and eggs, yet they do not seem to display the symptoms of chronic diseases. Though their diet includes processed starches shipped from Denmark, but the biggest part of this diet is from animals they hunt.

If we compare the original Inuit diet to this modern diet, we get even a higher percentage of meat, fat and fish, their staple food was animal food. If this population could survive on such diet for thousands of years in a harsh climate, then, by definition, they were eating a healthy diet. This does not mean that everybody should eat like them, it simply means that the fat content of a diet has very little to do with chronic diseases.

The claim that they are genetically protected from obesity, diabetes and heart disease, does not really make sense either, as they started to developed these conditions once refined carbohydrates and sugar became part of their traditional diet. A diet higher in carbohydrates, is obviously lower in fat. So moving to a diet lower in fat (considered healthy and protective from chronic diseases by today's standards) caused them to become more vulnerable to chronic diseases. The culprit again must be something else than fat.

You can read more about the relationship of diet and diseases among the Inuit:

Diseases of Civilization - The Inuit
Weston Price: Isolated and modernized Eskimos

On the picture you can see (left to right):
  • Emil (father), 40 years old. His favorite food is polar bear. He is a hunter.
  • Erika (mother), 26. She was 14 when she gave birth to her first son. Her favorite food is narwhal skin.
  • Martin, 9. His favorite food is Danish food.
  • Belissa, 6. Favorite food: Greenlandic food.
  • Abraham, 12. His favorite food is Greenlandic food.

Facts about Greenland (it belongs to Denmark) from the book:
  • Population of Cap Hope village: 10. Yes, 10 people living in that village. Emil and Erika were born there.
  • Population of Greenland: 56,384
  • Native Inuit population: 88%
  • Population density: 0.1 per square mile
  • Life expectancy: male 67 years, female 70 years
  • Average number of days per year that temperature is below freezing: 279
  • Obese population: male 16%, female 22%
  • Population age 35 and older with diabetes: 10%
  • Sugar consumption per person per year: 37 kg
  • Alcohol consumption  per person per year: 12 litres
  • Meat consumption per person per year: 113 kg
  • Population that eats seal 4 times a week: 20%
  • McDonald's restaurants: zero.

For the green community who care about the planet, I know that hunting is not the best way to protect animals. But we have to see the big picture:

Animal fat is a very important nutrient in cold climates. Vegetarians and vegans feel cold easier than people who eat meat. 

If fat is important, then can we ship them coconuts and avocados? I think that it would be harmful to the planet to ship these food items to all the people living in cold climates. How much fuel would this senseless transportation consume? We would have to clear even more land to grow these trees. 

I was mistaken about the fact that in order to protect our planet, we need to be all vegetarians. I think we need to eat local, whatever people are adapted to. Like my grandparents (they were living a greener life than anybody in the civilized world): they ate anything they had: animals, fruits, vegetables, grains. They consumed every part of the animal and nothing went to waste. Leftovers and peels were given to feed the animals or added to the compost, everything was recycled. Not like today's industrial farming, where we eat certain parts of these animals, their food (corn, soy) is grown on cleared lands, and leftovers end up in plastic bags.

I do not say that we all need to live on a farm. I just mean that we need to be more careful about our waste and our food choices if our goal is to make this planet a better place for our children.


  1. thanks for share...

  2. I agree.
    I go to the grocery store by bike once a week and I try to buy just what I really need for that week. I don't waste food which is good for the planet and also for my pocket!