So Harvard has published a save-the-world diet. Or maybe it was Yale, perhaps Oxford? But it doesn't matter who came up with it. There are bigger zucchini to fry than mere ascription. Let's just call it, snappily, the August-University Save-the-world Diet and go on to discuss it.

The August-University Save-the-world Diet is the one we all need to adopt or else. If we fail to, that will be it for the planet as we know it and everyone aboard her. Down the cosmic gurgler we will go with no one to hear us scream.

The details of the diet are - but both you and I know what the details are without being told. Because we have been told. We've been told for decades. It'll be pulses and nuts. It will be grains and fruit. It will be green stuff drenched in the oil of the olive, though if we are terribly good children and swallow the plants that are good for us, we may, as a concession to our carnivorous lust, get a hebdomadal fillet of herring, or even, praise the lord and beware the tsunami of anticipatory saliva, a once-in-a-blue-moon sliver of steak. But that will be that.

The first thing about it is that it will be good for us. It will free us from our fat. Instead of lumbering and gasping, knees ruined, diabetes lurking, unfit to cope with anything but paved and horizontal surfaces with hand rails, we will blossom into wellness. Within months we shall be skinny as whippets and lithe as whips, kinetic creatures who can shimmy through cracks, our former clothes just begging to be held up for the camera and wondered and chuckled at, to be turned into curtains, sails for sail boats.


And not only will the save-the-world diet slim us down it will also stretch us out. For all the things that kill us will shrink whimpering back into the shadows. The strain on our hearts will be eased and the reinvigorated pump will push the bright red life through our pipes with the vigour of a Victorian beam engine. And those pipes will be reamed like the sewers of London and the clogging fat balls will be swept to colonic oblivion. Meanwhile all the carnivore cancers, the ham-and-bacon tumours, the sausage sarcomas, will be banished, never to multiply again in the brightly scrubbed temples that our bodies shall become. So our lives will stretch out wiry and healthy into a future so remote it will seem miraculous. Centenarians will be as common as mice. Double centenarians will arrive, wrinkled like scrotums but still pedalling mountain bikes. The zero button on the calculator will be our friend.

And not only will the save-the-world diet save us, it will also save the ones we are programmed by evolution to love most, our darling offspring, bearers of our beloved genes, our vehicles of cellular immortality.

For as the human population of the planet swells it would be both immoral and impossible to feed them meat. Immoral for reasons of pollution. Impossible because there isn't enough land. A meat diet will condemn millions to death by sea-level rise, to death by heatwave, death by war for resources, death by famine, death by never having the chance to be born. Our buttered steak will kill both us and others.

There is no news in all this. We all know all about it already. And we could adopt the diet tomorrow. It would save us money and misery. It would save our children and their children.

Some have led the way already. If you are among them, turn the page. But I am not among them and neither shall I be. So it is fair to ask myself why not. Why have I not adopted the diet that makes such sense, that would confer such benefits on me and on others?

Is it perhaps habit? Is it also greed? Is reason weaker than appetite? Don't I want to live to be 100? Don't I care about the fate of the human species? Do I perhaps imagine that the earth is already suffering from a plague of people and finding a way to accommodate yet more is merely to postpone catastrophe, not to prevent it? Am I just eager to find excuses to eat bacon?

To which my answers are, after what I hope is honest self-appraisal lasting several scarifying seconds, respectively, yes, yes, yes but irrelevant, no, no, yes, yes.

And I have one more question. Has Harvard (or maybe Yale, or Oxford) adopted its own diet?


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