“What to eat?” It is the question on everyone’s minds at least three times a day — more depending on your appetite — and now a new short film, “What to Eat,” narrated by Jason Schwartzman (star of “Rushmore,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and the HBO series “Bored to Death”) and supported by top environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, Food and Water Watch, Brighter Green and Farm Sanctuary, aims to show how eating less meat can help lessen the environmental impact of factory farming.
By showing how our food choices have a more serious impact on our environment than the cars we drive, the light bulbs we use or the ways we recycle, the film makes the point that we can all take small steps for positive change.
The engaging film, produced by Greener Media, puts the viewer in the place of the main character — a relatable family guy voiced by Schwartzman — and follows him through a typical day, beginning with an early morning alarm and traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs, and ending with an epiphany and a surprise dinner that was not on the menu when he first woke up. Viewers tag along as the protagonist navigates his day — the morning commute, the office, lunch — eavesdropping on his often comical — always familiar — inner monologue as he grapples with the universal question of “what to eat.”
“The devastation inflicted on our environment by factory farms is something we all have the power to stop by doing something as simple as ordering a veggie burger instead of a meat one,” says Schwartzman. “Please join me in taking the pledge to go meat free for a day, a month or longer. It’s a lot easier than you think, and let’s be real, all burgers taste the same with ketchup.”
Side-stepping traditional documentary-style expert interviews, “What to Eat” instead allows viewers to “stumble upon” them naturally along with the narrator while he watches television, listens to the radio, and surfs the Internet at work. By the time the film ends — a swift four minutes and 30 seconds later — our narrator’s rejection of his usual food choices brought on by exposure to a constant stream of media coverage examining the harmful impacts of factory farming on the environment, personal health and animals feels genuine and inevitable.
“The power of ‘What to Eat’ is that it reflects the world we live in,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, who is heard giving a radio interview in the film. “What may seem like mundane decisions that we make every day have profound consequences. Mainstream media is devoting unprecedented attention to the devastation caused by factory farming and new studies are linking the Earth’s most serious environmental threats back to this wasteful and abusive system. By becoming more aware of the impacts of our food choices and eating in a way that is more aligned with our values and interests we are going to see a revolutionary shift.”
The film’s companion website, platetoplanet.org, provides a wealth of information about how factory farming pollutes our air and water, contributes to global warming, produces excess waste, destroys land, wastes water and is a resource-intensive, inefficient means of feeding the world’s population. The informative site also features interviews with experts from the Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, Food & Water Watch, Brighter Green, and Farm Sanctuary; a how-to guide for making plant-based food choices; and the opportunity for visitors to help protect the planet by pledging to go meat free for a day, a month or a lifetime.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global” as it wastes valuable natural resources, pollutes our air, decimates our forests, poisons our water supply, and produces greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change.
Says Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program, “We need to move to a whole different agricultural system, one that is more based on plant agriculture, as opposed to animal agriculture and one that is more community based, more locally based, more sustainable, more environmentally friendly and produces healthier food.”
Watch a promo for the film here.