The only anti-paleo argument I can think of.

by Paleo Rob on 24/09/2010

Warning: This is less about paleo diet and more on paleo philosophy. Skip it if this does not interest you!

The paleo diet has worked wonders for me. I am so glad I found it at a relatively young age, and I really am grateful to the great community which helped me get here.

I am a man of science. When I am not acting like a caveman, I actually design/construct/manage mine sites as an engineer. Naturally, my mind is very logic oriented. With my work, I consider every permutation of a situation or idea that I can think of and hopefully come out to a conclusion which satisfies me. In time, if new information comes to light, I adjust my conclusion accordingly. This is how I work.

When I found the paleo diet, it made sense. I thought about it and considered all the philosophy and science behind it, and I couldn’t fault the logic. It worked. It was great. But halfway through I found myself with this nagging feeling that I didn’t want to accept. I pushed it to the back of my mind, until recently when I saw a question (“What are some arguments against the paleo diet?”) that opened the floodgates and made me sit-down and write this post.

The paleo diet is unsustainable on a global scale.

When we look at the past century we have seen a major population explosion. With this explosion, comes the requirement for food to support all these people. The only food which is able to be mass produced for worldwide consumption and provides the most energy per gram are the grain based carbohydrates. Here in lies the problem, the availability of genetically modified grains that are able to grow in any season gave us the capacity to grow, however it has now locked us in to using them, or suffer mass starvation.

The world must eat grains or face starvation

I believe the dietary associations of the major western governments push grains and carbohydrates to such an extreme, because they understand that concept. We simply don’t have the capacity to supply the meat/fish/eggs/fats the paleo diet requires to the 6 billion people on this planet. Imagine tomorrow if the dietary body of the government decreed, that everyone should drop the bread and pasta and go get some bacon if they want to lose fat and get healthy. We are talking a major shift, not just politically but economically, environmentally and socially.


So what’s the solution? I have no idea.

The paleo diet works for me. It works for my family. I am so grateful that I have the means to buy healthy paleo foods to feed myself and my loved ones. But what about the rest of the world? Is the paleo diet only for the rich? Is a smaller population the answer? Should governments keep pushing grain-based diets even though it is killing us for the sake of feeding us? All these questions really get me deep in thought, and I really have no answers. I have no idea.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the paleo diet is sustainable on a global scale?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Girl Gone Primal September 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Our protein requirement really isn’t as big as some people make out, and experts are driving that figure lower and lower every time a new study is released.

The fact is, if handled properly, one animal can feed a LOT of people for a pretty long time, and they’re not going to have the potential health problems that subsisting on grain may have. I like to think of chickens – you can have years of eggs, fresh every day, and when the chicken has lived out its life, there’s another meal for a family. You can grow your own vegetables with minimal equipment, space, and effort. Vegetables can also be self-sustaining once established, unlike monoculture grain crops that dominate and decimate the areas they’re grown in.

I like in a pretty small townhouse with no real yard to speak of, but I could easily have a few chooks running around, and run my own little permaculture farm (though I would have to bring in fresh manure from somewhere large enough to raise cattle – think of all those park areas cultivated for human use – waste!).

Grain agriculture has allowed the population to boom beyond sustainable levels – humans are living in ‘unnatural’ areas, and many are separated from the reality of farming and managing basic needs. We should be working to start reducing our population numbers, and take more responsibility for covering our bases. Community gardens and cow-shares with humane and sustainable farms are blossoming, and people are starting to shun factory farms with more vehemence, so we’ll see where all this takes us.

Overall, I do believe that ‘paleo’ is sustainable, sustainability is all about cyclic practices. There’s nothing cyclical about monocultures. The population problem has many more ramifications than food – there are many factors that decree loud and clear that the Earth cannot sustain life at this level of human dominance. The only sane solution I can see is for laws to be put in place removing the perception of people having the “right” to have as many babies as they want, when doing so is completely unsustainable. We’ll have to wait and see…


Paleo Rob September 25, 2010 at 8:13 am

This is why the topic is so difficult for me. On the one hand I agree with everything you just said, on the other hand, I am a libertarian at heart, and the thought of the government saying you can’t have x amount of kids just scares the hell out of me.

The problem is, in most places there is an incentive to have lots of kids (welfare etc.) which is an unfortunate consequence of an idea that sounded good at the time.


Girl Gone Primal September 24, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Also, don’t forget that being fat is the luxury of the wealthy, and means that you need to eat more food to sustain your size. If you calculated how many calories from all sources are wasted by overeating, restaurant and industry waste, and feeding industrially farmed animals, you’d see how mistaken the perception of ‘we can’t feed everybody’ really is. I think about how much fat from animals is completely discarded, and shudder. Bottle that stuff, and people can live on a few spoonfuls a day – a heck of a lot better for them than a little bowlful of rice!

But simply giving away the extra calories from country X to country Y doesn’t help anyone because country Y is not able to sustain itself without help from X. Eventually, Y’s population will outgrow the offerings from X, and the system would fall apart. Every community needs to be in charge of its own sustenance – getting rid of the centrally-controlled food systems in each country would be a great start for us finding our own balance and getting back to a sustainable world.


Paleo Rob September 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

Totally agree, I shudder to think of how much is wasted in the form of fat in the world currently.


Jake September 24, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I think it is morally and socially irresponsible not to eat paleo if you know about it.

Medical services are a scarce resource-a zero sum game. If you are using medical services, other people are denied that service either because it is not available or the funding source cannot afford to provide it.

70% of the of a society’s medical expenses are caused by diseases of civilization. Diseases that could be prevented with a paleo diet and optimum Vitamin D levels. By not eating paleo you are lowering everyone’s standard of living and you are a burden on your society.

Not only do you have a moral obligation to eat paleo, you have a moral obligation to persuade other people to do the same. Your blog shows that you take that moral obligation seriously and I congratulate you for it.


Paleo Rob September 25, 2010 at 7:47 am

This is a great point. By me eating paleo i have stopped going to the doctors and putting a load on the Australian medical system.


karassa September 24, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Don’t have kids. End of problem. Hell, I’ll even go first! Having a child is the *WORST* thing you could possibly do for the environment. Worse than driving a Hummer, worse than living in some McMansion.

Then, when there aren’t so many mouths to feed, everyone can eat paleo!


Paleo Rob September 25, 2010 at 7:46 am

So true, so unfortunate.


Bushrat September 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Growing grains is not sustainable. They destroy the soil and eventually it becomes useless. They are also a very thirsty crop (the second largest underground water lake in the Southern hemisphere is located near Gunnedah and grain farmers are draining it dry). Thirdly, our current monocrop production is only possible through the use of artificial fertilisers (read petroleum based fertilisers), which are themselves not sustainable (fuel being a non renewable resource).

So, in short, that whole we need grains to feed the world is bullshit.


Bushrat September 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I meant to say:

That whole we need grains to feed the world argument is bullshit.


argushat December 15, 2011 at 3:21 am

Your statement is correct. The current world order would crumble if everyone went paleo. The only solution is to return the society to hunter-gatherer way of life which sounds impossible until you add permaculture to the equasion. Permaculture is almost tailor made for a paleo lifestyle since its geared towards producing nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and animals while grains are deemed too difficult to grow in a natural and efortless way. With that kind of (agri)culture we could theoretically sustain our current population but that would require a major paradigm shift of the entire civilisation.


Nick March 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

Well the Paleo foods were never meant to feed as many people as we have now, it makes no difference, it doesn’t change the fact that Paleo is biologically right for us humans. The body doesn’t care if u have a soft spot for saving animals by being vegan (which doesn’t work) or that u eat grains because it feeds billions of people, it still knows that it is bad for the body, just as a cat is a pure carnivore, u can’t turn them into vegans or even omnivores, their health, like ours, will suffer at the hands of our morals or population. Paleo is nature it doesn’t care. It doesn’t feel. It just is.


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