Paul Greenberg is a long-time outdoorsman and highly praised science writer. His new book, The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint, gives readers simple ways to make their everyday lives more environmentally friendly. GBH Radio’s Henry Santoro talked to Greenberg about his book and lifelong dedication to sustainability. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Henry Santoro: Paul Greenberg is a best selling author. He's a journalist, a renowned expert in seafood, health, technology and climate change, and his books on sustainability and seafood have received widespread acclaim. His TED talk about the fish that we overeat has over 1.6 million views to date. And he once spent a year eating seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which was documented in the Frontline documentary, The Fish on My Plate. His new book is called The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint. And it's a pleasure to welcome Paul Greenberg to GBH and Henry in The Hub. Good morning, Paul.
Paul Greenberg: Hey, Henry, how are you?
Santoro: You are a Connecticut kid. You grew up near the water. You did a lot of fishing. How did that upbringing shape who you are today?
Greenberg: I grew up in Connecticut before the hedge funders came in and started building McMansions everywhere. But I literally saw the transformation of my hometown before my eyes, and I saw the way that wastefulness in general devoured nature. The biggest thing that I learned from that growing up is that nature is finite. We, by our greed and expansiveness, make sometimes irreparable incursions into nature.
Santoro: This book is about being environmentally sound. It's about reducing your carbon footprint. It sounds to me, Paul, like this encompasses everything that you already do.
Greenberg: Yes and no. I’ve looked at climate for a long time, but I don't pretend to be an expert in all the different areas that I cover. You know, what I did with this book was to speak to 50 or 60 people that I thought were really the experts in their field. So I did learn a lot about changing my lifestyle.
Santoro: Your past books focus on eating locally sourced food—it’s something that seems easier to do these days. Does the climate diet address any of these subjects?
Greenberg: Eating locally isn't always the best choice. If it's the middle of winter and you're going to a farmer's market that might be selling hot house grown green? Hmm, not so great. Frankly, the biggest problem Americans have when it comes to climate is driving. If you've just driven 20 miles to buy a single head of broccoli from your local farmer's market, you've really nuked all your good smugness by burning all that gasoline in the process. Look, I'm all for farmer's markets. I'm all for local produce. But let's do it wisely within the context of the carbon budget that we need to set for ourselves.
Santoro: What does The Climate Diet say about seafood?
Greenberg: Certain seafoods are actually pretty low-carbon, the main reason being that seafood, a lot of times, is wild. How much carbon that comes from a wild fish is largely dependent on how the fish is caught. As you mentioned, I've been all over the map in terms of my diet. I ate only fish for a year, then I was vegan for a year. Now I'm back to what I call a “pesca-terranean” diet, which is mostly vegan, but the animal protein that I do eat is coming from just a select few fish and shellfish. The most consumed seafood in America remains shrimp and shrimp remains to be just about the highest-carbon choice you can make from the sea. So if we could trade our shrimp cocktails for some oysters on the half-shell, we'd be doing a pretty good carbon trade.
Santoro: One important part of the fight against climate change is climate justice. How does your book address that issue and why is climate justice so important?
Greenberg: You know, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. If we're unfairly penalizing people of color and people that are economically disadvantaged, we're basically keeping them out of the climate fight. In the last section of the book, which is called “Fighting and Winning,” one of my rules is that you have to fight racial injustice at the same time that you're fighting climate injustice.
Santoro: Paul Greenberg is the author of The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint. The book is available everywhere.
GBH News Intern Lucy Barnum assisted with production of this interview.