Human – Animal Interdependence


Most of my articles are about a specific nutritional topic. This month my article focuses on how we humans have interdependence on animals. While writing however, I reaffirmed an atavistic knowledge that everything on the earth adds to the totality of being.  From bacteria and fungus to larger plants, animals, and the rest of the resources the planet contains, we have interdependence with it all and I hope one day we start to act like it.

Let’s look at interdependence in its simplicity

  • Animals depend on plants to lower the hydrogen levels and increase the oxygen levels
  • Animals depend on plants for shade, shelter, and food
  • Plants need animals for cross fertilization and to break down nutrients
  • Animals need bacteria in their digestive colon to create vitamin K, boost their immune system, assist in the management of inflammation, and reduce cholesterol

We are all interconnected in the circle of life, and what we do as humans affects everything else. Every decision we make from the type of light bulb we buy to the amount and kind of milk we drink affects our health and the health of the planet.

My monthly column is about nutrition, but there is more to what we are than what we eat. There is more to what we eat than how far our food has traveled.   We have to add these things up and look at their synergistic effect for us to grasp how our decisions affect this planet.

When we focus on interdependence between ourselves and the rest of the word we need to focus on how our choices affect the planet – it is beyond who we are and what we eat…. But our food choices are a huge piece of it. Not only, is most of what we eat unhealthy, but in fact, is detrimental to the continued existence of the entire planet. As Michael Pollan so eloquently writes, “when the soil is tainted or in some way deficient so will be the grasses that grow in that soil, the cattle that graze there, and the people who drink the milk [or eat the burgers and steaks] from them.”   Our personal health is tied to the health of the planet and everything on it.

If we make choices that have positive impact on the planet, then the health of all the species of the planet will benefit. If we choose instead to focus on only our human needs, on our bottom line and our selfish return on investment instead of the planet and all its other plants and animals, then we do a huge disservice to all of us. Unfortunately our current food industry is set up to operate this way and it is negatively affecting health of the planet and all the plants and animals.

Currently, there are only four major crops that make up 2/3 of the standard American diet and use at least 2/3 of our available farm land – corn, soy, wheat and rice. Historically humans ate more than 80,000 different edible species. We all need diversity – in our family, in our friends, in our work life, and obviously in the way we choose to nourish ourselves.

This decrease in plant diversity has affected more than just humans, it has changed the way our domestic animals eat, changed the way we farm, and changed all the species that depend on those foods – from ants to birds to the wild animals that depend on them for food.   We have simplified not only our plant diversity, but have changed the way we fertilize the soil, rotate crops and select for industrial qualities like yield or color instead of nutritional quality. Our food is affected, the animals are affected and the planet is affected.

Each negative thing creates a strain on the environment, effecting beetles, bees, birds, coyotes, and each web of the chain these animals nourish. We humans are dependent on the health of the planet, we just have to open our eyes a little to see it.

I’m not asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan, I’m not one and it’s not a realistic or attainable goal for most people, but we can focus on a more loving diet. By increasing our consumption of plant-based foods and by supporting the farmers who raise their animals humanely and sustainably we can minimize the impact to our own health and that of the planet.

We need to focus on interdependence not selfish actions – on how we impact our fellow people, animals and plant-life. We are only as independent as the rest of the world allows us to be, and we need to give back as much or more than we take in order to live rich and fulfilled lives. Again, we are more than we eat, more than we earn and more than we consume. We need to take care of all that we have and all that we share. Remember the whole is more than the sum of its parts and the world is more than any individual thing. We are each other.


earth with food