It shouldn't be any secret that we can stand to learn a lot from Native Americans. Insects were a staple of many Native diets, especially when the hunters didn't bring home the bacon (or buffalo, as the case may be). Many of our primate ancestors ate bugs too (many modern primates still do). And it turns out that insects are incredibly efficient at converting plant matter into a healthy protein source for humans, while emitting minimal greenhouse gases and demanding significantly less land. To paraphrase Edible author Daniella Martin, cows are the SUVs of the animal agriculture world, while insects are the bicycles. How 'bout them apples? Cringe all you want, but insects are eaten by humans in 60% of countries around the world. America's aversion to eating bugs is actually strange. Some might remember that eating sushi was actually unpopular in America too before the 1970s, but we were able to overcome the psychological hurdles and gradually embrace the once-unfamiliar cuisine.
Pat Crowley is a rafting guide on the Colorado River. He's also a passionate hydrologist – someone that cares immensely about water conservation and the future of our water resources. The Colorado River that Crowley leads rafting expeditions on sadly no longer flows all the way to the Sea of Cortez due to the demands of high water-use crops grown as livestock feed in the middle of the desert. Crowley was listening to a TED talk about eating bugs when he learned that insects represented a nutritious protein source whose water needs were minimal. Thus, the cartoon lightbulb in his brain was illuminated. With the help of friends and family, Crowley conceived and founded a cricket protein bar company called Chapul. Deriving its name from chapulines, the spiced grasshoppers eaten in Mexico for hundreds of years, Chapul is dedicated to introducing edible insects into Western diets as a healthy and sustainable protein source.
The good news is, you don't have to eat cricket bars solely to save the planet. They actually taste good too – I buy boxes at a time, sharing whenever possible with those around me.