Skip to ContentGo to accessibility page
OpenStax Logo
Writing Guide with Handbook

12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran

Writing Guide with Handbook12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  1. Preface
  2. The Things We Carry: Experience, Culture, and Language
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 1 The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
      3. 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
      4. 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
      5. 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
      6. 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
      7. 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
      8. 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
      9. 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    3. 2 Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Seeds of Self
      3. 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
      4. 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
      5. 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
      6. 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
      7. 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
      8. 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
      9. 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    4. 3 Literacy Narrative: Building Bridges, Bridging Gaps
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Identity and Expression
      3. 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
      4. 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
      5. 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
      6. 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
      7. 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
      8. 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
      9. 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
      10. 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
      13. Works Consulted
  3. Bridging the Divide Between Personal Identity and Academia
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 4 Memoir or Personal Narrative: Learning Lessons from the Personal
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
      3. 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
      4. 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
      5. 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
      6. 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
      7. 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
      8. 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
      9. 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
      10. 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 5 Profile: Telling a Rich and Compelling Story
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
      3. 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
      4. 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
      5. 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
      6. 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
      7. 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
      8. 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
      9. 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
      10. 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
      11. Works Cited
    4. 6 Proposal: Writing About Problems and Solutions
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
      3. 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
      4. 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
      5. 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
      6. 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
      7. 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
      8. 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
      9. 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
      10. 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    5. 7 Evaluation or Review: Would You Recommend It?
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
      3. 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
      4. 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
      5. 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
      6. 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
      7. 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
      8. 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
      9. 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
      10. 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    6. 8 Analytical Report: Writing from Facts
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
      3. 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
      4. 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
      5. 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
      6. 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
      7. 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
      8. 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
      9. 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
      10. 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    7. 9 Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
      3. 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
      4. 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
      5. 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
      6. 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
      7. 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
      8. 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
      9. 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
      10. 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    8. 10 Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
      3. 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
      4. 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
      5. 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
      6. 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
      7. 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
      8. 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
      9. 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
      10. 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    9. 11 Reasoning Strategies: Improving Critical Thinking
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
      3. 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
      4. 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
      5. 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
      6. 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
      7. Further Reading
      8. Works Cited
    10. 12 Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
      3. 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
      4. 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
      5. 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
      6. 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
      7. 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
      8. 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
      9. 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
      10. 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    11. 13 Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
      3. 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
      4. 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
      5. 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
      6. 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
      7. 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
      8. Further Reading
      9. Works Cited
    12. 14 Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
      3. 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
      4. 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
      5. 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
      6. Further Reading
      7. Works Cited
    13. 15 Case Study Profile: What One Person Says About All
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
      3. 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
      4. 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
      5. 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
      6. 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
      7. 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
      8. 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
      9. 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
      10. 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
  4. Navigating Rhetoric in Real Life
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 16 Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
      3. 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
      4. 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
      5. 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
      6. 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
      7. 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
      8. 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
      9. 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
      10. 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 17 Image Analysis: What You See
      1. Introduction
      2. 17.1 “Reading” Images
      3. 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
      4. 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
      5. 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
      6. 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
      7. 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
      8. 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
      9. 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
      10. 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    4. 18 Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image
      1. Introduction
      2. 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
      3. 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
      4. 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
      5. 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
      6. 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
      7. 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
      8. 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
      9. 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    5. 19 Scripting for the Public Forum: Writing to Speak
      1. Introduction
      2. 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
      3. 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
      4. 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
      5. 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
      6. 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
      7. 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
      8. 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
      9. 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    6. 20 Portfolio Reflection: Your Growth as a Writer
      1. Introduction
      2. 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
      3. 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
      4. 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
      5. 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
      6. 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
      7. 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
      8. 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
      9. 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
  5. Handbook
  6. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Analyze how writers use evidence in research writing.
  • Analyze the ways a writer incorporates sources into research writing, while retaining their own voice.
  • Explain the use of headings as organizational tools in research writing.
  • Analyze how writers use evidence to address counterarguments when writing a research essay.


In this argumentative research essay for a first-year composition class, student Lily Tran creates a solid, focused argument and supports it with researched evidence. Throughout the essay, she uses this evidence to support cause-and-effect and problem-solution reasoning, make strong appeals, and develop her ethos on the topic.

Living by Their Own Words

Food as Change

For the human race to have a sustainable future, massive changes in the way food is produced, processed, and distributed are necessary on a global scale.

Purpose. Lily Tran refers to what she sees as the general purpose for writing this paper: the problem of current global practices in food production, processing, and distribution. By presenting the “problem,” she immediately prepares readers for her proposed solution.

The required changes will affect nearly all aspects of life, including not only world hunger but also health and welfare, land use and habitats, water quality and availability, energy use and production, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, economics, and even cultural and social values. These changes may not be popular, but they are imperative. The human race must turn to sustainable food systems that provide healthy diets with minimal environmental impact—and starting now.

Thesis. Leading up to this clear, declarative thesis statement are key points on which Tran will expand later. In doing this, she presents some foundational evidence that connects the problem to the proposed solution.


The world population has been rising exponentially in modern history. From 1 billion in 1804, it doubled to approximately 2 billion by 1927, then doubled again to approximately 4 billion in 1974. By 2019, it had nearly doubled again, rising to 7.7 billion (“World Population by Year”). It has been projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 (Berners-Lee et al.). At the same time, the average life span also has been increasing. These situations have led to severe stress on the environment, particularly in the demands for food. It has been estimated, for example, that by 2050, milk production will increase 58 percent and meat production 73 percent (Chai et al.).

Evidence. In this first supporting paragraph, Tran uses numerical evidence from several sources. This numerical data as evidence helps establish the projection of population growth. By beginning with such evidence, Tran underscores the severity of the situation.

Theoretically, the planet can produce enough food for everyone, but human activities have endangered this capability through unsustainable practices. Currently, agriculture produces 10–23 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases—the most common being carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor— trap heat in the atmosphere, reradiate it, and send it back to Earth again. Heat trapped in the atmosphere is a problem because it causes unnatural global warming as well as air pollution, extreme weather conditions, and respiratory diseases.

Audience. With her audience in mind, Tran briefly explains the problem of greenhouse gases and global warming.

It has been estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions will increase by as much as 150 percent by 2030 (Chai et al.). Transportation also has a negative effect on the environment when foods are shipped around the world. As Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford commented, “It’s essential to be mindful about everything we consume: air-transported fruit and veg can create more greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram than poultry meat, for example” (qtd. in Gray).

Transition. By beginning this paragraph with her own transition of ideas, Tran establishes control over the organization and development of ideas. Thus, she retains her sources as supports and does not allow them to dominate her essay.

Current practices have affected the nutritional value of foods. Concentrated animal-feeding operations, intended to increase production, have had the side effect of decreasing nutritional content in animal protein and increasing saturated fat. One study found that an intensively raised chicken in 2017 contained only one-sixth of the amount of omega-3 fatty acid, an essential nutrient, that was in a chicken in 1970. Today the majority of calories in chicken come from fat rather than protein (World Wildlife Fund).

Example. By focusing on an example (chicken), Tran uses specific research data to develop the nuance of the argument.

Current policies such as government subsidies that divert food to biofuels are counterproductive to the goal of achieving adequate global nutrition. Some trade policies allow “dumping” of below-cost, subsidized foods on developing countries that should instead be enabled to protect their farmers and meet their own nutritional needs (Sierra Club). Too often, agriculture’s objectives are geared toward maximizing quantities produced per acre rather than optimizing output of critical nutritional needs and protection of the environment.


Hunger and Nutrition

Headings and Subheadings. Throughout the essay, Tran has created headings and subheadings to help organize her argument and clarify it for readers.

More than 820 million people around the world do not have enough to eat. At the same time, about a third of all grains and almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, and barley crops are fed to animals (Barnard). According to the World Health Organization, 462 million adults are underweight, 47 million children under 5 years of age are underweight for their height, 14.3 million are severely underweight for their height, and 144 million are stunted (“Malnutrition”). About 45 percent of mortality among children under 5 is linked to undernutrition. These deaths occur mainly in low- and middle-income countries where, in stark contrast, the rate of childhood obesity is rising. Globally, 1.9 billion adults and 38.3 million children are overweight or obese (“Obesity”). Undernutrition and obesity can be found in the same household, largely a result of eating energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars. The global impact of malnutrition, which includes both undernutrition and obesity, has lasting developmental, economic, social, and medical consequences.

In 2019, Berners-Lee et al. published the results of their quantitative analysis of global and regional food supply. They determined that significant changes are needed on four fronts:

Food production must be sufficient, in quantity and quality, to feed the global population without unacceptable environmental impacts. Food distribution must be sufficiently efficient so that a diverse range of foods containing adequate nutrition is available to all, again without unacceptable environmental impacts. Socio-economic conditions must be sufficiently equitable so that all consumers can access the quantity and range of foods needed for a healthy diet. Consumers need to be able to make informed and rational choices so that they consume a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet (10).

Block Quote. The writer has chosen to present important evidence as a direct quotation, using the correct format for direct quotations longer than four lines. See Section Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations for more information about block quotes.

Among their findings, they singled out, in particular, the practice of using human-edible crops to produce meat, dairy, and fish for the human table. Currently 34 percent of human-edible crops are fed to animals, a practice that reduces calorie and protein supplies. They state in their report, “If society continues on a ‘business-as-usual’ dietary trajectory, a 119% increase in edible crops grown will be required by 2050” (1). Future food production and distribution must be transformed into systems that are nutritionally adequate, environmentally sound, and economically affordable.

Land and Water Use

Agriculture occupies 40 percent of Earth’s ice-free land mass (Barnard). While the net area used for producing food has been fairly constant since the mid-20th century, the locations have shifted significantly. Temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Russia have lost agricultural land to other uses, while in the tropics, agricultural land has expanded, mainly as a result of clearing forests and burning biomass (Willett et al.). Seventy percent of the rainforest that has been cut down is being used to graze livestock (Münter). Agricultural use of water is of critical concern both quantitatively and qualitatively. Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of freshwater use, making it “the world’s largest water-consuming sector” (Barnard). Meat, dairy, and egg production causes water pollution, as liquid wastes flow into rivers and to the ocean (World Wildlife Fund and Knorr Foods). According to the Hertwich et al., “the impacts related to these activities are unlikely to be reduced, but rather enhanced, in a business-as-usual scenario for the future” (13).

Statistical Data. To develop her points related to land and water use, Tran presents specific statistical data throughout this section. Notice that she has chosen only the needed words of these key points to ensure that she controls the development of the supporting point and does not overuse borrowed source material.

Defining Terms. Aware of her audience, Tran defines monocropping, a term that may be unfamiliar.

Earth’s resources and ability to absorb pollution are limited, and many current agricultural practices undermine these capacities. Among these unsustainable practices are monocropping [growing a single crop year after year on the same land], concentrated animal-feeding operations, and overdependence on manufactured pesticides and fertilizers (Hamilton). Such practices deplete the soil, dramatically increase energy use, reduce pollinator populations, and lead to the collapse of resource supplies. One study found that producing one gram of beef for human consumption requires 42 times more land, 2 times more water, and 4 times more nitrogen than staple crops. It also creates 3 times more greenhouse gas emissions (Chai et al.). The EAT–Lancet Commission calls for “halting expansion of new agricultural land at the expense of natural ecosystems . . . strict protections on intact ecosystems, suspending concessions for logging in protected areas, or conversion of remaining intact ecosystems, particularly peatlands and forest areas” (Willett et al. 481). The Commission also calls for land-use zoning, regulations prohibiting land clearing, and incentives for protecting natural areas, including forests.

Synthesis. The paragraphs above and below this comment show how Tran has synthesized content from several sources to help establish and reinforce key supports of her essay.

Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change

Climate change is heavily affected by two factors: greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. In nature, the two remain in balance; for example, most animals exhale carbon dioxide, and most plants capture carbon dioxide. Carbon is also captured, or sequestered, by soil and water, especially oceans, in what are called “sinks.” Human activities have skewed this balance over the past two centuries. The shift in land use, which exploits land, water, and fossil energy, has caused increased greenhouse-gas emissions, which in turn accelerate climate change.

Global food systems are threatened by climate change because farmers depend on relatively stable climate systems to plan for production and harvest. Yet food production is responsible for up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (Barnard). While soil can be a highly effective means of carbon sequestration, agricultural soils have lost much of their effectiveness from overgrazing, erosion, overuse of chemical fertilizer, and excess tilling. Hamilton reports that the world’s cultivated and grazed soils have lost 50 to 70 percent of their ability to accumulate and store carbon. As a result, “billions of tons of carbon have been released into the atmosphere.”

Direct Quotation and Paraphrase. While Tran has paraphrased some content of this source borrowing, because of the specificity and impact of the number— “billions of tons of carbon”—she has chosen to use the author’s original words. As she has done elsewhere in the essay, she has indicated these as directly borrowed words by placing them within quotation marks. See Section 12.5 for more about paraphrasing.

While carbon sequestration has been falling, greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing as a result of the production, transport, processing, storage, waste disposal, and other life stages of food production. Agriculture alone is responsible for fully 10 to 12 percent of global emissions, and that figure is estimated to rise by up to 150 percent of current levels by 2030 (Chai et al.). Münter reports that “more greenhouse gas emissions are produced by growing livestock for meat than all the planes, trains, ships, cars, trucks, and all forms of fossil fuel-based transportation combined” (5). Additional greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, are produced by the decomposition of organic wastes. Methane has 25 times and nitrous oxide has nearly 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (Curnow). Agricultural and food production systems must be reformed to shift agriculture from greenhouse gas source to sink.

Social and Cultural Values

As the Sierra Club has pointed out, agriculture is inherently cultural: all systems of food production have “the capacity to generate . . . economic benefits and ecological capital” as well as “a sense of meaning and connection to natural resources.” Yet this connection is more evident in some cultures and less so in others. Wealthy countries built on a consumer culture emphasize excess consumption. One result of this attitude is that in 2014, Americans discarded the equivalent of $165 billion worth of food. Much of this waste ended up rotting in landfills, comprised the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste, and contributed a substantial portion of U.S. methane emissions (Sierra Club). In low- and middle-income countries, food waste tends to occur in early production stages because of poor scheduling of harvests, improper handling of produce, or lack of market access (Willett et al.). The recent “America First” philosophy has encouraged prioritizing the economic welfare of one nation to the detriment of global welfare and sustainability.

Synthesis and Response to Claims. Here, as in subsequent sections, while still relying heavily on facts and content from borrowed sources, Tran provides her synthesized understanding of the information by responding to key points.

In response to claims that a vegetarian diet is a necessary component of sustainable food production and consumption, Lusk and Norwood determined the importance of meat in a consumer’s diet. Their study indicated that meat is the most valuable food category to consumers, and “humans derive great pleasure from consuming beef, pork, and poultry” (120). Currently only 4 percent of Americans are vegetarians, and it would be difficult to convince consumers to change their eating habits. Purdy adds “there’s the issue of philosophy. A lot of vegans aren’t in the business of avoiding animal products for the sake of land sustainability. Many would prefer to just leave animal husbandry out of food altogether.”

At the same time, consumers expect ready availability of the foods they desire, regardless of health implications or sustainability of sources. Unhealthy and unsustainable foods are heavily marketed. Out-of-season produce is imported year-round, increasing carbon emissions from air transportation. Highly processed and packaged convenience foods are nutritionally inferior and waste both energy and packaging materials. Serving sizes are larger than necessary, contributing to overconsumption and obesity. Snack food vending machines are ubiquitous in schools and public buildings. What is needed is a widespread attitude shift toward reducing waste, choosing local fruits and vegetables that are in season, and paying attention to how foods are grown and transported.

Thesis Restated. Restating her thesis, Tran ends this section by advocating for a change in attitude to bring about sustainability.


Counterclaims. Tran uses equally strong research to present the counterargument. Presenting both sides by addressing objections is important in constructing a clear, well-reasoned argument. Writers should use as much rigor in finding research-based evidence to counter the opposition as they do to develop their argument.

Transformation of the food production system faces resistance for a number of reasons, most of which dispute the need for plant-based diets. Historically, meat has been considered integral to athletes’ diets and thus has caused many consumers to believe meat is necessary for a healthy diet. Lynch et al. examined the impact of plant-based diets on human physical health, environmental sustainability, and exercise performance capacity. The results show “it is unlikely that plant-based diets provide advantages, but do not suffer from disadvantages, compared to omnivorous diets for strength, anaerobic, or aerobic exercise performance” (1).

A second objection addresses the claim that land use for animal-based food production contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and is inefficient in terms of nutrient delivery. Berners-Lee et al. point out that animal nutrition from grass, pasture, and silage comes partially from land that cannot be used for other purposes, such as producing food directly edible by humans or for other ecosystem services such as biofuel production. Consequently, nutritional losses from such land use do not fully translate into losses of human-available nutrients (3).

Paraphrase. Tran has paraphrased the information as support. Though she still cites the source, she has changed the words to her own, most likely to condense a larger amount of original text or to make it more accessible.

While this objection may be correct, it does not address the fact that natural carbon sinks are being destroyed to increase agricultural land and, therefore, increase greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Another significant dissenting opinion is that transforming food production will place hardships on farmers and others employed in the food industry. Farmers and ranchers make a major investment in their own operations. At the same time, they support jobs in related industries, as consumers of farm machinery, customers at local businesses, and suppliers for other industries such as food processing (Schulz). Sparks reports that “livestock farmers are being unfairly ‘demonized’ by vegans and environmental advocates” and argues that while farming includes both costs and benefits, the costs receive much more attention than the benefits.


The EAT–Lancet Commission calls for a transformation in the global food system, implementing different core processes and feedback. This transformation will not happen unless there is “widespread, multi-sector, multilevel action to change what food is eaten, how it is produced, and its effects on the environment and health, while providing healthy diets for the global population” (Willett et al. 476). System changes will require global efforts coordinated across all levels and will require governments, the private sector, and civil society to share a common vision and goals. Scientific modeling indicates 10 billion people could indeed be fed a healthy and sustainable diet.

Conclusion. While still using research-based sources as evidence in the concluding section, Tran finishes with her own words, restating her thesis.

For the human race to have a sustainable future, massive changes in the way food is produced, processed, and distributed are necessary on a global scale. The required changes will affect nearly all aspects of life, including not only world hunger but also health and welfare, land use and habitats, water quality and availability, energy use and production, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, economics, and even cultural and social values. These changes may not be popular, but they are imperative. They are also achievable. The human race must turn to sustainable food systems that provide healthy diets with minimal environmental impact, starting now.

Sources. Note two important aspects of the sources chosen: 1) They represent a range of perspectives, and 2) They are all quite current. When exploring a contemporary topic, it is important to avoid research that is out of date.

Works Cited

Barnard, Neal. “How Eating More Plants Can Save Lives and the Planet.” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 24 Jan. 2019, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Berners-Lee, M., et al. “Current Global Food Production Is Sufficient to Meet Human Nutritional Needs in 2050 Provided There Is Radical Societal Adaptation.” Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, vol. 6, no. 52, 2018, doi:10.1525/elementa.310. Accessed 7 Dec. 2020.

Chai, Bingli Clark, et al. “Which Diet Has the Least Environmental Impact on Our Planet? A Systematic Review of Vegan, Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diets.” Sustainability, vol. 11, no. 15, 2019, doi:10.3390/su11154110. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Curnow, Mandy. “Managing Manure to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Government of Western Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 2 Nov. 2020, Accessed 9 Dec. 2020.

Gray, Richard. “Why the Vegan Diet Is Not Always Green.” BBC, 13 Feb. 2020, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Hamilton, Bruce. “Food and Our Climate.” Sierra Club, 2014, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Hertwich. Edgar G., et al. Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production. United Nations Environment Programme, 2010,

Lusk, Jayson L., and F. Bailey Norwood. “Some Economic Benefits and Costs of Vegetarianism.” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, vol. 38, no. 2, 2009, pp. 109-24, doi: 10.1017/S1068280500003142. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Lynch Heidi, et al. “Plant-Based Diets: Considerations for Environmental Impact, Protein Quality, and Exercise Performance.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 12, 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10121841. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Münter, Leilani. “Why a Plant-Based Diet Will Save the World.” Health and the Environment. Disruptive Women in Health Care & the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2012,

Purdy, Chase. “Being Vegan Isn’t as Good for Humanity as You Think.” Quartz, 4 Aug. 2016, Accessed 7 Dec. 2020.

Schulz, Lee. “Would a Sudden Loss of the Meat and Dairy Industry, and All the Ripple Effects, Destroy the Economy?” Iowa State U Department of Economics, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Sierra Club. “Agriculture and Food.” Sierra Club, 28 Feb. 2015, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Sparks, Hannah. “Veganism Won’t Save the World from Environmental Ruin, Researchers Warn.” New York Post, 29 Nov. 2019, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

Willett, Walter, et al. “Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems.” The Lancet, vol. 393, no. 10170, 2019. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

World Health Organization. “Malnutrition.” World Health Organization, 1 Apr. 2020, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

World Health Organization. “Obesity and Overweight.” World Health Organization, 1 Apr. 2020, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

World Wildlife Fund. Appetite for Destruction: Summary Report. World Wildlife Fund, 2017,

World Wildlife Fund and Knorr Foods. Future Fifty Foods. World Wildlife Fund, 2019,

“World Population by Year.” Worldometer, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Discussion Questions

1 .
In the second paragraph, what role does statistical data as evidence play in helping Lily Tran develop the thesis? What other evidence would be effective in achieving this goal?
2 .
In the second paragraph of the section “The Coming Food Crisis,” how does Tran use research evidence to provide an understanding of key concepts?
3 .
By reviewing the organizational tools of headings and subheadings, diagram or outline the development of Tran’s argument.
4 .
Locate places where Tran incorporates research evidence into her own ideas or words through summary or paraphrase. How do these examples differ from the block quote under “Areas of Concern”? Is one method more or less effective in establishing ethos, or credibility, for the writer? Why or why not?
5 .
How convincing is Tran’s use of evidence in addressing counterclaims? Explain your answer.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book is CC BY and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Dec 8, 2021 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a CC BY license. The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.