The tastiest tidbits of Netflix’s new vegan documentary

Switching to plant-based is a win—especially when studied in twins


Hi team, and welcome back to one5c! This is associate editor Sara Kiley Watson reporting for Corinne—we all seem to be traveling this week. In fact, I’m writing this from the icy Amsterdam airport ready to board a plane bound for…a similarly icy North Carolina. My sweater-filled suitcase is yet another reminder that human-caused climate change doesn’t just mean it’s getting hotter all the time. As the planet warms, the polar vortex gets even more warped, turning my mild hometown into a chill zone. And, of course, these gray skies don’t mean we won’t have another sweltering summer.

This week, we’ve got a lot more gray area on deck: the upside of Shell knowing what it was doing to the planet way back in the ’70s, the controversy over marine sanctuaries surrounding Pacific islands, and the reason greenwashing scares some companies back into the dark. Hungry for something a little more black-and-white? A plant-based diet can benefit people and the planet. But that certainty doesn’t mean Netflix’s latest documentary isn’t worth a binge.

Catch y’all on the flip side (and soon the East Coast). —Sara Kiley 

YouTube’s getting pretty gloomy about the climate crisis. 19 STUDIO/Shutterstock

YouTube is spreading the ‘new denial’

Climate solutions like renewable energy and inclusive policy work—but corners of YouTube would have you believe otherwise. According to a new study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, there’s been a notable shift from straight-up denial to doomerism, aka the belief that the worst of climate change is inevitable despite our best efforts. Doomerism videos went from 35% of all climate denialism on YouTube in 2018 to 70% in 2023, and it shows in the opinions of our youth: one-third of youths in the U.K. fall into the “doomer” category. Take this as a wake-up call to how much more climate gloom we’ll be combating in the future. While the climate crisis is undeniably scary and overwhelming, we can absolutely do something about it.

Shell’s self-induced cannon fodder

According to newly discovered documents, Shell has known about the climate crisis it was contributing to for half a century. Thanks to five years of research from a Dutch doctoral candidate, we now have access to a gold mine of Shell studies from the 1980s and 1990s detailing the “major adverse changes” the “greenhouse effect” is bound to cause. While it may seem like more of the same, legal experts are calling the latest stockpile “valuable sources for litigators” to show that Shell admitted fault and lobbied against efforts to solve the problem decades ago. 

Enter ‘greenhushing’

Here’s a new term to add to your mental file: greenhushing. As it turns out, even the most planet-forward companies are quieting down about their sustainability efforts to safeguard themselves against greenwashing regulations. This isn’t the same everywhere, a new study shows, but it’s especially prevalent in the EU. While the idea of quietly doing good should be the norm, the folks doing the most work need to speak up about it. After all, we need to learn from each other and our mistakes, the study authors tell Grist

The Nature Conservancy gets its fins in Palau’s marine sanctuary

Climate policy is all about compromise. When it comes to marine sanctuaries, for example, you’re trading potential fishing income for protecting biodiversity (and, often, the tourism industry that follows such ecological wonders). The latest case of this is in the tiny Pacific island nation Palau. U.S.-based nonprofit The Nature Conservancy offered Palau’s government a blueprint to shrink its giant no-fishing zone while encouraging Palau to invest in a sustainable fishing company co-owned by the org. The obvious tension here raises questions about the role that foreign interests play in the decisions of nations that are not only not responsible for the climate crisis, but are the hardest hit by its impacts. Bloomberg has the beautifully photographed deep dive. 

Mic-drop climate stat

Netflix documentary shows the twinned wins of a plant-based diet

Twins Carolyn and Rosalyn are both eating more plants after the Stanford study Netflix

A major challenge in nutrition studies is that every individual responds differently to food, says Stanford nutrition researcher Christopher Gardner. But what happens when you study people who are genetically the same? Gardner’s latest enquiry follows 22 pairs of identical twins split between two diets for eight weeks: a healthy plant-based diet for one twin and a healthy omnivore diet for the other. The study delves into changes in its subjects’ cardiovascular health, metabolism, and gut microbiome. 

Unlike most academic studies, this one is also a Netflix documentary, named You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment. Beyond the science, the series examines the twins’ challenges in transitioning to plant-based eating in a world marked by the standard American diet’s abundance of calories, saturated fats, and sugar. The show takes a more intimate look at four pairs of twins’ culinary journeys.

Our big takeaways

To no one’s surprise, our food system jeopardizes both the planet and human health. The meat and dairy industries account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and processed meat and high-fat dairy products are linked to various forms of cancer and heart disease.

The study’s results align with existing research on the benefits of healthy plant-based diets, particularly when it comes to heart health. After eight weeks, the vegan group had lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), insulin, and body weight than the omnivores. These are critical advantages given that heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans.

The series builds on these results by offering a glimpse into why it’s so hard for many Americans to adopt a healthier diet. It draws a comparison between two Southern California communities. The affluent Loma Linda area boasts a longer life expectancy than the rest of the country due in part to residents’ high consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. San Bernardino, located less than 10 miles away, is dotted by dozens of food deserts, where residents struggle to access healthy and affordable options. It’s a burden shared by more than 23 million people across the U.S., especially Black and Latino communities.

Why you should watch

Beyond just being a must-watch for climate-conscious eaters and nutrition nerds, You Are What You Eat shines most when it explores the twins’ journey toward healthier choices in a society resistant to change. Sustainable living—especially sustainable eating—is tricky, and we all could use a little push in the right direction.