For around 65 million years, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has fluctuated between 200ppm (parts per million) and 250ppm. During this time global temperatures also fluctuated, creating ice ages and warm periods. This is understood to be the natural cycle of the planet. However, never in the past 65 million years have carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere reached more than 400ppm, which is the level we are living with today. With yearly emissions growth mainly coming from developed nations, it is calculated that by 2040 we will reach 450ppm, which will result in an increase in global temperatures of more than 2 degrees Celsius. With an increase of more than two degrees it is very unlikely the world will remain as we know it, with huge population growth projected it is very possible the fight for resources will present us with much suffering around the word, wars and social unrest.
Above: Correlation between global Population Growth and total global Carbon Emissions
In order to avoid catastrophic climate change we need to reduce the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere to 350ppm, a level agreed by scientists as a safe threshold for us to survive in the long run. This means we need to reduce our current emissions by about 50%, yet each year we are seeing massive growth in global emissions. This is a huge amount and requires massive amounts of investment in everything from new technologies to new infrastructures in order to create a new green economy. In spite of this bleak outlook, governments can’t reach an agreement on any of these issues. So as usual it’s up to us, the consumers, to create change from the bottom up. We have to start demanding sustainable products and supporting businesses that are willing to take the risk and invest in eco-solutions and eco-efficiency. We have to support the pioneers that are leading the way to a new green economy. With a US Government in power that cares less about the Environment and does not believe the 97% of scientists who concur that the main contributor to Climate Change is man, its never been more important to make the right decisions.
This change in consumption patterns and change in mindset can only occur if we work together and educate each other. After all, we are but one civilization on one planet. Let’s not make complacency and negligence the greatest mistake of all time. Let’s consume with a conscience. Sometimes the hardest decisions to make are the personal ones that bring us pleasure. Although our tradition has been to eat meat and other animal products, just because it is a tradition does not make it right, sometimes our greatest challenge is to question our beliefs and question ourselves.
There are many reasons why someone may chose to eat Vegan food, but one of the main reasons if because of the environmental impact of industrial livestock production. At some point we have to make the right choice for our children and for future generations.
It turns out that about 30% of the total ice-free surface in the world is not used to feed humans, but its used to grow crops to feed the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat. Livestock production alone uses one third of the entire fresh water on the planet. In the USA about 56% of fresh water is used to grow about 85% of all the soy and grain in the country, which ends up as animal feed. Of course this massive agricultural machine brings other negatives with it too, for example, growing on such a large-scale one single crop (monoculture) means that huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers are used on all the land. These in turn, run off into the rivers and pollute our river systems killing fish and destroying habitats. As the water runs down stream and into the oceans it causes what are knows as dead zones – Massive areas in the ocean that are completely devoid of life. This happens because the fertilizers in the water promote algae growth and as huge amounts of algae grow, they consume all the oxygen in the water and fish can no longer survive (also known as ocean de-oxygenisation). The trail of destruction by the livestock industry does not end there for the Oceans. The humble vegetarian cow, who we grow to eat, is no longer a vegetarian. Livestock are now the Oceans largest predator! All the by catch by the fishing industry that cannot be sold or are too small to sell, are now sent to be processed into pellets to feed the cows. This is why eating meat is the most inefficient use of resources on the planet – no other food source uses or destroys so much of our planet. So the question we need to ask ourselves is; does a few seconds of pleasure on our taste buds justify the destruction of our civilization? For those who care about our future, the single most important decision we can make involved choosing what ends up on our plate.
By removing the products that destroy our world we CAN make a difference. Every day more people are choosing to eat plant based, which uses 80% less resources than animal foods. In the next 50 years our population will breach the 10bn mark, if the state of the world today is something to go by, it is highly unlikely we will survive such and onslaught on the natural world.
While 56 million acres of U.S. land are producing hay for livestock, only 4 million acres are producing vegetables for human consumption.
— U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of Agriculture
Animal waste contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure.
— Natural Resources Defense Council
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 89 percent of U.S. beef ground into patties contains traces of the deadly E. coli strain.
— Reuters News Service
The standard diet of a person in the United States requires 4,200 gallons of water per day (for animals’ drinking water, irrigation of crops, processing, washing, cooking, etc.). A person on a vegan diet requires only 300 gallons a day.
— Richard H. Schwartz in Judaism and Vegetarianism
A report from the International Water Management Institute, noting that 840 million of the world’s people remain undernourished, recommends finding ways to produce more food using less water. The report notes that it takes 550 liters of water to produce enough flour for one loaf of bread in developing countries…but up to 7,000 liters of water to produce 100 grams of beef.
— UN Commission on Sustainable Development, “Water—More Nutrition Per Drop,” 2004
Not only is mortality from coronary heart disease lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, but vegetarian diets have also been successful in arresting coronary heart disease. Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for…obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer.
— American Dietetic Association
The irony of the food production system is that millions of wealthy consumers in developed countries are dying from diseases of affluence—heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cancer—brought on by gorging on fatty grain-fed beef and other meats, while the poor in the Third World are dying of diseases of poverty brought on by being denied access to land to grow food grain for their families.
— Jeremy Rifkin, Los Angeles Times
The Center for International Forestry Research reports that rapid growth in the sales of Brazilian beef has led to accelerated destruction of the Amazon rainforest. “In a nutshell, cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out of Brazil’s Amazon rainforests,” says the Center’s director-general, David Kaimowitz.
— Environmental News Service
In Central America, 40 percent of all the rainforests have been cleared or burned down in the last 40 years, mostly for cattle pasture to feed the export market—often for U.S. beef burgers…. Meat is too expensive for the poor in these beef-exporting countries, yet in some cases cattle have ousted highly productive traditional agriculture.
—John Revington in World Rainforest Report
It takes, on average, 28 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of meat protein for human consumption, [whereas] it takes only 3.3 calories of fossil- fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of protein from grain for human consumption.
— David Pimentel, Cornell University
The transition of world agriculture from food grain to feed grain represents a new form of human evil, with consequences possibly far greater and longer lasting than any past wrongdoing inflicted by men against their fellow human beings. Today, more than 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock, much of it to cattle.
— Jeremy Rifkin, Los Angeles Times, 27 May 2002
One ton of methane, the chief agricultural greenhouse gas, has the global warming potential of 23 tons of carbon dioxide. A dairy cow produces about 75 kilograms of methane a year, equivalent to over 1.5 [metric] tons of carbon dioxide. The cow, of course, is only doing what comes naturally. But people are inclined to forget, it seems, that farming is an industry. We cleared the land, sowed the pasture, bred the stock, and so on. It’s a human business, not a natural one. We’re pretty good at it, which is why atmospheric concentrations of methane increased by 150 percent over the past 250 years, while carbon dioxide concentrations increased by 30 percent.
— Pete Hodgson, New Zealand Minister for Energy, Science, and Fisheries
“He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”
— William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein