By Leslie Conder on Salt Lake Tribune
Approximately 60 percent of Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as Mormons. Mormons are taught as are all Christians, to my limited knowledge, to be stewards over the earth that God created for them.
Being a Mormon myself I find it hard to come to terms with the lack of stewardship shown by many in my religion, when I believe it is the religious doctrine that provides the essential tools for Mormons to be leaders in the cause of environmental change. The biggest tool at our disposal is the Word of Wisdom.
The Word of Wisdom is "a law of health" that Mormons strive to follow. Unfortunately they seem to only focus on the part that says "don't drink coffee or alcohol, don't smoke and don't do drugs." Many dismiss the part which reads, "Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; and it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
If Mormons actually paid as much heed to eating meat sparingly, or not at all in my case, as they do to the no-alcohol part of the Word of Wisdom, they would be in line with the United Nations 2006 report which summarized the damage produced by the meat industry: "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." The policy on animal agriculture needs to be changed, and heaven knows Mormons have the organizational skills to get it done.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. In the U.S., 70 percent of all grains, 80 percent of all agricultural land, half of all water resources and one-third of all fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food. Eating animals destroys the rainforest, when the Amazon is slashed and burned to create grazing space for cows as well as land to grow feed for chickens.
Many Mormons who are on the going-green bandwagon have replaced their old light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, are placing their recycling in a blue bin and use their feet or public transportation to get them around. These are all great ways of reducing their carbon footprint, but the more encompassing choice would be to eat less meat.
The Environmental Defense Fund states, "If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads." That's just one chicken meal per week.
So the next time that you are at your local book store, pick up a vegetarian cook book and try out some new recipes at your next Sunday family dinner. Your Mother Earth will thank you for it.
Leslie Conder received her bachelor's degree in English at the University of Utah and will be attending Chatham University this fall to earn a master's degree in creative nonfiction. She is a Mormon, an environmentalist and a vegetarian.