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The Environmental Impacts of a Meat Based Diet, or Go Veggie Now to Save the Earth!
By Reverend Gary Kowalski
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization )FAO), livestock agriculture contributes more to global warming than all transportation sectors (cars, trucks, planes, ships, trains) combined.
There are lots of livestock animals. Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20% of all earth's biomass. Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc. outnumber people 3-1.
A cow produces up to 130 gallons of methane a day. Methane is 21 times more powerful than CO2 as a green house gas. While atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen about 31% since pre-industrial times, levels of methane have more than doubled, due to our insatiable appetite for meat.
Livestock manure also produces nitrous oxide, 296 times more powerful than CO2 as a green house gas. Livestock excrete 7 trillion tons of manure every year.
Eating a pound of beef is like driving your car 25 miles. This gives new meaning to MacDonald's slogan, over 50 billion sold.
It's going to get worse. The FAO expects global meat consumption to more than double by 2050.
According to the FAO, livestock grazing is also among the top contributors to other environmental problems like deforestation, water pollution and species loss.
Tropical forests are cleared for pasture land. In both 1993 and 1994, the U.S. imported over 200,000,000 pounds of fresh and frozen beef from Central American countries. Two thirds of these countries' rainforests have been cleared, primarily to raise cattle whose cheap meat is exported the U.S. food industry (Rainforest Action Network http://www.ran.org).
Livestock now use 30% of the earth's entire land surface. U.S. forests are also disappearing at the rate of a football field every second.
Meat production wastes resources. The water required to produce one pound of California beef, according to the University of California Agricultural Extension Department, is 5,214 gallons. (Producing one pound of grain takes 250 gallons.) You could save more water by not eating a pound of beef than by not showering for six months.
The production of one quarter-pounder causes the loss of 5 times the
burger's weight in topsoil.
Antibiotics, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used to spray feed crops are a major source of toxins in the environment. Of all poisons in our food supply, 90% comes from animals, only 10% from fruits, grains and vegetables.
In the U.S., livestock produce 130 times the waste that people do. While human waste is carefully treated and sanitized, regulations concerning animal waste are lax or non-existent.
According to the 2000 census, the U.S. ranks number 3 in the world in per capita beef consumption, gorging on 100 lbs per year. We are also leaders in obesity, heart disease, hypertension and colorectal cancer-all conditions with proven links to eating fatty red meat. We are more susceptible to diseases of all kinds because of the massive antibiotics fed to livestock.
The Good News: Cutting meat from our diet can have a quick and dramatic positive impact on the planetary environment and human health.
While CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for more than century, methane circulates out in just eight years. Reducing meat consumption has rapid results. The turnover rate for ruminant farm animals is 1-2 years, moreover, unlike coal fired power plants or automobile factories that last for decades.
A shift from methane-emitting food sources is much easier than cutting carbon dioxide. Concerned citizens can make a difference three meals a day, without waiting for legislators or political leaders to reach new international agreements or enforce new standards on industry.
It is hard to imagine our economy shifting to zero emissions in terms of CO2. But a 100% decrease in methane emissions is at least theoretically possible, with much less economic dislocation.
According to the University of Chicago, cutting meat from you diet does more to help the planet than switching from a gas guzzler to a hybrid car.
Reverend Gary Kowalski is the author of bestselling books that explore spirit and nature, including The Souls of Animals (http://www.amazon.com/Souls-Animals-Gary-Kowalski/dp/1577315901/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217600009&sr=1-1) Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet (http://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Friend-Healing-Wisdom-Anyone/dp/1883478227/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217600118&sr=1-2) The Bible According To Noah: Theology As If Animals Mattered (http://lanternbooks.com) and Science & the Search for God (http://lanternbooks.com) and Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America's Founding Fathers (http://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Spirits-Enlightened-Americas-Founding/dp/1933346094/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217600269&sr=1-1).
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