But Mother Nature Might Be
"If everybody on the planet consumed the way Americans do, we would need 3 to 5 more Earths."
–Vegucated, Documentary, Prime Video
Meat has been in the news lately, when somebody claimed that part of President Biden’s new environmental policy was to force Americans to limit ourselves to a hamburger a week. It wasn’t true, but it did bring something to light that needs to be talked about. The environmental impact each of us can have by choosing to eat less meat and dairy.
It's empowering to know this. Once we know how much good just one single person can do, we’re practically Captain Planet.
So here, in simple terms with respected sources, is exactly how eating less meat and dairy can help slow climate change and heal the planet.
“My calculations are that without using any gas or oil or fuel ever again, from this day forward, that we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions — the 565 gigatons — by the year 2030.”
–Dr. Richard Oppenlander Environmental Researcher, Author of Comfortably Unaware
The above statement was made eight years ago. Since then our meat consumption has gone up, while our goals for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 have gone even lower. That's the opposite direction from our goals.
“Raising animals for food produces between 15–51 percent of all greenhouse emissions worldwide—with 37 percent being the most reasonable estimate. Even at its lowest estimate, this accounts for more greenhouse emissions than all modes of transportation combined.”
Then there’s the laughing gas…
65% of the NITROUS OXIDE, (N2O) in our atmosphere is produced by animal agriculture. This gas’s warming impact is 296 times greater than that of C02 per pound.
The C02 in our atmosphere is projected to increase 20% by 2040.
But the nitrous oxide’s projected increase is 80% by 2050.
This is mostly due to projected increases in meat and diary consumption, which means that this is something we can change. We have the power in our hands.
Here are some other things that aren’t really common knowledge but should be.
We’re all aware that in many places, coral bleaching is already underway. What’s less common knowledge is why.
“As a primary driver of global warming – more than cars – animal agriculture is directly affecting the global ocean in two ways. First, the rising atmospheric temperature is raising global ocean temperatures leading to widespread coral bleaching. (Bleaching slows coral growth, makes them susceptible to disease, and leads to large-scale reef die-off). Second, a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing the acidity of the global ocean, handicapping the extensive roster of marine organisms that build shells or skeletons.
Measurable, observable, and proven damage is being done to our oceans by huge factory farms.
The US alone produces 116,000 pounds of animal manure PER SECOND.
–Cowspiracy, Netflix Documentary
There are currently more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones in our world caused by farm runoff. Farm runoff that makes its way into the Mississippi and on into the Gulf of Mexico has created a “Dead Zone” that is bigger than the state of New Jersey.
A dead zone is a part of the ocean where there is no longer enough oxygen in the water to support life. Dead Zones change size depending on how much nitrogen is being fed into them because, as anyone who has ever kept an aquarium or fish pond knows, nitrogen depletes oxygen.
There are currently are more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones in our world's oceans caused by farm runoff.
95,000 square miles of ocean are devoid of life due to animal farm runoff.
“Within as little as 50 years, many regions of the United States could see their freshwater supply reduced by as much as a third, warn scientists.”
Much of the world is now experiencing drought, and the problem is expected to get worse. Many of us are encouraged to conserve water in every way we can. What we eat is one of the biggest factors in our water-use footprint.
1 steak (6 ounces) takes 674 gallons of water to produce
1 hamburger takes 660 gallons
1 slice of ham (3 ounces) 135 gallons
1 salad, with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber: 21 gallons
Environmental groups point to fracking as being a terribly water-wasteful practice. Fracking uses 100 billion gallons of water a year. Billion with a B. But cattle raised for meat use 34 trillion gallons a year. Trillion with a T. That’s 340 times more water.
In California, water for domestic use, i.e. baths, showers, dishes, laundry, and even watering lawns, accounts for about 5% of total water use.
Animal agriculture accounts for 55% of water use in the same state.
In many parts of the country we're being told not to water our lawns, and to take shorter showers, and to turn off the water while we brush our teeth. But nobody tells us that just by eating less meat and dairy, we could do more than all those things times eleven!
And it’s not an either-or thing. Cutting back or eliminating meat and dairy can super-charge our other efforts at conservation in all areas.
LAND USE AND HUNGRY CHILDREN
In countries where children are starving, land is being used to grow crops to feed cattle, which are then slaughtered and sold to people in wealthier countries.
But we could feed everybody. We could feed every single hungry child.
“The research suggests that it’s possible to feed everyone in the world a nutritious diet on existing croplands, but only if we saw a widespread shift towards plant-based diets.”
It takes it takes almost 100 times as much land to produce a gram of protein from beef as a gram of protein from peas. It takes 100 times more land to produce a gram of protein from lamb, as from tofu.
“Research has shown that by simply removing animal products from our diet we can reduce our individual carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent. It could also cut our water footprint by about half.”
I hope this motivates you!
When we try to discuss this fascinating topic with others, they sometimes feel attacked or accused. That's not what this article is about. I was an omnivore for the first 57 years, 11 months, and 354 days of my life. I've eaten a lot of meat and dairy. But I'm also a firm believer in living without regret. Regret is a wasted emotion, because there is absolutely nothing we can do about the past. We can only move forward.
When we know better, we do better, and that's really the best any of us ever manage. We are constantly learning, and so we are constantly improving, and that's a journey we're all on together. And kind of the point of life.
People are always asking "why are we here?" We're here to evolve, to grow, to expand the Whole through our own individual experiences.
Nobody should feel guilty. Instead, feel empowered by seeing what a huge difference one person's everyday choices can make.
There’s a lot more detail to every article I’ve linked here so I encourage clicking and reading and diving down the rabbit hole. I also recommend the following documentaries for more information.
Forks Over Knives
What the Health