To you my friend, who has decided to live a zero waste lifestyle: thank you for trying to make my planet look less like a dumpster. To you my friend who has decided to travel less by plane to decrease your footprint: thank you for trying to make my planet stay in its right temperature balance. People say you are dreamers, I say you are the most realistic and pragmatic people I know, because you are willing to see the reality and act. The situation is pretty simple: we are destroying our planet by our behaviors, so either we change, either we let our planet go down the road of global warming, water scarcity, destruction of biodiversity, blablabla.
The thing is that since I started to question my consumption choices in the attempt of becoming a better human to my planet, I have come to learn things I had no clue of. I was convinced that I was strongly diminishing my impact by reducing my water usage, by reducing to the maximum the plastic that was going into my house, and I even started doing my own natural cleaning products to reduce the usage of chemicals and their transfer (and consequent pollution) to the water. But the news about the health (and the fever) of our planet kept (and keeps) getting worse and worse. And I realized that people are missing a very, very important information regarding what is actually the number one contributor to global warming. Meat. In a very interesting way, nobody is really talking about it. We are asked to save water, to turn-off electricity when not needed, to use low-consumption light bulbs and buy low-consumption electronic supplies, but we are no tackling what seems to be today the number one problem.
Did you know what is the number one contributor to global warming, even before airplanes, cars and cargo boats all combined according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)? Livestock.
It accounts for 18% of all emissions, in front of worldwide transportation. They also are responsible for 37% of all methane emissions (23 times more harmful than CO2 on the global warming potential), 65% of anthropogenic nitrous oxyde (296 times the global warming potential of CO2).
To give you an idea of the « geography » of the problem, livestock production (grazing and livestock feed crop production) accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the Earth’s land surface.
I often hear people say: « soya is killing our water resources, vegans eat soya, therefore vegans are destroying the world’s water supplies ». Well somebody forgot to mention that these crops are destined to the feeding of livestock. Imagine the available lands we would have to plant vegetables and grains to feed humans if the grazing lands and livestock feed crops were converted to plant farming.
Deforestation, water pollution & shortage, animal extinctions: scary key words associated to meat-eating behaviors.
Livestock, not only contributes to global warming and occupies 70% of all agricultural land, it also has huge impacts on air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, destruction of forest and animal extinctions.
A good example of the impact of livestock lands on deforestation and destruction of biodiversity could be the Brazilian example: 70% of the Amazonian forest has been destroyed to implement pastures and feed crops.
Regarding water, by 2025, 64% of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions. And livestock, apart from being the world’s largest water consumer, is also considered as the worst source of water pollution: animal wastes, antibiotics, fertilizers from the feedcrops, chemicals from tanneries, etc…
And it will only get worse with the increase of population.
Due to the growing populations and income levels, meat production is expected to grow from 229 million tons in 1999 to 465 million tons in 2050. This means that to be able to maintain the current levels of environmental impact (which are already are very, very bad) the industry will have to decrease its footprint by 50%. And it better start now.
I used to love a steak, but I love Earth more.
We might make fun of vegans, or even say that they are too extreme. I used to when I was eating a delicious smoked burger, a crispy bacon in my sandwich or a grilled chicken in my Caesar Salad. But according to a study done by Germany’s Institute for Ecological Economy Research, meat eaters produce 700% more greenhouse gases than vegans. So I will keep watching how my water is being spent at home, I will keep turning off the lights when they are not necessary. But mostly, I will make sure no meat ends up in my plate.
So to you my friend who loves a steak, I get it, I honestly do (and I have to say that sometimes I almost miss it). And you might want to keep on eating it and that is absolutely your right and pleasure, the only thing I ask you is to take a look at your meals and wonder if every dish with meat you ate was worth it? If the answer is no, like ground meat in an unidentified dish, then simply by reducing your meat consumption you are already making a big gesture to the planet (and the animals on the way). And to you my vegan or vegetarian friend who has chosen chick peas over a hamburger, quinoa over lamp chops, thank you for making my planet a more healthy one. So? Ready to start helping the planet out? Because yes, individual behavioral changes do matter. And on the way, you might save the lives of a few cows and pigs.
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