The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do for Mother Earth
We all have a few lifestyle changes that we have adopted to help improve the environment. Most of us recycle, many use compact fluorescents, drive hybrid cars, carry reusable shopping bags to the grocery store… the list goes on. However, there is ONE SINGLE lifestyle change that would have a far greater effect on improving the environment than any other, one that we conveniently avoid thinking about, one that even Al Gore conveniently neglected to mention in An Inconvenient Truth. This change is so powerful that if every American engaged in it only one day a week for a year, the resulting carbon savings would be comparable to removing 19.2 million cars from US roads, and if we all did it seven days a week, it would be the same as taking ALL the cars in the US off the road for a year.
So what is it that we can do? It’s simple. Eat a plant-based diet. Of course there are many other reasons to eat a plant-based diet, but in honor of our Mother Earth, I will focus on those related to the environment.
In 2006, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations published a report entitled, Livestock’s Long Shadow. According to this comprehensive report, “livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
In Eating Animals, author Jonathan Safran Foer points out that “animal agriculture makes a 40 percent greater contribution to global warming than all the transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.”
The world is facing increasing problems of freshwater shortage, scarcity and depletion. Animal agriculture accounts for more than 8 percent of global human water use. It is also probably the largest source of water pollution.
Raising livestock is by far the largest user of land. Between land used for grazing and feed-crop production, livestock accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land of the planet. Rainforests are being cleared at an astounding rate due to cattle ranching. This results in loss of unique plant and animal species as well as carbon release into the atmosphere.
Despite these and many other related issues, there is a growing demand for animal-based foods. Global production of meat and dairy is projected to more than double by 2050. Eating animals has expanded to cultures that were traditionally plant-based, and is so ingrained in our culture, that we have been conditioned to believe that we must have animal protein to survive, even though there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary.
Our government supports the livestock industry and this increasing demand for animal products by keeping the cost to consumers unrealistically low at a tremendous cost to the environment and our health. Government subsidies come in many forms – from subsidizing crops for animal feed (mostly genetically modified corn and soy), to land and water use grants, to unregulated dumping of untreated animal waste (farmed animals in the US produce 130 times as much sewage as the human population). I, for one, prefer to have my tax dollars supporting sustainable practices of local organic farmers, not the unsustainable confinement of animals for food.
“The factory farm will come to an end because of its absurd economics someday. It is radically unsustainable. The earth will eventually shake off factory farming like a dog shakes off fleas; the only question is whether we will get shaken off along with it.”
~ from Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Three times a day we have the opportunity to decide whether or not to support life and sustainability. Jonathan Safran Foer writes:
“It might sound naive to suggest that whether you order a chicken patty or a veggie burger is a profoundly important decision. … Deciding what to eat…is the founding act of production and consumption that shapes all others. Choosing leaf or flesh, factory farm or family farm, does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can. One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates.”
Are you ready and willing to live your values?
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Chiarello, founder of A Taste of Light, is a certified raw vegan chef,
educator and health coach. She offers a variety of services including health coaching, classes, dinner parties, consultations and presentations. For more information, visit aTasteofLight.com or contact her directly – Marilyn@aTasteofLight.com or 516-671-7037.
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