Want to reduce global warming? Be a vegetarian

by Mark Fergusson, Down To Earth CEO

Everyone is talking about so-called “green” solutions. It is a lucrative business for many companies. Not all these solutions are as useful as one would think.

The World Bank stated last week that the massive switch to growing corn for ethanol is a "significant contributor" to soaring food prices around the world,1 as land that used to grow food crops is now being converted to growing “fuel” crops. The trend towards plant-based plastics is also taking up farmland, putting additional pressure on food supply.

The Bottle Bill, which created new taxes and unreasonable burdens on consumers, has not been cost-efficient in any way and has had a limited impact on recycling. Energy-efficient light bulbs contain mercury, so they cannot be disposed of easily. Other examples abound. As we think about going “green,” many people would be surprised to learn that adopting a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing a person can do to reduce their personal impact on the environment. It is the fastest path to reducing global warming with no negative impacts.

In its stunning 2006 report on global warming, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.2 When emissions from land use are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human-related activities, but produces a larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases.3

Livestock generates 37 percent of the total methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2 produced by human activity.4 It also generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. Most of these gases come from animal manure!5

Adopting a vegetarian diet could reduce greenhouse gases from this source by 100 percent with little negative impact.6 Similar cuts in carbon dioxide are virtually impossible without having a potentially devastating impact on the economy. Even with implementation of the most ambitious strategies, emissions would be cut by less than half. Furthermore, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years so lowering methane emissions would translate to cooling the earth quickly.

The root issue causing global warming is overconsumption. A modest American household consumes [as a standard] far more natural resources than the world can support on a sustainable basis.7 The spread of such a lifestyle to the rest of the planet is not feasible. This is particularly true of a meat-based diet, which damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do.

Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. In contrast, plant-based diets have a low environmental impact because they use fewer natural resources, so they are better for the environment. Nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance, so eating meat is an unnecessary luxury rather than a necessity.

The single most important thing an individual can do to reduce global warming—and to do it faster and more efficiently than by any other means—is to adopt a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet contributes to a cleaner and safer environment and better health while causing less pain and suffering for the innocent animals.

Footnotes: 

Article originally published in Pacific Business News (Honolulu, April 18, 2008)

References:

  1. “World Bank Chief: Biofuels Boosting Food Prices,” National Public Radio, April 11, 2008: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89545855
  2. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  3. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid.
  6. Earth Save, EarthSave Report: A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  7. “Energy and Sustainable Development,” Berkley Energy Center, City of Berkley, CA: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/energy_and_sustainable_development/

The "True" Inconvenient Truth

by Frank Santana

The quickest and most effective way to reduce global warming will come through diet change, according to a letter that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent to Al Gore . PETA wrote that his film, An Inconvenient Truth “...failed to address the fact that the meat industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Their argument has teeth.

In its 2006 report "Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options," the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 A similar finding came from a report by researchers at the University of Chicago, who announced that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius. 2 3

PETA reminded Gore that his critics love to question whether he practices what he preaches. By going vegetarian, they said, he could cut down on his contribution to global warming and silence his critics at the same time.

Given all the concern Gore is stirring up about green house gasses, he might take a bit of advice from our friends at PETA. He could have a veggie burger next time he cooks up a meal in that energy-inefficient mansion he resides in.

"The single best thing that any of us can do to for our health, for animals, and for the environment is to go vegetarian," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The best and easiest way for Mr. Gore to show his critics that he’s truly committed to fighting global warming is to kick his meat habit immediately." 4

To date, there has been no report of Gore responding to PETA’s letter. However, given the increasing scientific and government information coming out, he may eventually face the reality that vegetarianism is a practical, efficient, and responsible way that every citizen can do their part to reduce global warming.

Other reports along similar lines suggest that this argument will soon become part of the mainstream discussion on global warming. For example:

  • While there is a lot of focus on how the CO2 emissions from automobiles may impact global warming, a recent Japanese study reported in New Scientist magazine shows that producing 2.2lb of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car non-stop for three hours. 5
  • It was recently reported that an official from the Environmental Agency in the UK acknowledged that the “potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant, (but) encouraging the public to take a lifestyle decision as substantial as becoming vegan would be a request few are likely to take up.” The director of a UK Vegetarian group made a very good point in response, saying "I think it is extraordinary that a Government agency thinks becoming a vegetarian or vegan could have such a positive impact for the environment yet it is not prepared to stand up and argue the case." 6

CNN/Glenn Beck Report: Al Gore ignores warning about impact of eating meat on global warming

Footnotes: 
  1. Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006.
  2. "Meat-Eaters Aiding Global Warming? New Research Suggests What You Eat as Important as What You Drive,” ABC News, April 19, 2006.
  3. “Earth Interactions, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Dec. 12, 2005.
  4. Clearing Up a Few Things with Al Gore,” PETA Media Center, March 7, 2007.
  5. Eating beef 'is less green than driving,” Telegraph.co.uk, July 19, 2007.
  6. "Go vegan to help climate, says Government,” Telegraph,co.uk, May 30, 2007.

Vegetarian Solution - Part 2

by Michael Bond

A real environmentalist does not eat meat. Rather, they understand that raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth by polluting and depleting our land, water, and air and they want no part of it. Read on and you will see why the most important step you can take to save the planet is to go vegetarian.

Global Warming

According to a United Nations report in 2006, raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” There’s a lot of talk about curbing global warming by reducing carbon emissions. But surprising very few people are presenting the fact that mainstream acceptance of a vegetarian diet would have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (of both CO2 and methane). In fact, on the basis of carbon emissions, adopting a vegan diet actually does more to reduce emissions than driving a hybrid car. That is because every single stage of meat production involves heavy pollution, massive releases of greenhouse gases, and massive amounts of energy.

Destruction of Rainforests and Forest Land

Would you clear 55 square feet of rainforest just to eat a hamburger? That is about what it takes if you are consuming meat imported from South America. An area of rainforest the size of seven football fields is destroyed every minute to make room for grazing cattle. When rainforests are destroyed, so is a rich variety of plant life and entire species of wildlife. And it’s not just the rainforests that are vanishing, in the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been clear-cut just for animal agriculture. Conversely, by choosing to be a vegetarian, you alone would save one acre of trees every year.

Pollution

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. Livestock produces 130 times the amount of waste as all the people in the United States. Since there are no federal guidelines that regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of it, this untreated and unsanitary waste ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil, and contaminating our air.

Water Supplies

In the United States, we are rapidly depleting our underground aquifers faster than they are being replenished. Nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food. Consider this: a totally vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day. In other words, for every pound of beef you don’t eat, you are saving more water than you would by not showering at all for almost an entire year.

There are so many great meat-free options available; you will not miss out on anything by switching to a vegetarian diet. Simply by changing the food on your plate, you have the power to change the world for the better. If you care about the environment, go vegetarian.

Footnotes: 

At Down to Earth, we have held true to our values and our vegetarian commitment for over 25 years. Vegetarianism is a choice each of us can make to improve our health and the health of the environment and we feel it is our duty to educate people about the countless benefits of a plant-based diet.

If you would like to become a vegetarian, but are not sure where to start, we will do everything we can to help you. Come to our free vegetarian nutrition classes and vegetarian cooking classes, take a guided tour of our store, and be sure to take advantage of the awesome vegetarian recipes on our website.

Curbing Global Warming - Your Everyday Choices Make a Difference!

by Michele McKay

Burning fossil fuels (oil and petroleum) releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Here in Hawaii over 90% of the energy we use for electricity and transportation is produced by burning oil!

Reducing CO2 emissions can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but the choices we make in our everyday lives can help curb global warming. If you think you can’t make a difference, check out the results of taking these seven simple actions:

If all the readers* of this article would..

  • ...eliminate one pound of meat from their diet each week
    we would save 41,184,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...unplug their electronics when not in use
    we would save at least 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...reduce their driving by one mile every day
    we would save 1,752,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...turn the air conditioner thermostat up by 2 degrees in summer
    we would save 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...wash their clothes in cold water
    we would save 2,400,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...line-dry one load of laundry once a week
    we would save 836,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    we would save 730,000 pounds of CO2 per year

And if every reader took all seven actions we would save 56,392,000 pounds of CO2 per year!

Your actions do make a difference! Get started today… our planet will thank you.

For additional information from Hawaii on global warming visit www.climatecorps.org

Footnotes: 

* Based on 4,800 monthly recipients/readers of Down to Earth’s e-newsletter and website. To sign up for our free e-newsletter, visit www.downtoearth.org

Make Every Day Earth Day - And Put the Brakes on Global Warming

by Michele McKay

Global warming - the rising of temperatures across the planet - is caused by human activities associated with industrialization, economic development, and deforestation. The carbon dioxide emissions that result are thinning our earth's ozone layer and trapping heat inside the atmosphere. Global warming has accelerated in the past two decades, and increasing temperatures will gradually cause devastating changes on our planet. Here in the Pacific region, these impacts can be observed in the rising of sea levels and the degradation of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

It is possible for each of us to make a difference in the global warming process by helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. You can do your part by following these Every Day = Earth Day practices:

  • Instead of driving alone in your car, join a carpool, take mass transit, walk, or ride a bike – anything that reduces the amount of gasoline you use. For every single gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are shot into the atmosphere.
  • When you do drive, keep your car tuned up and its tires properly inflated to save on fuel costs as well as to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The next time you buy a car, choose one that is highly fuel-efficient.
  • Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with new compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Turn off your TV, video player, stereo, computer, lights and fans when you aren't using them.
  • Develop a plan to reduce daily electricity use around your home. Ask each member of your household to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action.
  • Make an effort to cut down on meat consumption and to buy organic produce.
  • The next time you buy an appliance, purchase an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Star rating, awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Install solar rooftop water heating and photovoltaic systems if possible.
  • Move closer to work if feasable. Reducing or eliminating your commute will save time, money, and energy.

Practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to lower overall energy consumption.

Global Warming

by Michele McKay

Global warming is a “hot” topic these days! Is our planet actually heating up? Are humans responsible? Is there cause for concern? Is there anything we can do about it?

Scientists studying climate change know three things for certain:

  • Greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide – warm the planet.
  • Human activities are adding greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere.
  • The Earth’s surface temperature is rising.

It is well documented that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels have increased since industrialization, and that the Earth’s surface temperature has been rising in the last 100 years. Major concerns are that the warming rate has sped up in the past 20 years and that atmospheric greenhouse gasses are rapidly increasing due to human activity.

There are some scientific uncertainties related to global warming: How fast will continued warming occur? What will the effects be? Though these questions may not be resolved for years, the potential threats of climate change include coastal flooding, hurricanes and extreme weather events, widespread disease, and species extinction.

Where do greenhouse gasses come from?

About one-fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the United States – that’s 6.6 tons per citizen per year. Of these emissions, nearly 32% come from burning fossil fuels for household electricity and personal transportation. Industry, livestock production, agriculture, and deforestation account for the other 68% of US emissions.

What you can do:

You can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the choices you make in daily life:

  • Turn off lights, electronics, and air conditioners when not in use. Lower water heaters to 120 degrees. Purchase Energy Star rated appliances – they can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%. Install solar water or photovoltaic systems.
  • Carpool, take the bus, ride a bike, or walk rather than driving a car. Keep cars tuned up and tires properly inflated. Only purchase cars that are fuel-efficient.
  • Recycle everything you can. Buy recycled items, such as paper products, whenever possible. Reduce packaging and the use of shopping bags.
  • Adopt a vegetarian diet and buy organic products – the livestock and agriculture industries are huge sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant trees – they provide cool shade and absorb carbon dioxide.

Low-Carbon Eating: Good for Your Health, Good for the Planet

Illustration: Carbon Footprint with Seedlings

by Michael Bond

Food is often overlooked as a component of our carbon footprint, yet what we choose to eat is one of the most significant factors in the personal impact we have on the environment. A recent study examining the impact of a typical week’s eating showed that plant-based diets are better for the environment than those based on meat.1 A vegan, organic diet had the smallest environmental impact while the single most damaging foodstuff was beef. Likewise, all non-vegetarian diets require significantly greater amounts of land and water resources. The United Nations and many leading environmental organizations—including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. If you are concerned about the environment, consider these facts:

  • Consumption of red meat is responsible for 30% of our country's total food production-related green house gas emissions, while fruits and vegetables create just 11%.2
  • Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.3
  • Livestock production is responsible for 70% of deforestation in the Amazon, where rainforests are being cleared to create new pastures.4 (Deforestation increases greenhouse gas emissions by releasing carbon previously stored in the trees.)
  • Going vegetarian just one day per week would be like driving 1,160 fewer miles per year. Going completely vegetarian would be like driving 156 fewer miles per week.

So you can see why we often say, "The single most important thing an individual can do for the environment is to adopt a vegetarian diet.” By choosing a vegetarian diet instead of one loaded with animal products, individuals can dramatically reduce the amount of land, water, and oil resources that they consume and the amount of pollution they otherwise might cause. In addition to moving toward a plant-based diet, here are other food-related tips for reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Buy organic foods! In doing so you are promoting sustainable, earth-friendly farming practices.
  • Buy locally-produced food! Support your local farmers and vendors, and reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the distance it takes to transport the food you consume.
  • Buy in bulk! Each of us can prevent the release of 1,200 pounds of C02 per year simply by cutting our garbage output by 10%.
  • Buy natural foods! Junk food and other heavily processed foods take more energy to produce than raw or whole foods prepared at home.

If you'd like to examine your diet's specific carbon footprint, check out the food calculator provided by the Low Carbon Diet (www.eatlowcarbon.org).

Footnotes: 
  1. Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettemanti, M. and Berati, M. 2006. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1-8: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~choucc/environmental_impact_of_various_di...
  2. “Guide to Low-Carbon Eating,” Seventh Generation.
  3. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  4. Ibid.

Good for Your Health, Good for the Planet and Animals, too!

Photo Illustration of Food Pyramid: Starches and Grains, Fruits and Vegetables, the Earth, and Woman Smiling

by Frank Santana

If you think going green simply means environmental responsibility, consider thinking outside the box. At Down to Earth, we strongly believe that the single most important thing an individual can do for their health and for the sake of the innocent animals—as well as the environment—is to adopt a vegetarian diet.

Good for Your Health

Leading health experts agree that going vegetarian is the single-best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; ... lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.1

Well-planned vegetarian diets provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh and eggs.

Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters.2, 3 Plus, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than are vegans.4

The consumption of meat has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, asthma, and male impotence. Scientists have also found that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eating friends; this means that they are less susceptible to everyday illnesses like the flu.5 Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.6

A plant-based diet is the best diet for kids, too: Studies have shown that vegetarian kids grow taller and have higher IQs than their classmates, and they are at a reduced risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases in the long run.7, 8 Studies have shown that even older people who switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet can prevent and even reverse many chronic ailments.

Good for the Planet

Studies show that vegetarian, organic diets have the smallest environmental impact while the single most damaging foodstuff is beef.9 All non-vegetarian diets require significantly greater amounts of environmental resources such as land and water.

America's meat addiction is poisoning and depleting our potable water, arable land, and clean air. More than half the water used in the United States today goes to animal agriculture. Farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human population and the run-off from their waste fouls our waterways. Animal excrement emits gases that poison the air around farms.10 In its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Most of it comes from carbon dioxide and methane gas generated by manure.11

The negative effects of the meat industry are far reaching.

Forests are being bulldozed to make more room for factory farms and feed crops to feed farmed animals, and this destruction causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss. Raising animals for food also requires massive amounts of food and raw materials: Farmed animals consume 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow, and one-third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S. go to raising animals for food.12

Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food, is wreaking havoc on the earth. There is no bigger blight on the face of the earth than the massive industrial scale factory farms and their associated brutal slaughterhouses.

For the Sake of the Innocent Animals

One of the most important and least understood benefits of a vegetarian diet is protection of the innocent animals. A vegetarian diet helps save animals from cruelty, suffering and brutal death—a staggering 10 billion animals are killed in the USA every year.

Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong."

Down to Earth's slogan captures this sentiment in its universally appealing slogan, "Love Life!" (Love animals, don't eat them).

References

Footnotes: 
  1. Ann Mangels, Virginia Messina, and Vesanto Melina, "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets," Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jun. 2003, pp. 748-65.
  2. Elizabeth Somer, "Eating Meat: A Little Doesn't Hurt," WebMD, 1999
  3. Neal Barnard, M.D., The Power of Your Plate, Book Publishing Co.: Summertown, Tenn., 1990, p. 26.
  4. John Robbins, The Food Revolution, Conari Press: Boston, 2001, p. 58.
  5. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine with Amy Lanou, Healthy Eating for Life for Children, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2002, p. 49.
  6. Robbins, p. 14.
  7. Charles Attwood, M.D., Dr. Attwood's Low-Fat Prescription for Kids, New York: Penguin Books, 1995, p. 84.
  8. Robbins, p. 85.
  9. Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettemanti, M. and Berati, M. 2006. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1-8: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~choucc/environmental_impact_of_various_di...
  10. Goveg.com, Vegetarian 101: http://www.goveg.com/vegetarian101.asp
  11. Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  12. Goveg.com, Vegetarian 101: http://www.goveg.com/vegetarian101.asp

United Nations: Livestock Production is Threatening the Environment

by Michele McKay

Those who visit Down to Earth’s website or receive the monthly e-newsletter probably have seen the statement that “The single most important thing an individual can do for the environment is to adopt a vegetarian diet.” The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agrees: Raising animals for food impacts global warming by generating more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 This fact in itself is a powerful argument for a vegetarian diet – but it’s just the beginning! For more on the subject, let’s go straight to the source and see what the FAO has to say about livestock production: In its 2006 Spotlight article “Livestock Impacts on the Environment”, the FAO informs us that:

  • “…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.”
  • “The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the remainder.”
  • “Evidence suggests it is the largest sectoral source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. While global figures are unavailable, it is estimated that in the USA livestock and feed crop agriculture are responsible for 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads in freshwater resources. The sector also generates almost two-thirds of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.”
  • “The sheer quantity of animals being raised for human consumption also poses a threat of the Earth's biodiversity. Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the land area they now occupy was once habitat for wildlife.”

The FAO’s 2008 bulletin “Livestock and Environment” reports that:

  • “…the livestock sector is exerting mounting pressure on the world’s natural resources: grazing land is threatened by degradation; deforestation is occurring to grow animal feed; water resources are becoming scarce; air, soil and water pollution are increasing; and locally adapted animal genetic resources are being lost.”
  • “Clearing of land for feed crop production and expansion of pastures for livestock production has been one of the driving forces behind deforestation. Deforestation causes significant environmental damage, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and causing the extinction of many animal and plant species each year. Freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce with the livestock sector accounting for nearly one tenth of global human water use. The livestock sector is probably the largest source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, ‘dead’ zones in coastal areas and degradation of coral reefs.”

Take it from the United Nations’ own Food and Agriculture Organization – raising animals for slaughter is severely damaging the environment on all fronts. But you can refuse to participate in this destruction. For the sake of the Earth, go veggie!

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

True Hope for Cooling Our Planet

Photo: Taro Field in Hawaii

by Tracy Ternes

Around the world, the issue of climate change and global warming is a topic of debate and concern. Many organizations and individuals who recognize the consequences of global warming are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions with the goal of stopping human induced climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is important, such as reducing the use of coal and oil and increasing the use of renewable solar energy and wind power. But these efforts alone will not cool the planet and reverse global warming. More will need to be done. A new idea is Regenerative Agriculture or Carbon Farming. If these terms are new to you, you are not alone. Although the various practices that define regenerative agriculture have been around since antiquity, their modern application and the idea that they could actually reverse global warming, has not quite broken into the forefront of mainstream media. Fortunately, proponents are working to change that.

The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that has been conducting agricultural research for over 60 years, has coined the term "regenerative organic agriculture." Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming that goes beyond organic and even beyond sustainable. It involves implementing practices that are known to improve carbon sequestration. Sequester means to isolate, hideaway or to take possession of, so carbon sequestration is referring to the soil’s ability to take in and hold on to carbon. Regenerative agriculture is successful when the soil is taking in more carbon than it is releasing.1 The specific practices that define regenerative agriculture include the following: keeping the soil planted year-round, minimizing tillage, planting cover crops, maintaining diversity and crop rotation, refraining from the use of chemicals, proper pasturing, converting degraded soils to forests, and using biochar (charcoal) to increase soil fertility.2 These practices, in combination with continuing to reduce our carbon emissions, hold a great deal of hope for the health of our planet and the growing problem of climate change. According to soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal at Ohio State University, “a mere 2% increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.”3

In April 2014, the French National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA) introduced a carbon sequestration program for agriculture, called “4 per 1000.” According to Jean-Francois Soussana, Scientific Director for INRA, an annual increase of 0.4% (4 per 1000) each year of organic matter in soil would be enough to compensate for the global emissions of greenhouse gases.4 It’s an initiative that aims to unite farmers, governments, organizations, foundations, etc. around the world to collaborate and commit to regenerative practices and spread the word about this exciting and globally-unifying idea.

With the issue of global warming seeming like such an insurmountable problem, it’s very hopeful to learn that something so simple as tending our soil properly may hold the solution. The following statement from the Rodale Institute sums it up nicely: Moving agriculture from a source of carbon pollution to a potential carbon sink is in everyone’s best interest. Regenerative organic agriculture is the key to this shift. It is the climate solution ready for widespread adoption now.5

Footnotes: 
  1. Carbon Cycle Institute. Carbon Farming. Accessed March 20 2016. http://www.carboncycle.org/carbon-farming/
  2. Kittredge, Jack. Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology do the Job? August 14, 2015. Accessed March 20, 2016. http://www.nofamass.org/sites/default/files/2015_White_Paper_web.pdf
  3. Roulac, John. The Solution Under Our Feet: How Regenerative Organic Agriculture Can Save the Planet. Jan 6, 2015. Accessed March 20, 2016. https://www.ecowatch.com/the-solution-under-our-feet-how-regenerative-or...
  4. http://4p1000.org/
  5. Rodale (2014). Accessed March 20, 2016. Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, https://rodaleinstitute.org/

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