The Earth Heats Up and Coral Reefs Diminish

While scientists and policy makers have grappled for decades over the hot-button issue of global warming, a groundbreaking new study firmly establishes the fact that the earth is heating up as a result of worldwide industrialization.

The study, published in the April 28, 2005 issue of Science, is led by James Hansen, one of NASA’s top climatologists. Hansen and other researchers, using ocean data collected over a 10-year period, conclusively found that the warming trend of the ocean could not be attributed to natural variation. Rather, the oceanic warming they found fit in precisely with the expected effects of modern industrialization.

How does global warming affect the oceanic habitat and the plants and creatures that reside in the ocean? Coral reefs, which are very sensitive to even small temperature changes in the ocean, are nature’s barometer of oceanic warming. As a result of global warming, scientists have observed the massive bleaching of coral reefs around the globe.

The “bleaching” of coral reefs occurs when coral reefs are stressed by environmental factors and expel the tiny algae that live on them. The algae are important because they give the reefs their color and provide food for them. After a severe bleaching, coral reefs often die.

Coral reefs suffer bleaching as a result of many environmental factors, such as pollution and destructive fishing practices; however warming is perhaps the most important cause of the bleaching of coral reefs. As global warming continues, the bleaching and death of coral reefs around the world may become an unavoidable reality.

Another example of how sensitive ocean creatures are to climate change are phytoplankton, which are microscopic plants that live near the surface of the ocean and use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Phytoplankton are important because they are the foundation of the marine food chain. When surface waters are too warm, this prevents the cooler nutrient-rich waters from swelling up to the surface where the phytoplankton live. If phytoplankton are not able to grow properly, it will disrupt the entire oceanic food chain.

While the ocean is able to absorb a great deal of heat without a large temperature change, we can see that the creatures that live in the ocean are greatly affected by even these minute temperature increases. So far, the ocean surface temperatures around the world have risen by an average of .9 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists predict at least another degree of warming over the next 100 years – even without further greenhouse emissions. Warming could also occur much more quickly if protective policies are not implemented.

The best way to help prevent continued global warming is by adopting an earth-conscious lifestyle – the most important step being to move towards a vegetarian diet. Few people realize that one third of the earth’s fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food. Gradually eliminating flesh foods from our diet is the simplest way to help conserve energy and preserve the environment. For more tips on how you can help protect our oceans, check out the Make Everyday Earth Day and Health Tips sections of our website.

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.


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


  1. “World Bank Chief: Biofuels Boosting Food Prices,” National Public Radio, April 11, 2008:
  2. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006:
  3. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006:
  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:
  7. “Energy and Sustainable Development,” Berkley Energy Center, City of Berkley, CA:

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

  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,”, July 19, 2007.
  6. "Go vegan to help climate, says Government,” Telegraph,, 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.


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.


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


* 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

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 (

  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:
  2. “Guide to Low-Carbon Eating,” Seventh Generation.
  3. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006:
  4. Ibid.

Say No to Factory Farms: A Triple-Win Solution

Photo: Pigs on a Factory Farm

by Michele McKay

Huge factory farms, known in the industry as “Confined Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs), raise thousands of animals under severely crowded conditions for the purpose of slaughter. CAFOs have long been recognized by scientists as potential sources of new and dangerous influenza viruses that could infect humans. "These mixing bowls of intensive operations of chickens and pigs are contributing to speeding up viral evolution,” says Ellen Silbergeld, a leading researcher of pathogen evolution in CAFOs and professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Recent outbreaks of swine and avian flu affirm that CAFOs are a threat to public health. However meat production also threatens our planet’s health – it’s the number one cause of global environmental damage. In choosing a vegetarian diet you can help the world to:

Reduce global warming

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 methane gas generated by manure. Reducing demand for meat could rapidly lower atmospheric gases that are key contributors to global warming.

Save vast amounts of water

Producing a pound of soy requires approximately 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons. However, it takes a whopping 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of beef, a tremendous waste in our water-short world.

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet CAFOs and factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related effluents pollute rivers and streams, and they enter the human food chain through water supplies.

Reduce the loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity

Clearing land to create pasture or grow animal feed results in deforestation, ecosystem destruction, and the incalculable loss of plant and animal species (and also releases vast CO2 stores). Today, 30% of the earth’s entire land surface – or 70% of all agricultural land – goes to supporting livestock.

Ensure environmental sustainability

The production of animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as the production of plant foods, while causing pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, water conflicts, and strains on land use. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability.

What you can do

Say “NO” to meat production and CAFOs by adopting a plant-based diet. You will be protecting public health, preventing the extreme suffering of animals, and caring for the planet every time you eat. It’s a triple win-win solution to serious global challenges.

Swine Flu: Protect Your Health, Protect the Planet

Photo: Pigs in a Holding Pen

by Michele McKay

Reminders about swine flu re-emerge with flu season: Be sure to wash hands, cover sneezes, avoid contact with others, and eat a healthy diet. These measures are important and effective in preventing the spread of flu viruses. But let’s step back and take a look at what’s behind swine flu… its source, its affect on the health of our planet, and what we can do in the “big picture” to prevent its social, environmental, and ethical consequences. Huge factory farms, known in the industry as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), raise thousands of animals under severely crowded conditions for the purpose of slaughter. Researchers recognize that intensive and filthy pig CAFOs are the source of swine flu, as well as being potential sources of new and dangerous viruses that could infect humans. Moreover, intensive meat production threatens our planet’s health – it is the number one cause of global environmental damage, contributing to:

Global warming

Raising animals for food generates more CO2 and other greenhouse gas than all the cars and trucks on earth combined. Reducing demand for meat could rapidly lower atmospheric gases that are key contributors to global warming.

Pollution of rivers, streams, and oceans

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet CAFOs and factory farms do not use sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other effluents pollute waterways and enter the human food chain.

Squandering of water

It takes 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of beef. In contrast, producing a pound of soy requires only 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat just 25 gallons.

Loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity

Today, 30% of the earth’s entire land surface – 70% of all agricultural land – goes to supporting livestock. Clearing land to create pasture or grow animal feed results in deforestation, ecosystem destruction, and the incalculable loss of plant and animal species (and also releases vast CO2 stores).

Unsustainable resource use

Producing animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as producing plant foods, and it leads to conflicts over water and land use. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward sustainable resource use.

What you can do:

Adopting a vegetarian diet not only helps avoid the basic sources of swine flu but also responds to serious global environmental challenges. Through a healthy, plant-based diet, you can help to protect public health, prevent the extreme suffering of animals, and care for the planet every time you eat.