Go Veggie for the Environment

by Michele McKay

Many readers care deeply about the health of our planet – you make an effort to recycle, to cut energy and water use, and to protect the Earth’s air, water, and ecosystems. But are you aware that your choice of food is the single most important decision you make for the Earth? Eating meat supports the very industry that is causing the greatest environmental destruction worldwide! In choosing a plant-based, vegetarian diet you can elect to:

Help reduce global warming

Raising animals for food generates more ‘greenhouse gas’ than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 In addition to CO2, the livestock industry produces other greenhouse gases with even higher global warming potentials: methane (23 times that of CO2), nitrous oxide (300 times that of CO2), and ammonia. And, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just 8 years, as opposed to 100 years for CO2. Reducing the demand for meat would rapidly lower atmospheric methane, a key contributor to global warming.2

Save vast amounts of water

Producing one pound of beef requires approximately 2,500 gallons of water, whereas a pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons.

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems. Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related pollutants foul our rivers and streams, and enter the human food chain through water supplies.3

Reduce the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat

30% of the earth’s entire land surface (or, put another way, 70% of all agricultural land) is used for livestock.4 In the Amazon region, rainforests are being cut and burned to create pastures, thus releasing CO2 and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species.5

Ensure environmental sustainability

Demand for meat is expected to double by the year 2050. Producing animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as producing plant-based food.6 Do the math! Pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, demand for water, and strain on land use will only get catastrophically worse. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability.

What you can do

Shrink your ecological footprint by going veggie! You will be doing something nice for the planet – and the animals that share it with us – every time you eat.

  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
  2. EarthSave, “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
  3. Ed Ayres, "Will We Still Eat Meat?" Time, 8 Nov. 1999: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992523,00.html
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
  5. White, T. 2000. Diet and the distribution of environmental impact. Ecological Economics. 34, 145-153.
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf

Cut Fish for Better Health

People who believe that adding fish to their diet makes them healthier will be surprised to learn this is a myth. Increasing numbers of health professionals and scientists are finding that it should not be mistaken as a health food at all. Consider the facts:

Saturated Fat.

Fish is high in saturated fat and has twice the amount of cholesterol as beef, chicken, and pork. Therefore, it is not uncommon that people who eat fish have higher blood cholesterol levels.

Fish Protein.

Fish protein is highly-acidic and is known to accelerate calcium loss, which contributes to osteoporosis and kidney stones. Eskimos are among the world’s greatest consumers of fish, which is high in protein. Surprisingly, after the age of 40, they have 10% to 15% greater bone loss than their American counterparts. The cause is attributed to the negative effects of protein on bone health.

Environmental Contaminants.

Fish is often highly contaminated with mercury, lead, toxic waste, parasites, etc. The higher up on the food chain, the more contaminated the fish. In fact, the FDA has advised women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant not to eat swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, or shark for this reason. And finally, fish contains no dietary fiber or digestible carbohydrates, which is not ideal for optimal bowel function and metabolism. Of course, some people will argue that the Japanese (a fish-eating population) enjoy a low incidence of diseases common to Americans (heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, etc.). And yes, they are said to have the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. But it is often ignored that their health is most likely due to a diet comprised mostly of rice and lots of vegetables, rather than the small amounts of fish they consume. Others may worry that if they don’t eat fish or fish oils, they won’t get their Omega 3’s, but the hype about fish oil is misleading and overrated. You don’t need to get your essential fats from fish. In fact, fish don’t even produce essential fats, they get it from the algae they eat. Only plants can make essential fats. Likewise, you can easily satisfy your dietary needs for essential fats on a plant-based diet. (See this month’s Health Tip for more details.) There is, however, at least one redeeming thing that can be said about fish. Many people find that eating fish helps them forgo meat and move towards a plant-based diet. In doing so, they eventually reach a clear and unmistakable conclusion:

“The single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.”

Watching Wildlife Responsibly

by Michele McKay

Watching wildlife is a great way for people of all ages to experience nature and learn about the flora, fauna and environment of our Hawaiian Islands. However, wildlife enthusiasts who disturb land and marine animals or who overuse sensitive areas can pose a threat to the long-term health of wildlife, native plants, and habitats. The Hawaii Watchable Wildlife Project includes a network of 31 viewing sites statewide, a guidebook called The Hawaii Wildlife Viewing Guide, and an informative website. The project encourages ecologically responsible and sustainable wildlife watching conduct, as well as the use of appropriate viewing locations. They offer these guidelines:

  • Look in the right place at the right time. The specific habitat, time of day, and season are important factors to consider when looking for wildlife.
  • Learn before you go. Read about the wildlife, viewing sites, and local regulations in the area you’ll be visiting.
  • Keep your distance. Wild animals are sensitive to human disturbance; resist the temptation to go near them, their nests, or their resting areas. Use binoculars!
  • Look, but don’t touch. If a wild animal comes near you, back away calmly.
  • Do not feed or attract wildlife. Feeding or attracting animals can disrupt normal feeding cycles, make them vulnerable to injury, and cause sickness or death.
  • Help others. Speak up if you notice other people behaving in a way that impacts sensitive habitats or disturbs wildlife and other viewers. Remember to be friendly, respectful, and discrete. Do report violations of the law to local authorities.
  • Respect the rights of other people. Ask permission to enter private lands and abide by all “no trespassing” signs. Be considerate in urban neighborhoods.
  • Lend a hand with trash removal. Human garbage is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. Carry a trash bag and pick up litter wherever you see it.

The Hawaii Watchable Wildlife Project reminds wildlife viewers and nature lovers to:

  • Clean shoes after a hike. Seeds from invasive species can be transported in the tread of muddy shoes.
  • Remain at least 50 yards from dolphins and monk seals. Refrain from swimming with these mammals, or approaching while they are at rest.
  • Do not touch, ride, or feed sea turtles. Maintain your distance, whether they are in the water or basking on the beach.
  • Do not feed or touch reef fish. Feeding peas or other food to fish can cause illness or death.
  • Do not touch coral. Enter water in a sandy area, and float above the coral heads.

Check it out:

The Hawaii Wildlife Viewing Guide is available at local bookstores and online from the Hawaii Watchable Wildlife Project – it makes a perfect gift. Visit www.hawaiiwildlife.us or call Annette Kaohelaulii at 531-4611 for more information.