Want Not – Consumption and Not Fossil Fuel Is the Real Culprit of Climate Change. Part 1

“Scientists have warned us that increasing global meat consumption can have a disastrous environmental impact.”

Climate change is a subject everyone knows but very few understand. People protest against what they see: if they see smoke billowing from smokestacks and see the highways in traffic jams they quickly recognize the culprit. Since all can identify that our climate is out of control from massive forest fires in California, BC or Australia, flooding and hurricanes they say are 1 in 100 years and the 100 years comes again year after year. Earthquakes happen in the strangest places like the mid-west—which is not a typical earthquake zone—but nothing is typical any longer as the unusual has become normal. Most see the problems the world is facing but very few can identify the actual causes; feeling helpless and needing some sort of solution they wait until they can be lead to one. It does not take long for a child shall lead them and oh, it sounds so inspiring like a quote from the bible: “they shall be led by a child.” Is it that simple? I watch the news and see the massive rallies with statements like we are fighting for our future, your generation have created this mess and we are creating a revolution for change.

I find it inspiring that people are getting off their couch, walking and seeking a change, but then it is comical when you see them texting with their iPhone 11, driving their cars to the rally, leather shoes, clothes made with forms of plastic derived from fossil fuel, then eating at McDonald’s and chanting “we need climate change to end.” Well, as long as I don’t have to sacrifice the conveniences, of course. And then they attack the US for pulling out of the Paris Accord for lower emissions citing China and India and most other G20 nations have made commitments for 2030 and 2050, promising everything you want to hear but doing nothing. We need to look deeper than the surface and open our eyes. For the last 3 decades we have plowed our farms for shopping malls and massive infrastructure which are now quickly loosing popularity with online shopping. “The decline began slowly, in the mid-2000s. The rise of online shopping and the blow of the Great Recession led to a drop in sales and foot traffic at big-brand retailers” as a result of a market correction.[1] Don’t forget: online shopping is far from being eco-friendly.

Then we see that the Amazon rainforest being cut down to make way for agriculture of some sort or for fields to raise meat. They say the rainforest is the Earth’s lungs, which they most certainly are. If the demand for them to be cleared was replaced with global agreement with compensation to be preserved, they probably would be. We decimate our lands but don’t you dare change yours! The issue is a global concern but we offer no solution just condemnation.

To meet the global demand for meat with every meal we have replaced the grazing cattle with institutionalized farming. Cattle are squeezed into fenced fields of dirt normally meant for pigs and not intended for massive numbers. Pig’s cages do not provide enough space for them to lie down or turn and their hoofs never touch the ground nor do they see daylight, it is inhuman how they are treated. Chickens are raised in massive warehouses, and packed so tight they have no room; so many die on the floor and are not removed. To keep those producing the lights are never turned off and all are injected with either steroids or antibiotics and feed genetically engineered foods with some sort of nutritional standard so they are quicker to market. Yet, this is still not the biggest concern. Scientists have warned us that increasing global meat consumption can have a disastrous environmental impact. “It is difficult to envisage how the world could supply a population of 10 billion or more people with the quantity of meat currently consumed in most high-income countries without substantial negative effects on the environment.”[2] Did you know that if we went meatless even for 1 day, we would help the environment enormously?

The data indicated that, as a country eating vegetarian for one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost four months; 1.5 billion pounds of crops that would otherwise be fed to livestock—enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year; 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico with plenty to spare; 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware; 33 tons of antibiotics; 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages; and 4.5 million tons of animal excrement, which would eliminate almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant. Keep in mind; the impact of going full vegan would be even greater than going vegetarian.[3]

Other statistics are not less scary either. Did you know that we discard 1/3 of the food we produce? Imagine how greatly it would help the environment if we ate everything. Not to mention having a narrower variety of foods. Do we need 30 different cereals and multiple brands of the same jams, ketchup, crackers, and teas? The answer is probably no. The entire middle isles could be cut in a 1/4 yet still, we want it all. This is how it always goes: the need for more (whatever that may mean) and the comfort and convenience constantly reshape our future and with that the future of our entire planet. There’s so much we could do, the only question is if we are willing to.

Coming next week: How do our clothes shopping habits and food variety impact the environment? Read part 2 of our Want Not Series and find the answers!

 

References:

 

[1] Sanburn, Josh. 2017.

[2] Devlin, Hannah. 2018.

[3] Kahn, Joel, MD. 2019.