Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Less meat, less climate change?

Environmentalists all over the world have their sights set on one goal: saving our planet. However, there is not just one way to accomplish this goal. We’ve all heard the various suggestions on how to do our part in reducing our impact on climate change, such as driving an electric car, turning off our lights, and reducing our showering times, but have you ever heard that eating less meat could be more important than all of those? For instance, the amount of water used to shower for two months is equivalent to the amount of water used to produce a single hamburger: 660 gallons of water (Gillam). Convinced yet?
Damian Carrington, a writer for The Guardian, confronts us with a fact that many people are unaware of, which is that “the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined” (Carrington). Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang conducted a study to discover the levels of “uncounted, overlooked, and misallocated livestock-related GHG emissions” and found that “51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions are caused by livestock and their byproducts.” In fact, livestock and their byproducts actually “account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year” (Goodland and Anhang). Animal agriculture also accounts for much of the deforestation and land-use occurring around the world. In fact, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the Amazon destruction and 45% of earth’s land is covered by livestock (Gillam).  Greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and land-use are some of the main concerns for climate change and if animal agriculture is responsible for such high amounts then obviously changes need to be made.
Meat consumption in Asia is expected to rise with a 116% increase in China and a 138% increase in India between 2006 and 2050 (Casey). This is a major concern because a growing demand for meat will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, ultimately causing the dangerous effects of climate change to be unavoidable (Casey). If action isn’t taken to stop this increase in meat consumption, agricultural emissions could take up 100% of the carbon budget by the year 2050 (Carrington). Simply said, every other industry would have to impossibly emit no carbon in order to keep our planet from warming an extra 2 degrees.
By switching to a plant-based diet, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 50% by reducing both emissions and land-use because feeding a vegan for a year requires 18 times less land than meat eaters (Gillam).  Reducing meat consumption will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but it will also have a positive impact on human health since there are reports coming out about health issues that could be attributed to consumption of certain meats. You can help your planet and yourself by becoming more aware of your meat consumption and making a few changes.
It is safe to assume that the most effective method of avoiding this unwanted increase in emissions is to reduce meat consumption worldwide. The first step that needs to be taken is raising awareness of the impact animal agriculture has on the environment and human health. This may sound easy, but there are many barriers. Kate Irwin of The Daily Californian informs us that “many of the world’s largest and most famous nonprofit environmental organizations suppress, do not acknowledge or are ignorant of this basic truth” (Irwin). These organizations that are all about protecting the environment aren’t even addressing this problem and that is an issue. On top of that, according to Laura Wellesley of BBC News, governments aren’t addressing this environmental issue either because they fear backlash from the people and they know the public’s awareness of this issue is low so they do not feel the need to do anything (Wellesley). Despite the lack of support that this issue gets from the larger organizations and governments, many environmentalists continue to address the issue on their own. In 2014, Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn took it upon themselves to create a risky documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, to explore the impact that animal agriculture has on our environment and present their own solution to this environmental issue: a plant-based diet (Irwin). So, are you willing to give up some meat for the sake of the planet you live on?

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