Category Archives: Environment

Plant-based treaty to fight global warming

It’s time for a plant-based treaty. What is a plant-based treaty? It’s a new idea that gets to the root of a prime driver of global warming, animal agriculture! We’re not kidding. A UN report said that raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, plains, trains, trucks, ships and planes in the world all put together. A report by two environmentalists at the World Bank says that animal agriculture accounts for 51% of global warming. Even former vice president, and now a leader of the movement to combat global warming, Al Gore, has become a vegan in recognition of the harm that raising meat causes to the environment.

A new grassroots campaign has launched the Plant-Based Treaty. It encourages world leaders to look at a different but more sustainable solution, rather than focusing on carbon emissions alone. It demands that governments of every country around the globe cease animal agriculture to cut down on emissions. A complete transformation of our broken food system is essential, as practices like unsustainable animal agriculture need to end if there is to be any hope of achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

Supporters of this treaty are campaigning in places such as Amsterdam, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Seoul, England and Mumbai to encourage world leaders to sign the Treaty. The key points of this treaty are:

  • Relinquish – No land-use, ecosystem degradation, or deforestation for the purposes of animal agriculture.
  • Redirect – An active transition away from animal-based agriculture systems to plant-based food systems.
  • Restore – Restore key ecosystems and reforest the Earth.

According to Anita Krajnc, Global Campaign Coordinator for the Plant-Based Treaty, “We hope that national governments see the support behind the values and principles of the Plant Based Treaty campaign and use it as inspiration to start to negotiate vital changes in our food system.”

With increasing pressure and clear evidence that the climate crisis is real, it is easy to feel hopeless. But you don’t have to wait for a treaty. Just switching to or maintaining a plant-based diet is something each of us can do on our own.

Learn more about how animal agriculture causes global warming.

Dead zones grow in Gulf and Northwest

Scientists recently surveyed the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico around Louisiana and Texas and they discovered a larger-than-average area of oxygen-depleted water – a “dead zone” where nothing can live. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have announced their recent findings. The dead zone has grown to 4 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, which are now unusable for fish and bottom-dwelling species.

But the Gulf isn’t the only coastal region experiencing a dead zone this summer. This was a record year for the dead zone in the waters just offshore from the Oregon coast as well. In Oregon, the global climate crisis is making the problem worse because the ocean is warming, and warmer waters hold less oxygen than cold waters, encouraging the growth of dead zones. In addition, as more carbon is absorbed into the oceans, the waters become more acidic – in turn making it harder for creatures like shellfish and crabs to grow their shells. All this amounts to “a double whammy” for the Oregon coastline. The result is another deadzone almost 5,000 square miles in size!

The meat industry is being blamed for both these dead zones. Animals wastes make their way to the coast through runoff into our rivers and streams. The pollutants come both directly from animals as manure, and also from the crop farms that produce the vast amounts of feed necessary to feed the many millions of animals raised for meat – 70% of all the crops raised in the United States go to feed farm animals. Included in this runoff are not only plant matter and eroded soil, but also the fertilizers used to grow the crops.

So let’s put it all together. The runoff from animal wastes, and the fertilizers used to grow their feed, are sucking up the oxygen. Global warming, whose prime driver is raising meat, makes it harder for the warmed water to hold the oxygen, and the carbon we’re pumping into the oceans is making them more acidic, resulting in a further loss of sea life. The result of all this is giant dead zones.

However, if we all followed a plant-based diet, we could be subtracting all these factors rather than adding them, and a healthy thriving aquatic ecosystem could result.

Veggie Burgers can save the Environment

We’ve written before about how a vegan diet produces much less greenhouse gases, water pollution, soil erosion and ecological destruction. But some people wonder whether meat substitutes such as veggie burgers, dogs and chicken are any better. The answer is yes, they are much better!

A European study showed that the food and animal feed system is closely linked to planetary health, and that dietary shifts towards healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, are needed for environmental sustainability.

The study also found that vegetable meat alternatives and vegetable milk alternatives have significantly less environmental impact than their animal-based counterparts. While they may not be quite as sustainable as unprocessed plant foods, the difference is small compared to the transportation and processing of meat.

In fact, if everyone in America were to reduce meat consumption by even a quarter, and eat meat substitutes like veggie burgers, it would save 82 million metric tons of greenhouse emissions each year. The Beyond Meat burger uses 99% less water, 93% less land and 90% less fossil fuel emissions, while the Impossible Burger uses 87% less water, 96% less land, and 89% less fossil fuel emissions than a quarter pound of regular ground beef.

So, there you have it. There are substantial advantages to eating meat substitutes, compared to eating meat. As the sale of meat substitutes continue to grow, we can expect the benefit to the environment to grow as well.

Air pollution adds to animal Ag woes

Cow standing on manure pile

Among the many environmental problems caused by raising animals for food is air pollution. Poor air quality is the largest environmental health risk in the United States and worldwide, and agriculture is a major source of air pollution. Nevertheless, air quality has been largely absent from discussions about the health and environmental impacts of food production.

According to a new report, agricultural production in the United States results in 17,900 annual air quality–related deaths, 15,900 of which are from food production. Of those, 80% are attributable to animal-based foods, both directly from animal production and indirectly from growing animal feed. We could save almost 16,000 lives in the United States every year if we didn’t raise meat. The number of lives that could be saved globally is much, much higher.

Chronic exposure to pollutants generated by animal agriculture increase the incidence of premature death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke. These pollutants include those directly emitted such as fine particulate matter, as well as those formed in the atmosphere resulting from the emissions of ammonia, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and certain volatile organic compounds.

But let’s not forget the greenhouse gases such the methane and carbon dioxide emissions from animal agriculture. A UN study found that raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes, ships and boats in the world put together. These greenhouse gas emissions are actually a form of air pollution that can harm the life of the earth as well as the people and animals that live on  it. According to the World Health Organization, climatic changes already are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually as a result of greenhouse gas pollution.

Thousands more are made ill or die from the particulate and noxious gas air pollution caused by the burning down of the rainforests to clear land to raise meat.

The answer to this air pollution consists largely of not raising meat so that we can all breathe easy.

Soil Erosion – the Silent Crisis

Soil erosionThere’s a silent crisis that threatens us all. It’s much more serious than most people realize and if we don’t do something about it we’re all in trouble. This crisis is soil erosion.

As with many other environmental problems, it’s caused by raising farm animals for meat. It turns out that 85% of all the soil erosion in the United States, and 55% around the world, is caused directly by the livestock, and by growing the fantastic amount of feed the 60 billion farm animals around the world consume. Unfortunately, most environmental organizations aren’t paying too much attention to it and the media almost completely ignores it. After all, it’s hard to get excited about dirt!

We need to take it more seriously. Soil is where food begins. Humanity depends upon the soil for its food, and if enough of the soil goes, humanity will go with it. Without soil, not only will the crops we plant not grow, but other vegetation will die as well. Read more

The New Normal – a hotter earth

We knew it was coming. It had to happen. On May 4, the hotter Earth will officially become the new normal. That’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases its once-a-decade update to “climate normals.”

“It was a very substantial upward trend in temperature, especially along the West Coast, in the South and along the East Coast,” says Mike Palecki, with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Globally, the decade ending in 2020 was the hottest decade recorded since 1880. “We’re not aware of how much warming is happening on a regular basis,” says Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist with the nonprofit Climate Central. “It’s that slow grind that’s eating away at the changing normal that doesn’t give you the opportunity sometimes to sit back and look at what it used to be.”

That raising meat was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, culprit should come as no surprise.  According to a UN study, raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, trucks, trains, boats and planes in the world all put together. A study conducted by the World Bank went further, stating that raising meat causes more global warming than all other causes put together. Even former vice president Al Gore has gone vegan, and says he’ll do it for the rest of his life.

We raise staggering 60 billion farm animals every year for meat. That’s an awful lot of animals, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has a big effect on the environment. Learn more about how raising meat causes so much global warming.

Sound the alarm for the rainforest

Fire! Sound the alarm!

Yes, sound the alarm. It’s even worse than we thought. Scientists warn that the situation in the Amazon rainforest is, “worse than we realize. The rainforest’s climate is changing fast and in alarming ways.” Someone should sound the alarm before it’s too late!

According to scientists, the Amazon as a whole is now actually really warming the global climate. Not long ago, the Amazon was one of the best protections against global warming, but we’ve ruined that now and the Amazon has started to flip.

Animal agriculture and meat consumption are widely blamed by scientists and environmentalists worldwide for causing deforestation and fires across the region. Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of meat. The rainforest is burned down to clear land to raise cattle and cattle feed. Simply put, the meat we consume is burning up our future on this beautiful planet. If this continues, large parts of the Amazon could permanently become drier savannah lands in only 15 years. The earth would lose a friend, and the many animals who live there will lose their lives.

Tropical forests such as the Amazon are very humid and under natural conditions they rarely burn – unlike many forests in the western USA where fire is a natural part of the forest’s life cycle.

After intense fires in the Amazon captured global attention in 2019, fires again raged throughout the region in 2020. According to an analysis of satellite data from NASA’s Amazon dashboard, the 2020 fire season was actually more severe by some key measures. The fires in the Brazilian Amazon were up by 13% this year, making 2020 the worst fire season in the area in a decade. At the start of last October, there were a staggering 28,892 active fires active in the Brazilian Amazon

The fires are so bad the astronauts can seed them from space. But there’s a way you can help put out the fires. Meat production is very sensitive to consumer demands. Brazil will stop exporting meat when people stop eating it. Every time someone orders a veggie burger, the demand for meat on the world market goes down a little, and every little counts.

We’re Ruining the Planet

Sir David Attenborough is blunt in his view of the state of the planet.  “We’ve not just ruined the planet, we’ve destroyed it” he said.  “Our species has cleared 3 trillion trees, cultivated half its fertile land and now fishes across most of the ocean,” he explained in Our Planet. “In the last 50 years, the populations of wild animals have reduced by 60%. We’ve replaced them with ourselves and our domesticated animals and plants. Today, we, plus the animals we raise, account for 96% of the mass of mammals and 70% of the birds on Earth. There’s very little wild left.”

Let’s take a look at why these shocking statistics are occurring. The world’s 7.8 billion people, plus all the livestock we raise, now account for 96% of all the mammals on Earth.  Only 4% are wild animals. Humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

There are several major factors at work here. The first factor is that the earth’s human population is now at 7.8 billion.  All those people need food on a daily basis to survive.

The second factor is that the amount of meat each human consumes has risen steadily over the past 60 years, although last year there was a slight decrease for the first time, possibly due to Covid-19 reducing income levels. While the production of beef has been slightly declining since 1975, the consumption of pork and especially chicken has risen dramatically. As long as people choose to eat meat, farmers will continue to raise the animals needed to produce it.

The third factor is that around 85% of the world’s production of soybeans go to feed animals, and farm animals use almost 40% of the world’s grain for feed as well.  In the US, this last figure rises to 70% of grain, since rice and corn aren’t the staple foods that they are in other countries.

The result of these 3 problems is that we are clearing land to raise livestock or to grow crops to feed them on a massive scale.  That’s leading to deforestation, soil degradation, loss of habitat, water pollution and ocean dead zones

The destruction of wild habitat for farming, along with deforestation and development, has resulted in what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s 4 billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the past 50 years. This biodiversity loss is not just a tragedy, it’s the single biggest problem we face, according to David Attenborough.

By choosing to avoid consuming animal products, we can reduce the level of this devastation, and help the world’s animal and plant populations to recover their diversity.

Monoculture: yet another way meat hurts the ecology

The majority of vegetation crops grown in the United States are used to feed animals not people. To grow sufficient crops as efficiently as possible, many farmers resort to monoculture.

Monoculture is the agricultural practice of growing a single plant species across a vast land area. Instead of growing a variety of crops, as farmers have done throughout most of human history, they instead choose to farm land in such a way that it produces only a single type of crop. Monoculture farming has become more common over the last few decades, and while it can improve yields, sometimes with the help of genetically modified organisms, artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, it is causing great harm to the local ecology and environment, as well as the world as a whole. Because monoculture involves the farming of a single species, it can drastically reduce the biodiversity necessary for a healthy ecology.

Healthy ecologies may be home to many species of plants and animals. These diverse collections of species help to protect the habitat, as each of the species fills a different niche and provides different environmental services. Deer and other herbivores help keep plant populations in check, while mountain lions and other predators prey on these herbivores and keep their populations in check. Bacteria and fungi, for their part, help to break down the dead plants and animals, thereby releasing the nutrients they contain back into the soil.

But monoculture farms lack this type of diversity. Because they are aiming to raise only a single species, these areas don’t support a diverse collection of animals or other plants. This throws the ecosystem out of balance and makes it susceptible to serious problems including plant diseases. While some farmers practice crop rotation year to year, this only replaces one monoculture with another, so doesn’t allow for a wide diversity of species.

Cornborer – larval stage

Another risk of monoculture farms is that if an insect pest likes the crop, that insect has a large food supply to draw from all in one place, leading to that insect multiplying rapidly. Conversely, a field containing a variety of plants doesn’t provide such a large block of food for the insect, so it is less likely to find the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Left to its own defenses, a farm field growing a variety of plants tends to attract fewer insect pests than a field growing just one type of crop. The result of this is that monocultures require the use of more pesticides, further reducing the biodiversity.

If we stopped eating meat, we wouldn’t have to resort to raising monoculture crops so often, and our food system could be more in harmony with nature, allowing many more species to flourish.

Paying for meat’s damage to the environment

The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.

Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.

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