Tag Archives: land use

Putting the carbon back where it belongs

There’s an extra benefit to the environment when we go veg that’s not often talked about. We’ve written in the past about how much global warming gases are emitted by the animal agriculture, but there’s more good news. Once we stop raising animals for meat, the land they were using, directly and indirectly, could be allowed to return to its natural state and start absorbing carbon.

The extensive amount of land used to raise meat incurs a carbon opportunity cost, given the potential for carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration. Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. As the ecosystem recovers, the native plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and store carbon in their roots, thus increasing organic carbon in the soil.

This would have a huge impact. Raising meat has had a particularly detrimental impact on land since half the land on earth is used directly or indirectly for raising meat. A recent study showed that if everyone in the world went vegan, we could remove 16 years of fossil-fuel-based carbon emissions from the atmosphere by the year 2050. That’s enough to really turn around the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and start to reduce the rate at which the climate is changing.

Another factor not talked about is that the mass of animals raised for slaughter on Earth now outweighs all wildlife by a factor of 15-to-1. This causes massive damage to world’s ecology and leads to a reduction in biodiversity with the extinction of many species. With the land freed up from raising animals, wildlife would have a chance to recover increasing the chances of species survival. This would provide a broad benefit to the ecology and help normalize the natural food chain, making the soil and plant life healthier, which could then absorb further carbon from the atmosphere.

So a global switch to a vegan diet would both reduce the emission and increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, and enable the ecology and especially the soil to recover, creating a virtuous circle instead of a vicious decline in the health of our planet.

Go on a greenhouse gas diet!

Field of wheat

The world needs to go on a greenhouse gas diet! A recent study from researchers at the University of Oxford found that ditching animal products could reduce your carbon footprint by 73 percent.

Get ready for this. The lead scientist of the study says, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

That’s right! The food you eat is more important than the car you drive, the light bulbs you buy, the insulation in your house and all the other nonfood items you use.

Eating meat is crowding out the planet. In addition to greatly reducing your carbon footprint, researchers found that if everyone went vegan, global farmland use could be reduced by 75 percent. This would be an amount of land comparable to the size of the United States, China, Australia, and the whole Europe combined freed up.

Not only would this result in a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, it would also free up wild land lost to agriculture, one of the primary causes for mass wildlife extinction.

The new study, published in the journal Science, is one of the most comprehensive analyses to date into the detrimental effects farming can have on the environment and included data on nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries. The Oxford report comes on the heels of several other studies showing that raising livestock is a major factor of global warming. Let’s hope people are starting to take notice!

Grow plants, feed millions

Lettuce growing

New research suggests that if the desire was there, this country could grow food to feed over 700 million people — by focusing on plants. That could meet the needs of most of the world’s hungry population.

If U.S. farmers took all the land currently devoted to raising cattle, pigs and chickens and used it to grow plants instead, they could sustain more than twice as many people as they do now, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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