Tag Archives: global warming

Is a vegan diet less sustainable than an omnivorous diet?

References to one particular study on diet and land use requirements keep popping up around the web, from various blogs and news organizations.

rude-151093_640Most of them have been quick to jump on this study because it seems to offer them an opportunity to thumb their noses and blow raspberries at the vegan community, for example, “Sorry vegans: Sticking to a meat-free, dairy-free diet is NOT as good for the planet as you might think”. Many of them start with some kind of elbow to the rib, something about how we like to think we’re better than everybody else or some such nonsense. Some are more respectful.

What all of them have in common is a serious lack of understanding of the specific point made by the authors, and even the authors themselves seem to miss the forest for the trees. I’ll explain.

First, here’s a link to the specious article under discussion: Peters et al. 2016. It’s licensed under the CC attribution license and available for everyone to read for free (yay!).

salad-1570673_640The key measure under investigation was the carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land – basically, the annual per capita land requirements vs. amount of land available for food production when that food is in keeping with different diets. More simply, how many people can be fed with the amount of land that we have? The authors look at various levels of omnivorous diets, lacto-ovo and lacto-vegetarian, and vegan, as well as 2 variants of current consumption.

They begin with 2 fundamental assumptions: there is a relationship between diet and sustainability, specifically, “dietary change is essential for meeting future human food needs”. Agreed. Second: “sparing land from conversion to agriculture may be important for protecting biodiversity”, so it’s vitally important to understand how dietary patterns impact land use. So far, so good.

cows-1029077_640The authors caution against simplistic thinking because, though animal agriculture is the most land-intensive, the largest fraction of land it uses is for foraging and grazing, often on non-arable land – land that can’t be used to grow any crops for human consumption, though grasses and other ‘weeds’ will grow which the animals eat. So, as they point out, eliminating animal agriculture does not necessarily mean turning all its land over to cultivation.

So, I can definitely see where they’re coming from. It’s a logical argument. If we want to make the most of our land for food production purposes, then we need to use it for what it’s good for. Attempting to make non-arable land supportive of crops causes environmental devastation (just look at the Aral Sea crisis). And it’s clear from the numbers in Peters et al. (2016) that the most efficient use of land for food would include using non-arable land for animal agriculture.

There are 2 implicit assumptions the authors are making which are simply untrue. First, that there is such a thing as an omnivorous diet that is healthy. Nope. Not only is the ingestion of animal products devastating to human health, but the killing and handling of dead animals causes psychological disorders in the people who do that kind of work, and passes unknown numbers of diseases on to anyone who handles raw meat, producers & consumers alike.

Second, that the most efficient diet in terms of land use is the most sustainable diet. Efficiency does not equal sustainability, and animal agriculture is far too devastating to the environment to be considered as part of the future of a sustainable food supply. The following information and more is available on the Cowspiracy website’s fact sheet.

  • ocean dead zones, water pollution, & habitat destruction are largely driven by animal agricultureclean-1223168_640
  • livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • animal agriculture is the leading driver of desertification
  • the U.S. could feed 800 million people with just the grain that is currently fed to livestock (that’s more than double the current U.S. population and slightly more than the total number of starving people in the world, according to United Nations World Food Program statistics)
  • more than 80% of the world’s starving children live in countries who export their grain to feed livestock, which are then consumed by people in wealthier countries – an absolute crime against humanity

What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t actually matter what the most efficient use of land is, because any animal agriculture at all does more harm than good and, if we turn over all the currently arable land to cultivation for human consumption, we could easily feed the global population with room to grow, and if we eventually do outgrow it, we can still work with what we’ve got and use our technology to find better solutions like vertical farming.

Something I often hear vegans say, and see in vegan blog posts is that we don’t need to consume animals and their products to be healthy and happy, but we can make a much stronger statement than that – because it’s true – consuming animals and their products at the rate we currently do is not only antithetical to human health & happiness, but even to our survival as a species.

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Leaving the Land of Nod: a vegan perspective on the Garden of Eden

How do you feel about knowledge?

It’s generally a good thing, right? Important, a worthy pursuit, advances civilization, and all that jazz? Yes, of course.

creation-47473_640That’s why I never really got the Bible story about Adam & Eve & the Garden of Eden. They were cast out of the garden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. I couldn’t quite connect with the idea that knowledge was somehow a bad thing. I’m apparently not the only one because I’ve seen interpretations of this story saying that the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge had the power to fill man with the desire for both good and evil. But I don’t buy that interpretation. It doesn’t seem to be what was intended by the story, which speaks only of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now that I have a different perspective on the eating habits of humanity, it suddenly dawned on me to look at this story with new eyes, and I found that I have, for the first time, an answer to this riddle that works for me.

Humankind is the only species that, as far as we know, has knowledge of good and evil; in other words – we’re the only non-innocent animal in an ethical sense, meaning that we make decisions based on a thought process including the weighing of our actions against a moral backdrop rather than simply following instinct with no ethical culpability, as the other creatures on this earth.

We’re also the only species to consistently subsist on a diet that is neither natural nor healthy for us because we have the technology to go against nature. Here’s something interesting which, to me, shows that the ethic of veganism is part of our consciousness no matter how deep our culture is trying to bury it: in the Garden of Eden – the perfect paradise – animals simply exist side-by-side with man – they are not used for food or labor. But then, after being cast out of paradise, the first two “jobs” that humans engaged in (according to this story, anyway) were plant and animal agriculture. The sons of Adam & Eve were a shepherd and a farmer.

donkey-534906_640So, as we lost the innocence that goes along with ignorance, our entire relationship with the animal kingdom changed. It was no longer one of harmony, but became one of subjugation when we lost our paradise. That says to me that we have always known, in our heart of hearts, even 3500 years ago when the stories in Genesis were first written, that our relationship with the other animals with whom we share this planet is just not right. It represents a deviation from our original purpose.

book-2869_640Another word about knowledge: you’ve heard the expression “ignorance is bliss”, I’m sure. It’s easy enough to see why this is a truism, especially in this context. But what about “a little learning is a dangerous thing” (Alexander Pope)? Well, just look at us! The path we’re on is clearly destructive to ourselves, to other species, and to the planet as a whole. We’re ruining everything (I know that might sound hyperbolic, but it’s literally true) with our “knowledge” because we don’t have enough of it – you can never have enough of it. Once you’ve entered that rabbit-hole, there’s no coming out. We now have the duty of constantly trying to gain knowledge and understanding because the more we have, the less dangerous our knowledge becomes.

Simple example:

Common knowledge: protein is an essential macronutrient.

Not common knowledge: if we get our protein mostly from animal products, we’re doing ourselves more harm than good.

Not common knowledge: we can get plenty of protein from eating plants (after all, that’s where most other animals get it from).

I do have a caveat – it’s only true based on the assumption that, as humanity advances, we will also continue to grow spiritually & ethically – that personal qualities like empathy and detachment will be cultivated and will continue to spread. I see this in the vegan movement, and I used the two specific examples of empathy and detachment because they are both key qualities of successful (meaning long-term) ethical vegans. These are people who have expanded their circle of empathy, a prerequisite for compassion, as wide as they can. It’s more than that, though – developing the quality of detachment is necessary to let go of all the animal products that our society tells us we should fear being without. I assure you, there was a day when I was afraid to let go of cheese. I expressed that feeling in the following way: “I could never give up cheese!” Sound familiar? It seems silly to me now, because I don’t eat cheese and I don’t feel a sense of deprivation, but it’s normal for people to be afraid of that feeling. And it’s only after letting go that you can come to realize that your life and your food are just as interesting as they ever were. Getting to that point, though, requires detachment. While we still have the fear of letting go, we hold ourselves back from being standard-bearers of the advancement of society, and from participating in a meaningful way in literally saving the planet.

Expand your circle of empathy;

Detach yourself from what’s holding you back;

& Go Vegan. It’s worth it.

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** A note about the title, for those who are curious. I chose the “Land of Nod” for its double entendre. By leaving the land of nod I mean both waking up to the truth, and leaving exile to regain paradise.

 

Every bite counts: Parts 1 & 2.

apple-151989_1280This is the story of how I became interested in veganism, and an overview of some of the major reasons I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It began, strangely, with smelling meat being roasted in the brand-new butcher/deli section of my local grocery store. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t eaten meat from land animals in so long that it didn’t smell like food to me anymore – it smelled like an animal was on fire, and my first instinct was to get the hell out of there. This got me thinking about using animals as food. Why was I suddenly repulsed by it? I’d been pescetarian for several years, but the smell of meat cooking had always been pleasant to me before. I had just decided to stop eating it because I knew it was pretty bad for both my health and the environment (though I had no idea at the time just how bad!). Somewhere in the back of my mind, something was telling me that I was about to embark on a journey that I had been putting off for years because I knew that, once I had the information, I would have no excuse for not changing my life. And that turned out to be true.

So, I did some research, and then I did some more, and some more…

Part 1. Health.

heart-rate-1375323_640It started with diet, nutrition, and the health of the human body, most especially my own. I watched lectures by, and interviews with, medical researchers and physicians like Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Milton Mills, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and a number of others, as well as documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Supersize Me (even though I stopped eating fast food like 10 years ago), Vegucated, and others. I also bought and read How Not to Die by Dr. Greger. What I learned was that the most healthy diet, hands-down, is a whole foods vegan diet. Very simply put, if you completely eliminate animal products from your diet and live on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you’ll be one healthy sucker.

At least 68% of disease in the U.S. is diet-related. 14 out of the 15 leading causes of death are direct results of eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

A vegan diet (done properly – you can’t just have potato chips and beer) prevents, treats, or reverses atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, prostate, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, impotence, Alzheimer’s disease, and MANY other ailments. But don’t take my word for it. Follow the links to some of the names above, and look up anything you want on nutritionfacts.org.

Humans are the only meat-eating animals that develop heart disease & other diseases as a result of eating meat, dairy & eggs. That’s because it’s not natural for us. If we pay attention to what the human body is telling us, and the massive epidemic of diet-related diseases which continue to spread and effect more and more people as a greater proportion of the global population includes higher quantities of meat into their diets (partially thanks to the global expansion of fast food giants like McDonald’s), it’s obvious that meat, dairy, & eggs are not what the human body is meant to consume.

Part 2. The Planet.

sustainability-1190327_1280Animal agriculture has a staggering impact on environmental destruction and global warming.

Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all, yes – ALL!, global transportation combined.

The vast majority of habitat destruction, including 90% of the deforestation in the Amazon basin (a.k.a. the lungs of the planet) is for the purpose of meeting ever-increasing demands for the products of animal agriculture.

Animal agriculture is also the main cause of ocean dead zones and water pollution.

There are 1.3 million known species, with approximately 15,000 new ones being cataloged each day. Estimates of how many truly exist range from 3 to 100 million. Of these millions of species, only one (that’s us) is causing the extinction of tens of thousands of others. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction.

A diet with high meat intake – beef in particular – produces nearly 2.5 times more greenhouse gas emissions, in tons, than a vegan diet, while buying only locally-grown foods does less to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions than giving up meat for only one day per week (Weber & Matthews 2008, Scarborough et al. 2014).

Click the image to go to shrinkthatfootprint.com

Only with what I’ve described so far, it’s easy to see that animal agriculture is one of the most destructive forces on this planet, having a direct negative effect on the entire system, including on our own health. And we’re not done yet.

Parts 3 & 4

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A Fresh Start

snowdrop-147871_1280It’s been a long time since I’ve published a new blog post. More than 2.5 years, in fact! During that time, I’ve done loads of research and learning, all of which has led me back to one particular change that anyone and everyone can make in order to substantially reduce your carbon footprint as well as your personal contributions to environmental degradation & species extinction, while significantly improving your odds against nearly all of the leading causes of death. It’s an idea whose time has come. And, when you realize the incredible extent of the ramifications of this issue, you begin to see that it presents just as much of a social justice issue as equality of the sexes and eliminating racism.

So, I’ve decided not only to start posting again (now that I finally have some time on my hands!), but also to make a change in the trajectory. The foundation remains very much focused on sustainability, but I will begin to hone in on this one change that has the largest impact on the earth and all its inhabitants – including us humans.

Last October (2015), I went from being pescetarian to vegan – in other words, I adopted a completely plant-based lifestyle. The motivations for making this change are many, and part of what I want to do here is to share them, for those who are not yet aware of the health and environmental benefits. For many people, even if you’re already convinced that it’s the right thing to do, actually making the shift can be an overwhelming proposition, so I also aim to share my experiences, the challenges I face living in a community in which veganism is almost unheard of, what I learn as I go, and anything that might be helpful in transitioning towards the vegan lifestyle. I also welcome questions, concerns, and requests.

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No Fracking Way

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Short for hydraulic fracturing, fracking is fast becoming recognized as one of the most dangerous and damaging activities that mankind has ever engaged in, and is yet another example of the extremely unfortunate Randian spirit of this age. Did you know that fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and state water-use regulations? It’s called the Halliburton Loophole. Consider that while perusing this list of chemicals used in the initial drilling and then the fracking processes.

Fracking is a triple threat. It severely damages air and water quality and leads to earthquakes and sinkholes, while marching us right off the Gangplank to a Warm Future. None of these issues are confined to the areas directly involved in fracking, either. They spread out through whole landscapes, as air and water do.

Air

Mead, CO

Both the preliminary drilling process and the process of hydraulic fracturing have serious effects on air quality that every US resident should be incredibly wary of, as fracking is allowed to continue in close proximity to people’s homes and on public lands. During the drilling phase, before the actual fracking even begins, non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are released into the air. These are subsets of what are known as volatile organic compound (VOCs) and they have serious effects on human health in tiny quantities with chronic exposure (parts per trillion, for which there is no federal safety standard) because they are endocrine disruptors. Most discussions about the dangers of fracking do not include this information because it isn’t part of the fracking process, but the drilling. NMHCs and PAHs are compounds that are released from the earth during drilling, which would never have made it into the air otherwise.

The endocrine system is basically the system of hormones that controls many aspects of physiology, including tissue function, growth and development, metabolism, mood regulation, sexual functions and reproductive processes. It influences nearly every cell and organ in our bodies, so things like NMHCs and PAHs can wreak havoc, including causing delayed development and lower IQ scores in prenatally exposed children at far lower concentrations than what are found around fracking sites. “Endocrine disruptors have become an integral part of our economy and modern lifestyle, while at the same time are insidiously depleting the pool of healthy and intelligent individuals on a global scale.” Read more here.

Waste water carrying the many hazardous chemicals used for fracking is pumped into open-air pits for evaporation, releasing many chemicals into the air, including more of the VOCs, leading to smog, acid rain, spreading air contamination, and resulting in unforeseen compounds of toxic chemicals.

Water

fracking_waterEach fracking job requires anywhere between 1 – 8 million gallons of water and some 40,000 gallons of chemicals. For the wells that currently exist throughout the US (about 500,000), if we assume the maximum amount of water and the largest number of times a well can typically be fracked (18) that leaves us with 72 trillion gallons of water that’s been polluted with 360 billion gallons of extremely toxic chemicals. Even if we took the minimum estimates, the numbers would be no less disturbing.

We need to be extremely concerned about where all this water is coming from, and where the chemical-laden “produced water,” as the industry calls it, is going. As mentioned, some of it is recovered and goes into various forms of pits and containers, but a lot of it isn’t recovered; as much as 50-70% of it stays in the ground. This information, combined with even the most rudimentary knowledge of where humans get drinking water from makes it absolutely inconceivable that companies involved in fracking continually deny responsibility for the contamination and toxification of nearby rivers, streams and residential wells.

The companies engaging in fracking say it’s not possible for the fracking process to create that contamination. Well, they must think we’re really stupid. Methane gas and toxic chemicals definitely leach out from this system and contaminate nearby groundwater. Studies have shown that levels of methane in nearby wells that are used for drinking water have methane concentration levels 17% higher than normal. There have been over 1000 documented cases of contaminated drinking water, as well as many people who have experienced respiratory, sensory and neurological damage from drinking this polluted water. There are even stories of children coming out of the shower with chemical burns in areas that have experienced more extreme levels of contamination. These people can light their tap water on fire. It’s horrifying.

Why is fracking exempt from the acts that have been specifically designed to protect us from things like fracking? (Hint: former vice president Dick Cheney had a lot to do with it.) It’s very literally destroying people’s lives, and we have to do something about it.

Earthquakes & Sinkholes

What happens when you forcefully inject millions of gallons of chemical soup miles into the ground? There are a couple of pieces to this puzzle – there’s how the water interacts with the layers of the earth that it’s injected into, and the fact that the known deposits of natural gas lay on the edges of tectonic plates.

Florida

Fracking stands for hydraulic fracturing. So what is being fractured? The ground beneath your feet. Natural gas is contained in layers of shale deep underground. High-pressure injection of water mixed with massive amounts of chemicals is used to break up the shale and release the natural gas. These layers are part of the foundation of solid ground, just like you have a foundation for your house that prevents the whole thing from shifting and sinking. These foundations also contain a distributed pressure, helping to hold up everything above. If you break up that foundation and release that pressure, as fracking does, you get sinkholes. Some of the most notable examples of these are in Louisiana and Ohio.

Fracking also disrupts the edges of tectonic plates, which is why there has been a 600% increase in minor earthquakes in and around fracking areas. For the moment, the damage is limited, but it’s entirely possible that we will do enough damage to the edges of the plates to eventually cause major earthquakes which will result in massive losses. We don’t yet have a strong understanding of how all these forces interplay. If we’re not careful, we could find out in the worst way possible.

Global Warming

There are plenty of natural gas advertisements stating that it’s a cleaner source of energy, that it respects the earth, that it’s safe and abides by “rigorous” safety standards. It’s all bogus, of course, but none of it’s as big a lie as the part about being a clean source of energy. Aside from being incredibly environmentally damaging in the ways discussed above, it’s making major contributions to global warming.

Let’s start with the transportation of water and chemicals. I made the point earlier that trillions of gallons of water and billions of gallons of chemicals are required for this process. They are transported to and fro by tanker trucks, helping the total to reach many millions of metric tons worth of carbon footprint. Even worse, massive amounts of methane, a more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, escapes during the fracking process. Methane traps much more heat than CO2, unless it’s burned. If it’s burned it turns into CO2, still a greenhouse gas, just slightly less bad. So, it’s burned off where it can be, slightly decreasing the risks, but it also often escapes directly into the atmosphere, not to mention drinking water.

There are so many good reasons to stop fracking, to work hard to increase the number of states and countries who are at least declaring a moratorium on fracking. If we allow corporations and governments to continue on this destructive path, we condemn the next generation – our own children – to an unlivable world.

Manufactured Climate Change Denial

protest-455717_1280There’s a really interesting phenomenon that’s been happening in the United States. In most countries, if you ask people about climate change – whether it’s happening and whether it’s a man-made problem, you get a resounding yes, to the tune of percentages in the 90’s. Japan and the U.K. are notable exceptions, with 78% and 65%, respectively. When American citizens were polled, we came in last at 58%. This information is from an online opinion poll, carried out from July 5 to August 6 of 2012 by the poll group Ipsos for the insurance firm Axa. Read more about it here.

This is truly outrageous if you consider the fact that the U.S. education system, though in sad decline, is world-renowned for good reason, and that most people can learn anything they want, whenever they want. You have only to get on the computer or go to the library and you can inform yourself by watching documentaries and sifting through articles, from both scientists and journalists, with a discerning eye. Of course, most people have no desire to do that, and allow themselves the luxury of believing that it doesn’t matter.

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Boycott list for Koch Industries
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If we approach it from another perspective, it becomes more comprehensible. Charles and David Koch, which I’ve just discovered is pronounced like ‘coke,’ two of the wealthiest people in the world, have essentially manufactured (and funded with over $67 million) the entire climate change ‘debate.’ Koch Industries is well-diversified and in involved in all sorts of things, from raising cattle in Montana to manufacturing spandex in China, but the vast majority of their wealth comes from petroleum.

They financially support a massive team of highly conservative special interest groups, think tanks and lobbyists, whose jobs are to oppose green energy, fight environmental regulations, ease limits on industrial pollution, and influence public opinion, for example by appearing on news programs as “experts” and questioning the legitimacy of science. You can see a profile of lobbying spending data for Koch Industries at the Center for Responsive Politics website opensecrets.org. They’ve been highly successful in their efforts, because the public has fallen for their lies, and the politicians have fallen for their money and influence.

false-98375_640By having managed to convince people to be extremely dismissive of scientific fact and to frame this issue as a ‘debate’ (which it clearly is not) we have enabled a massive section of society to basically say, “Well, the jury’s still out, and there’s really no sense in taking drastic action until we have a clear answer.” This is an extremely dangerous viewpoint and the adage applies here – All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke. Make no mistake, this can most definitely be called an evil, because it’s a construction of powers-that-be aiming to look after their own short-term financial interests, and nothing else. It’s not based on good science and it’s not founded on principles that include protecting the welfare of society in general and preserving the life-supporting qualities of the environment.

While the majority of society sits back and waits rather than taking action, the real scientists who look at climate change are seeing a growing list of reasons to be very concerned, and are now starting to realize that even the more radical estimates of the changes that we’re going to be experiencing may have been too conservative, in part because greenhouse gas emissions have risen precipitously, which wasn’t expected.

The earth won’t blow up or anything, but complex life is actually quite fragile, and it’s easy to suppose that most of it will not survive drastic changes. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that we’re already well into the beginning of this process, and as fossil fuel extraction and consumption increases (which it is doing), and as we continue to manufacture and spread more and more chemicals which appear in our earth, water, air, food supply and our own bodies, as well as those of many different species of animals, the effects will also increase, becoming more rapid and more drastic. You need only point to the many massive die-offs that we’ve seen in recent years, including fish, dolphins, bees, coral reefs, and certain birds, among others.

It’s notable that there’s far more recognition of the basic truths of this issue in poorer countries. As floods and droughts, etc increase, these are the people who have been effected first and harshest. They have a higher stake in being a part of the solution, while the inventors and perpetuators of the myths of the climate change ‘debate’ are exactly those that stand to lose the least, and have the higher stake in being part of the problem because they have enough money to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. Most of us don’t have any options in that regard.

We need to work harder to educate everyone about the truth. As long as half our population is being lulled into complacency, meaningful changes can’t takes place, and they desperately need to. Spread this information any way you possibly can, and help fight against the Koch brothers’ multi-million dollar machinations. They’re spending so much of that money on one thing – disseminating information. In this case, we CAN fight fire with fire, without spending much at all outside of time.

Why Meat is Not Sustainable

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ~ Albert Einstein.

There are many reasons people decide to go pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, often having something to do with health or cruelty to animals. Legitimate reasons, to be sure, but they’re not what pushed me over the fence. It was realizing how grossly unsustainable it is to raise livestock for human consumption, especially with the number of people currently living on earth and the current practices that are employed by the vast majority of cattle farmers.

Cattle are definitely the worst offenders. Producing 1 kg of beef (a/b 2.2 lbs) emits greenhouse gases that equal about 34.6 kg (76.3 lbs) worth of global warming potential. Think of every cow as an extra car on the road driving about 7,800 miles per year. There are approximately 1.4 billion cattle in the world, 25-30% of which are dairy cows.

That’s a hell of a contribution to global warming, and that doesn’t include the other forms of environmental damage that result, like deforestation for the purpose of creating pastures. That also doesn’t include the contributions from other livestock, like sheep, goats, and pigs. The more you reduce the amount of meat and dairy in your diet,  the more you will reduce your personal carbon footprint.

Grapes to the rescue?

We need to work out other ways to reduce the impact of livestock on the environment, and more widely implement those we have. Grape marc is a by-product of wine-making. It’s the parts of the grape left over after pressing out the juice. It’s high in both dietary fat and tannins, both of which reduce the amount of methane a cow produces. When a study was done in Australia, it was found that feeding marc to dairy cows reduced their methane output by 20%. There were other benefits, too, such as reducing the concentration of saturated fatty acids, and increasing linoleic acid which is known to fight cancer, heart disease and arthritis. All that needs to be done for this to work is to create a supply chain between vintners and cattle farmers. It would at least be a start.

It’s also possible to use the manure from the cows to produce electricity, as pointed out by erisa1602 in a comment on my composting post. It strikes me that, as a society, we really need to work on interdisciplinarianism, cross-pollination of ideas, and plain old working together to create better solutions.

Full disclosure

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I am not a vegetarian. I’m actually a pescatarian, though I don’t eat seafood as often as I’d like and I’ve reduced my dairy intake to almost nil these days, almost by accident. One of the things you can do to decrease your meat consumption is to replace some of it with seafood, which doesn’t have as devastating an effect on the environment, if you choose responsibly. The Blue Ocean Institute has a fantastic resource to help you make sustainable seafood choices, while warning you of fish that may contain levels of mercury or PCBs.

It comes down to simple choices, every day, that can make very real differences – instead of making meat lasagna, make eggplant lasagna. Have a bbq with veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs. They’re way better for you anyway, and if you get the right brands they taste really good. There are also serious health benefits to lessening or eliminating meat consumption. I highly recommend looking into the China Study.

It’s hard to change your habits and your lifestyle patterns, but it’s so vital to the future of us all that we each try our best to contribute as little as possible to global warming. For most of us, that does mean we have to make changes. We can no longer afford to think, or eat, selfishly. It’s not sustainable.

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