In part one of this series I outlined my journey to becoming vegan and eating plant based through what started me on this path - food and nutrition! If you haven’t read part one check it out here! In part two I want to keep taking you through my journey of discovery.
As I dove into the plant-based lifestyle, I started to become interested more in more the choices I made and their effects on the world. I cared about the planet in many ways; recycling, picking up trash whenever I could, all the things I learned from an elementary teacher who was way ahead of the curve. In her class we used to sing, “Reuse, Reduce and Recycle” to a sweet melody and proceed to sing through numbers #1-7 as a homage to the different types of plastic to recycle. Amazing right? While, those are all great places to start I found out those only scratches the surface of what I can be doing to help protect the planet. More specifically the connection between animal agriculture and the environment.
Before I share what I started learning I want to clarify what is meant when I use the term climate change. It is a phrase that you have undoubtedly seen before as the conversation is growing (yay!) but just to make sure we are all on the same page these three snippets give you an idea of the problem,
Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases are building up and surrounding our planet like a blanket, trapping heat and destabilizing our climate.
Rising global temperatures are causing the polar ice caps to melt and the oceans to rise, threatening the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.
Climate change is bringing desertification and droughts to some areas and floods to others, making it increasingly difficult to reliably grow the food upon which our lives depend.
On October 8th, 2018 the United Nations released a, infamous special report, "Global Warming of 1.5 C" on climate change. In the 728 page report, "the United Nations organization argues for the urgency of limiting future human-caused warming to the stricter standard." If you don't feel like settling in to read all 728 pages this summary from PBS is helpful,
“The United Nations new IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warns that some of the most devastating consequences of global warming will arrive sooner than expected — in as little as 12 years — if the world does not move to rapidly cut carbon emissions. Among other noted events, low-lying nations could be flooded by rising sea levels, producing huge flows of refugees, while fierce wildfires will grow in frequency and intensity. The panel, which includes some of the world’s leading scientists, stated that preventing such tragedies requires reducing carbon emissions enough to limit warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius. Doing so, however, requires a sudden and “unprecedented” shift in how the world generates electricity, grows food and moves goods around the globe. Every bit of warming matters, the report concludes, and countries must approach the problem from every angle — with taxation on fossil fuels and clean energy.”
By now you might be thinking, ok I get the whole climate change thing but how is this connected to being vegan?
Glad you asked! We’re almost there.
To be honest - this report did not immediately make me want to jump into action. I was stuck in that oh my gosh the world is ending fog for a few days. But I wanted to keep learning, so I sat down and watched the documentary, Cowspiracy.
This is where I learned about the connection between animal agriculture and climate. The devastating effects animals agriculture has on the planet is overwhelming. Here's a few facts about the connection between the two:
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef and 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs; almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese.
Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of amazon destruction.
For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels.” AND “40-50 million sharks killed in fishing lines and nets.
We could see fishless oceans by 2048.
We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.
Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock.
82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
The conversation around climate change and animal agriculture is a growing one but there is still a lot of resistance. Many environmentalists themselves ignore the data and continue to eat an omnivore diet. It can be easier to make change in other areas of our lives; reusable grocery bags, recycling, etc. then examining how an activity like eating, that we do multiple times a day, could be the cause of so much destruction. There is a lot of funding and vested interest that goes into the continuing false advertising that animal agriculture is the only way to feed our world.
So, what does all this mean? We need to change. Now.
As you can see from all the information above, this issue overlaps with so many other problems in the world; world hunger, amazon rainforest destruction, ocean life preservation, and of course climate change. Choose an entry point that you are passionate about to learn more.
Remember that report I mentioned earlier that warned we may have as little as 12 years before some of the most devastating, possibly irreversible, climate change effects take hold of our planet?
The facts are alarming but luckily we can do a lot about it, starting with personal, daily changes.
By starting to eat a plant based vegan diet produces, “50% less CO2 and uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water and 1/18th land compared to a meat eater.” It can be overwhelming to learn this information and then jump into action. Start with something manageable, for example, take out meat from one meal a day. It becomes easier once you get into a routine and learn many of your favorite foods can be made totally vegan, relatively easily!
If you are able to become a part of change to end suffering and destruction, why wouldn’t you?
Overwhelmed and not sure where to start? I am always here to help point learn more and at least point you in the direction of some great resources!