I appreciate Earth Day just as much as the next person, but the commercialism and the lack of discussion and awareness around the biggest culprit in both global climate change and the destruction of the planet frustrates me to no end. While changing out your lightbulbs, driving less, taking shorter showers and not allowing the water to run while you brush your teeth may all add up in some complex earth-saving logarithm, continuing to ignore the number one polluter of the air, water and land, the biggest consumer of a limited resource, i.e. water, and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases is at best absurd and at worst, hastening the end of the human species (not that I have a problem with that).
What I have been hinting at, of course, is animal agriculture. And the answer, at least in terms of personal responsibility, is to go vegan. A quick note, factory farms are not the only enemy when it comes to environmental degradation. So-called “free range” farms are responsible for even larger amounts of greenhouse emissions (it is estimated that “pasture-raised cows” produce 4 times more greenhouse gases than cows raised in confinement) use more land, and more resources.
As we speak, acres of the Amazon rainforest are being annihilated to create pasture land for cattle and space to grow soybeans for cattle. This might also be a good place to talk about the one billion people starving and food poor, when we have enough grain to feed twice as many human beings that currently live on the planet. 77 percent of all coarse grains (corn, oats, sorghum, barely) and more than 90 percent of all soy grown around the world is fed to livestock. Eating animals and their secretions are creating species extinction and ocean dead zones.
When it comes to climate change, methane and nitrous oxide are far more damaging than carbon dioxide, which is the only greenhouse gas the media ever mentions. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined. Not to mention fossil fuels used to produce animal products: Five to ten percent of fossil fuels in the developed world are used to transport meat and dairy to market.
A single serving of meat or dairy requires hundreds of gallons of water, the resource that wars will likely be fought over in the near future.
Air pollution, dust from topsoil depletion, and ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal waste wreak havoc on the health of farm workers and nearby residents.
The lives of wild animals, and their habitats, are destroyed and threatened as ranchers are entitled to graze livestock on public land.
If you’re as frustrated as I am about these critical environmental issues being overlooked on Earth Day, and every day, here are some resources you can share to help raise awareness.
FARM’s “Green Your Diet”/Vegan Earth Day site has abundant information on the devastation caused by animal agriculture.
An upcoming documentary Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret aims to expose the truth behind animal farming and environmental degradation – and why the mainstream eco-orgs don’t want to talk about it. They are kicking off an Indiegogo campaign today: https://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/972e18d7#home
The book Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work by Dr. Richard Oppenlander offers incredible research, insight, and solutions to the environmental problems caused by our diets.