It’s still cool to care about the Earth, right? I can’t imagine that any of my friends would say this is not an important issue. Climate change is real. It’s like racism, it exists because humankind has a tendency to fuck shit up for everybody.
Earth Day is nipping on our humanoid heels, reminding us that we all share this one big, sort of spherical home.
While past presidents talk about going to Mars, for the vast majority of us the collective reality will remain an earthbound one. So we’re stuck with this planet – BUT – this planet isn’t stuck with us.
Maybe all the Earth wanted was plastic (a byproduct of humanity), like George Carlin posited, and will proceed to brush us off with some hurricanes and floods like a mild case of fleas. If we want to continue living on this planet, it’s on us. Your shelter doesn’t care if it collapses on you.
So what are we doing to ensure the future of our home? It feels like all the biggest things are out of our control: fossils fueling vehicles, industry billowing toxic fumes, and flammable tap water. Sometimes it seems all we can ever hope to contribute is to buy recycled toilet paper.
As consumers, we can choose what we consume (though being poor means much fewer options). While we don’t directly participate in the creation of the choices (yet), what we choose to consume can gradually and dramatically alter the demand. Case in point: when have you ever seen so many initiatives for renewable energy and sustainable products?
Is there anything more you can do to reduce your environmental impact? Yes! And it’s quite simple.
Eat fewer animal products.
Why and how?
One huge, elephant (or cow) in the room that most haven’t noticed is this:
“the livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution” according to the 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Let me highlight just a few factoids very briefly:
Animal based Pollution
If one human exchanges their car for a hybrid, they save 1 ton of carbon dioxide emissions over a year. But if a person changes from eating meat to only plants, it’s 1.5 tons. Just by not eating animal products you reduce your environmental impact drastically. Gasp! The beef industry is the worst offender due to the way cows digest food.
Water: Because We Need It
You can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than not showering for 6 months. Think of all the water it takes to feed a cow throughout its life and all the water to grow the grain to feed a cow, just so that at any given moment one can buy a hamburger. When you try to imagine what it takes to sustain the edible whims of billions of people, it’s hard not to wonder what the consequences are.
The animal food industry also contaminates water tables with waste, rendering them undrinkable. This is a major problem especially in developing countries where water is already scarce.
Loss of Biodiversity
30-45% of land is occupied by livestock. Basically, more than the entire surface of the moon. Clearing land for livestock production is one of the main causes of the sixth mass extinction that is currently taking place on Earth. Do you want to say goodbye to all those cute panda videos?
And a BONUS: Save Money
You’ll save money by eating a plant-based diet. The gains are twofold and especially self-serving if taking care of your fellow humans isn’t sufficient enough motivation. So save money while working towards a sustainable lifestyle.
There are endless amounts of data on this – to the point where it can become white noise for many. And in this article, I just superficially skim the top of them. Unfortunately, the big picture is a dystopian level scary, and a lot of people stand to suffer. Reducing our personal environmental impact is imperative. But I also understand in this clickbait online world that brevity is of the essence.
So with my last effort, allow me to appeal to your sense of rational judgment:
What do you stand to lose from consuming fewer animal products – that’s worse than losing your own home to live in?
We’re already seeing the effects of climate change, literally. It is happening now and is arguably the most pressing issue of our time.
What will we tell future humanity? Sorry? We loved bacon and cheese too much? Let’s at least try not to leave subsequent generations a smoldering, stinking, scalding hot pile of Earth.
If you’re looking for more resources, see the links below. Warning: the reader may drown in an overwhelming sea of statistical informational facts.
Veganism and the Environment: By the Numbers A great, easy to read infographic with all the quick facts and explanations.
Livestock’s Long Shadow. United Nations report, if reading very long, detailed bureaucratic reports are your thing.
The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production. If reading articles by renowned publications like Time Magazine are your thing.
Your Daily Vegan. An excellent website and resource, meticulously researched and cited – this directly links to the author’s page on the environment.
Cowspiracy’s fact page. If you want to be overwhelmed with a list of facts. Also, if you ultimately want to watch, instead of read, the documentary is available on Netflix. Still can’t watch? Read this article clearly inspired by a viewing of Cowspiracy.