By 2025, the human population of our planet is set to increase to 8.1 billion, with 95 percent of that growth happening in developing nations. With this projection comes an urgent question: How will we possibly feed all of these people? One thing is for certain — we won’t be able to feed everyone with animal proteins, as we’re already pushing the limit of what our planet can take with 45 percent of land worldwide devoted to industrial animal agriculture and another 33 percent used for the sole purpose of growing livestock feed.
Here in America, our citizens have long been responsible for consuming an absurd amount of animal protein. At present, the average person in the U.S. consumes 103 grams per day – about double the recommended amount – and two-thirds of that comes from animal sources. Meanwhile, meat and dairy consumption have also recently started to rise in developing nations such as India and China, a trend which can largely be attributed to growing incomes and improved quality of life in these countries. Researchers expect that, within the next few decades, the animal protein consumption levels in these nations will catch up to our current levels in the West as their populations’ skyrocket and development continues.
This projection heightens the current environmental crisis and deepens the issue of how we will feed the world in the near future. We can’t possibly fulfill the growing demand for meat, eggs, and dairy, at least without destroying our one and only planet in the process. Therefore, we desperately need to sell the world’s population on plant-based proteins, which are healthier, far more sustainable, and already plentiful.
Fortunately, many world powers are finally paying attention to this problem. China is one of them. Recently, the Chinese government rolled out a new set of dietary guidelines which encourage citizens to eat no more than 200 total grams of meat and eggs per day. China’s current per capita meat and egg consumption is around 300 grams per day, so this recommendation has the potential to significantly decrease animal protein consumption if citizens follow it. In fact, a report from WildAid shows that if Chinese consumers adhere to this guideline, it would reduce China’s greenhouse gas emissions related to meat consumption by an amount equal to 1.5 percent of global emissions. That’s HUGE!
According to a 2017 survey conducted by the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, 39 percent of Chinese citizens have begun to reduce their meat consumption as per their government’s recent recommendation. At the time of the study, the country’s meat consumption had been on the decline for three years, with those who decreased their meat intake substituting with vegetables and tofu/mock meats. In light of the major environmental crisis facing our world, China’s citizens have started to recognize the power of going plant-based: 42 percent of respondents in the survey reported that they are seeking foods that are better for the environment, which has undoubtedly played a role in the increasing demand for plant-based proteins in the nation.
Disappointingly, the U.S. government hasn’t yet followed in the footsteps of China and other global powers that have begun to address the issues with animal protein. A recent report from the World Resources Institute revealed that if Americans cut their meat consumption in half, it would reduce food-related carbon emissions by more than 40 percent. And yet, when the idea of including sustainability when updating our nation’s dietary guidelines was suggested, it was ultimately struck down, mainly thanks to the influence of lucrative meat and dairy lobbies.
Even though our nation has failed to recommend doing so, you have the power to make an enormous difference as an individual just by aligning your eating habits with the health of the planet. By opting for plant-based proteins in lieu of animal-based ones, you will greatly lower the impact of your diet and help ensure a future where we can sustain the world’s population WITHOUT sacrificing the beauty and diversity of our Earth.
To learn more about powering yourself with plants, check out the #EatForThePlanet book!
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