The animal agriculture industry is one of the most resource-intensive industries on our planet. It occupies about half of the world’s total land area, and is estimated to be responsible for at least 14.5 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions – though some organizations, such as The Worldwatch Institute, have estimated that the true figure could be closer to 51 percent. Earlier this year, it was revealed that just one meat producer – Tyson Foods, Inc. – was a worse water polluter than ExxonMobil, pouring some 104 million tons of pollutants into U.S. waterways between 2010 and 2014.
Beef production in the Amazon rainforest is leading to chronic droughts in the urban regions of Brazil, as cattle ranching occupies around 80 percent of the deforested land area of the Amazon, and huge amounts of the country’s water supply is diverted to the livestock system. Deforestation in the Amazon – where 232,000 square miles of rainforest has been cleared since 1970 to supply the demands of the animal agriculture and logging industries – has also been linked to the melting of ancient ice sheets in the Arctic. The rainforest acts as a natural carbon sink, retaining an estimated 90 to 140 billion metric tons of carbon that would otherwise dramatically accelerate the worldwide rate of climate change were it to be released.
In the state of California – which has endured a state of prolonged drought over the past few years – agricultural activities comprise 93 percent of the state’s water supply, with dairy production leading the charge. An estimated 1.8 million dairy cows are kept in California. Millions of gallons of water are required to keep the cows hydrated, irrigate livestock feed, wash excrement from farm floors, and clean blood and grease from butchering equipment. The process of slaughtering just one animal requires 132 gallons of water.
In February, a new study by Mesfin M. Mekohnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, of the Netherlands’ University of Twente, revealed that our planet’s water scarcity problem is significantly more severe than scientists had previously believed. The researchers found that a shocking four billion people – or two-thirds of the world’s human population – “live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year,” as opposed to the previous estimate of 1.7 to 3.1 billion people.
It takes thirty days’ worth of showers to produce just one gallon of milk, and an estimated 4,200 gallons of water per day to produce the average meat- and dairy-consuming diet. The average plant-based diet, by comparison, requires 300 gallons of water per day. By switching to a plant-based diet, one person can save over 200,000 gallons of freshwater resources per year!
Sadly, the animal agriculture industry is wreaking havoc on our planet, as this shocking image by photographer Michael Nichols illustrates.
This photograph was taken in 1989, and published in a Rolling Stones article called “The Scorched Earth”, which documented how large areas of the Amazon rainforest were being burnt to the ground to make way for cattle ranches. The article opened with the statement: “We are witnessing an environmental disaster of the first order: the total destruction of the planet’s life-sustaining rainforests.” Sadly, this statement is as true now as it was in 1989.
One Green Planet believes that our global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis. This destructive industry currently occupies over half of the world’s arable land resources, uses the majority of our freshwater stores, and drives greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, this system causes rampant air and water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and is pushing countless species to the brink of extinction. And yet, one in eight people still suffer from food scarcity.
“The real war against climate change is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make,” says Nil Zacharias, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet, ”one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, and our species is that we are knowingly eating ourselves into extinction, and doing very little about it.”
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock. With the wealth of available plant-based options available, it has never been easier to eat with the planet in mind.
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Image Source: Michael Nichols