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There was a Tweet floating around at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic joking that the climate crisis should hire the Coronavirus’s publicity team. It was a popular Tweet: both funny and true. Since then, in the wake of all that’s happened, the humor has dissipated, but the sentiment still remains.
While we’ve all been understandably distracted by a global pandemic crisis, the momentum in the fight against Climate change has waned in a sense, while the problem persists stronger than ever. So during Earth Month, we need to come together to resume that fight. In particular, we must remember one of the greatest contributors to impending climate chaos, one that’s lacked the appropriate collective panic: the overwhelming impact of modern animal agriculture on our land, water, and air.
The pandemic brought along with it a much-needed focus on the dangers of zoonotic diseases and the risk of future pandemics lurking right in our nation’s own factory farm systems. However, those harms of animal agriculture have long been well known. For years, environmental scientists have been sounding the alarm about the impact of industrialized animal farming on our planet. Though many climate-concerned citizens may prefer to place blame on transport sectors, or look only to renewable energy for solutions, it is our food system and our way of farming and consuming animals that truly requires the greatest overhaul.
Raising animals for food produces between 15–51 percent of all greenhouse emissions worldwide—with 37 percent being the most reasonable estimate. Even at its lowest estimate, this accounts for more greenhouse emissions than all modes of transportation combined.
Industrial animal agriculture also uses up an immense amount of water. For example, according to WaterCalculater.org, a single 6-ounce steak requires 674 gallons of water to be produced. To make matters worse, animal agriculture is also one of the worst polluters of our waterways. In the US for example, North Carolina alone generates almost 10 billion gallons of animal waste per year. When that waste leaks into the ground or is sprayed onto fields, harmful levels of pollutants enter water systems, killing off wildlife and negatively altering our ecosystems.
But perhaps the most concerning issue associated with animal farming worldwide is the sheer amount of space it requires, which forces mass deforestation and biodiversity loss. An estimated 77-83 percent of all farmable land on the planet is used to raise and feed farmed animals while providing only 18 percent of the world’s calories. To make room for all those animals and the crops needed to feed them, entire wild ecosystems are destroyed. Because of this, nearly a third of all known biodiversity loss has been caused by animal agriculture.
So what’s the solution here?
Research has shown that by simply removing animal products from our diet we can reduce our individual carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent. It could also cut our water footprint by about half. Research also suggests that at the collective level, if we all shifted to a plant-based diet, land currently used in food production could be reduced by 75 percent. This would free up massive amounts of space to be rewilded and re-inhabited by native wildlife, allowing for ecosystems to thrive and biodiversity to be rejuvenated. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a total of 65-92 gigatons of global emissions could be avoided by 2050 if we all transitioned to a plant-based diet now.
Moving to a plant-based diet is perhaps the most powerful personal weapon in our fight against climate change, while also reducing animal suffering and risks to public health, and improving individual health. Every meat-free meal helps stop the depletion of our earth’s natural resources and reduces the environmental footprint of our species. It is better for the animals and better for our health, too.
To get started, The Humane League offers easy first steps to take towards making this change, by focusing realistically on progress, not perfection. You can start by veganizing your familiar family favorites.
What better time to start eating for the planet than during Earth Month, a celebration that may hold even more weight this year than ever before. As we continue to cope with a global pandemic caused by humans interfering with animals, and as Climate change moves towards us more each day, we are far from powerless. We have the ability and opportunity to fight back, by simply taking small steps to leave animals off our plates.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
- Earth Day: Take Part in Saving the Planet Today by Downloading this App!
- From Factory Farming to Fast Fashion: Important Environmental Issues to Learn About This Earth Day!
- Earth Day 2020: 10 Victories for Nature in the Time of Coronavirus That We Should Learn From
- 5 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Your Meat Consumption
- 15 Eco-Friendly Products You Should Begin Using This Earth Day!
- Simple Guide to Waste-Free Grocery Shopping for Earth Day!
- Eat For The Planet This Earth Day With These 10 Recipes That Are Sustainable and Delicious!
- 10 Reasons You Need the Food Monster Mobile App for Healthy Plant-Based Cooking!
- 10 Ways to Adopt a Zero Waste Lifestyle This Earth Day!
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