April 22, 2010 we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. Now more than ever it's important for people to recognize our Mother Earth and the damage we are doing to her. Climate Change is quite possibly one of the most critical issues facing us today. Climate change is responsible for hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat and cold, and many other extreme weather events. It's undeniable that human actions are directly responsible for a vast majority of climate change, and it's becoming more and more evident that we hold the key to healing the planet and that key is our dinner plate. As Danielle Nierenberg from Worldwatch Institute stated in the newly released book Gristle, "When it comes to our food, reducing or eliminating animal products is one of the most effective ways individuals can fight climate change."
So, what exactly is it about meat that's contributing to climate change? In a word, shit. That's right all of that shit that piles up from intensive factory farming. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 500 million tons of shit each year. That's THREE TIMES the amount of waste produced by humans. As a matter of fact, one CAFO (factory farm) can produce more waste in a year than an entire city full of people. All of that shit isn't only polluting the air with methane and nitrous oxide (which has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide!!), but it's also polluting the surface and ground water. As a matter of fact, the EPA states that the agriculture sector is "the leading contributor to identified water quality impairments in the nations rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs."
Animal agriculture is actually the leader in green house gas emissions. First, even before the transportation sector including all cars, trucks, buses, planes and trains. Forty-one MILLION tons of carbon dioxide is contributed annually by fertilizer production for feed crops. This isn't including the CO2 emissions from the transportation of these crops, and the operation of these intensive agriculture operations.
In addition to water pollution and air pollution, intensive animal agriculture also contributes to the destruction of the rain forests, particularly in Brazil. In the year 200o 58.7 million hectacres of the Brazilian rain forest were lost to graze cattle and grow feed crops. To make matters worse, the Brazilian rain forest isn't being depleted to feed hungry Brazilians, it's being depleted to feed overweight, gluttonous Americans. Destruction of the rain forests has resulted in irreversible loss of plant and animal species and loss of biodiversity of this delicate ecosystem.
These are only a few of the environmental concerns when it comes to our intensive consumption of animals and animal products. If we are really going to make a difference in climate change we MUST change the way we eat. Adopting a "green" lifestyle is significant, but we will not be able to sustain our meat consumption much longer, the time to act is now! For the sake of future generations, we have NO CHOICE but to change the way we feed ourselves.
This Earth Day, make a commitment to begin eliminating animal products from your diet. Do what REALLY counts to heal our planet, and then celebrate the many joys of being vegan on Earth Day 2011!!!!