The #1 thing we can do, starting today, right now, to protect and preserve the environment and species on this planet is to shift away from animal-based foods.
In fact: “Shifting away from animal-based foods could add up to 49% to the global food supply without expanding croplands” – (Jalava et al (2014).)
If each and every person in the United States (alone), consumed fewer meat and dairy products, we would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions, reduce our water use at least by half, and prevent the further growth of dead zones in the oceans, cutting back on the direct and indirect threats to marine life.
If each and every person in the United States, China, India, Japan, and other developed countries consumed fewer meat and dairy products, we would multiply the above in magnitude, prevent the further loss of primary rainforests and habitat (in the amazon and elsewhere), be an example to developing countries where meat and dairy consumption is growing, and may perhaps mitigate the growing effects of climate change on our planet and its ecosystems.
According to the “World Population Clock,” (http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) there are now 7.41 Billion people living on this world, competing for the same “resources.”
By 2050, the United Nations estimates that there will be approximately 9.7 Billion people (United Nations, 2015). This means that in the next 35 years, there will be 30% more people fighting for the same resources, fighting for the same foods, fighting for the same oxygen, fighting for the same water.
Concurrently, there will be an extinction of 30-50% of all species. So, as we add 30% more people, we will lose 30-50% of all species (Center for Biological Diversity, 2016). This is a truly scary and disturbing thought.
Therefore, to slow down these extinctions, both directly and indirectly, the first and foremost thing we can do, is
Move away from animal-based foods, and shift to plant-based foods.
Pound-for-pound, gallon-for-gallon, animals use vastly more water and carbon to produce than plants. Ounce-for-ounce however, the amount of protein that you get from plant-sources, such as legumes, seeds, and grains, is closely on par, plus, full of other healthful nutrients including fiber, sterols, stanols, and vitamins and minerals.
To put this into context:
- 1 pound of beef requires anywhere between 2000 and 8,000 gallons of water to produce, according to studies conducted by UC Davis (Beckett & Oltjen, 1993) and George Borgstrom, from Michigan State University. Much of this water is used in creating the feed for the cows, whether it is grass or grain.
- Similarly, 1 gallon of cow’s milk requires 1950 gallons of water.
**And, I haven’t even addressed the methane released into the environment from these cows**
- Conversely, 1 pound of Tofu requires 302 gallons of water to produce, and it requires 290 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of unprocessed oats.
- Now, for those of you worried about protein content:
1 pound of beef contains 90-100 grams of protein Costing you 20 – 80 gallons of water per gram of protein
1 gallon of milk contains 128 grams of protein 15 gallons of water per gram of protein
1 pound of tofu contains 45-55 grams of protein 6 gallons of water per gram of protein
1 pound of oats contains 75 grams of protein = 3.8 gallons of water per gram of protein.
From a water perspective only (at this point), and with simple mathematics, it is much more efficient and cost-effective to eat plant foods than animal foods.
Why is this so important?
According to a United Nations report, the ocean covers 70% of the earth. The oceans contain about 97% of Earth’s water with the remaining 3% found in glaciers and ice, below the ground, and in rivers and lakes.
If the majority of fresh water is going towards animal husbandry that leaves less for us to consume, for there is less snow pack, erratic weather patterns, and more polluted water than ever.
Moreover, the water runoff from livestock ends up in the oceans, killing marine wildlife from plankton, up to dolphins and whales. The less meat and milk, the fewer animals that are raised. The fewer animals that are raised, the less water, methane (carbon), CO2, and nitrogen that are released into the atmosphere and oceans. Conserving life on this planet, including human lives.
To make a long story short, if we all eliminated meat and milk from our diets and went to plant-sources of these foods, we would be saving at least 50% of our water use. We would be saving habitats from being destroyed to produce more livestock-feed, and we would be creating less pollution in our waterways, streams, and oceans, that indirectly threaten animal lives.
It is said, “If our Oceans Die, We Die.” – Sea Shepherd (2015).
For More Tips, stay Tuned to PART II!
Jalava M, Kummu M, Porkka M, Siebert S, and Varis O (2014). Diet Change–a solution to reduce water use? Environ. Res. lett. 9(7):1-14.
United Nations World Population Projection, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015). http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/2015-report.html
The Center for Biological Diversity (2016). The Extinction Crisis. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/
Beckett, J. L., and J. W. Oltjen. (1993) Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States. J. Anim. Sci. 71: 818-826
United Nations (2016). “FIRST GLOBAL INTEGRATED MARINE ASSESSMENT (FIRST WORLD OCEAN ASSESSMENT)” Oceans and Law of the Sea, an integrated report. http://www.un.org/depts/los/global_reporting/WOA_RegProcess.htm