OPINION: Save the world, eat plants


Is a plant-based diet a better option?

Author and activist Michael Pollan’s seven words for eating are “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Most nutritionists and health scientists will tell you the same.

I’m not here to write about the human health benefits of a plant based diet. I’m more interested in the planet’s health benefiting from humans eating a plant based diet. We should all have a plant based diet. It affects every one of us, from the air we breath to the water we drink.

It’s not about trying to convert anyone to become vegan (as one myself, I don’t like the word). I want to take a look at the implications on our biosphere from 21st century animal husbandry.

According to Environmental Defense, if Americans skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off the road.

By just substituting out chicken tacos on a Tuesday night to bell peppers and squash, everyone can decrease the amount of dangerous green house gases into our atmosphere.

New York Times best selling author of vegan books Kathy Freston, found some eye opening statistics involving cutting back on meat. If everyone went vegetarian for just one day the U.S would save:

• 100 billion gallons of water

• 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock

• 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined

Three million acres of land and

• 33 tons of antibiotics.

Freston also found this cut back would prevent:

• Greenhouse gas emission equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2

Three million tons of soil erosion

• $70 million in resulting of economic damages

• 4.5 million tons of animal excrement and

• Almost seven tons of ammonia emissions (a major air pollutant)

Global livestock is responsible for more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Our under-reported and inhumane treatment of livestock is warming our planet.

According to GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the five largest meat and dairy companies are now responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than Exxon, BP and Shell.

Next time you’re hungry, try reaching out for fruit as a snack instead of beef jerky. Or when pouring cereal into a bowl, start mixing in milk alternatives such as almond or rice milk. You’ll almost be able to see the air become cleaner by these substitutions.

Our planet is basically one gigantic farm broken up by cities, forests and oceans.

If our global industrial complex of meat and dairy products are higher in emissions numbers than the world’s largest oil companies, then there needs to be a complete change in the way we allow global livestock to be raised and distributed.

Greenhouse gas emissions are contributing reasons for:

  • global temperature rises,
  • warming oceans,
  • mass coral extinction,
  • shrinking ice sheets,
  • glacial retreat,
  • decreased snow cover,
  • sea level rises,
  • declining arctic sea ice,
  • extreme global weather events and
  • rise in ocean acidity.

If you’re afraid of these ten tragedies befalling on our home, the scientists on global climate change at NASA made this list as evidence for rapid climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Again, I am not trying to convince you to stop eating meat all together or that you’re no longer allowed to eat eggs for breakfast (my wife’s staple breakfast go-to). But to address climate change, people should be taking up at least a semi-plant based diet.

We are destroying this planet by the lifestyles we have chosen to live. The capitalist model of profit over people cannot sustain us for much longer if we destroy the very thing that is sustaining us.

It’s easy to make an impact if we all work together with small changes. Something as miniature as changing only one meal a week could greatly affect our biodiversity and create a more harmonious bio-ecology.

Research shows that adopting a semi-plant-based diet reduces carbon emissions and helps reduce global warming.| Photo by Tony Wallin

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