Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Green Veggies

To continue on the St. Patrick's Day theme, let's consider the green side of vegetarianism. (OK, that's a stretch, but I couldn’t resist.)

Vegetarians have long been familiar with the evidence that shifting toward a vegetarian or vegan diet can benefit the health of the Earth. But recent reports are adding even more support to that idea.

A report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, released in November, concludes that livestock production is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global" and that "it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity."

The Christian Science Monitor sums up the FAO's findings in an article at http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0220/p03s01-ussc.html, and the full FAO report is available at http://www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.htm

Many of the FAO's suggestions for dealing with these problems focus on ways to make animal agriculture more efficient, rather than reducing the consumption of animal products. But that is the most obvious and logical step: In addition to benefiting the Earth, it benefits the health of the animals and consumers as well. Many advocates of vegetarianism have already reached that conclusion.

The FAO's findings lend support to an earlier report from EarthSave International at http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm that advocates a vegetarian diet as possibly "the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes." And Compassion in World Farming has a report on "The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat" that considers all three areas of benefit - environmental preservation, human health and animal welfare - at http://www.ciwf.org/publications/reports/The_Global_Benefits_of_Eating_Less_Meat.pdf

In fact, a vegetarian diet can do more to reduce an individual's contribution to greenhouse gases than trading in a conventional sedan for a hybrid auto.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports: "Researchers at the University of Chicago compared the global warming impact of meat eaters with that of vegetarians and found that the average American diet – including all food processing steps – results in the annual production of an extra 1.5 tons of CO2-equivalent (in the form of all greenhouse gases) compared to a no-meat diet. Researchers Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin concluded that dietary changes could make more difference than trading in a standard sedan for a more efficient hybrid car, which reduces annual CO2 emissions by roughly one ton a year. "

The researchers' report is available online at http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~gidon/papers/nutri/nutri3.pdf. The implications are discussed in a lively blog - titled "Vegetarian Is the New Prius" at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegetarian-is-the-new-pri_b_39014.html


At 3/14/2007 2:50 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Take the red pill!
The Meatrix

At 3/15/2007 8:21 AM, Blogger Brain said...

It's easily the easiest, cheapest personal lifestyle change you can make and have the greatest positive impact on your planet. I went vegan last October myself, and I've never felt better---physically and spiritually.

Another little decision that really adds up---paper or plastic? Neither. Bring your own bag for those veggies and tofu.


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