By Brad Waite
It’s time to move toward a plant-based diet.
Today, many recognize the health benefits of eating a diet consisting mostly of plant-based foods, rather than flesh. Many people also recognize the moral and ethical reasons for eating less, or no, meat.
Today, however, I want to talk about the environmental reasons for moving seriously in this direction. If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, you believe climate change is an extremely serious threat to our planet. You also believe mankind is primarily responsible, due to the drastic increase we have caused in the release and accumulation of green house gases (GHG) in our atmosphere.
The Affluent Diet
One of the biggest contributors to that accumulation is also something that we all can readily influence, which is our diet. In particular, it is the accelerating adoption of what’s called the Affluent Diet. The Affluent Diet is heavily meat centric. Historically the eating of meat and other flesh foods has always been much more expensive than a diet based on plant-based foods, thus it required someone to be Affluent to be able to afford to eat that way.
Today almost everyone choses to eat that way and can afford to, especially in our country. The cost of meat at the market doesn’t reflect the cost of the environmental damage in its production.
Hidden Costs of Meat Production
What are some of those costs? Well, I’m glad you asked.
First, in a 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more GHG than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. https://news.un.org/en/story/2006/11/201222-rearing-cattle-produces-more-greenhouse-gases-driving-cars-un-report-warns
Second, cows and sheep produce 37 percent of the total methane gas generated by human activity. Methane is 28 times more warming than carbon dioxide, the largest GHG by volume.
Third, raising and processing meat consumes radically more water than the equivalent calorie content of plant-based foods (PBF).
Fourth, huge factory farms produce most meat and poultry. The farms are notorious for inhumanely confining their animals. These Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) are huge polluters. For example, each cow produces 70 pounds of manure a day, which ends up polluting ground water, nearby streams rivers and air.
Fifth, to satisfy the increasing demand for meat, vast swaths of valuable forests are cleared for grazing, meaning these trees are no longer pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it in the soil. Raising farmed animals uses thirty percent (30%)of the earth’s entire land surface. I could go on and list at least four more costs, but you get the message.
Change Your Habits Gradually
But what can and should we do about this? Is it time to move to a plant-based diet? Again, I’m glad you asked.
In an ideal world, we would all quickly stop eating all flesh and any products derived from animals, including all dairy and eggs. However, I’ll confess that I’m not quite ready to take this plunge today. I certainly don’t want to forever forgo eating pizza with a few meat toppings.
Isn’t there a way I can sneak up on this lifestyle? Actually, there certainly is. The first baby step might be to commit to having one day a week that is completely free of flesh and anything from animals. From there, keep adding more days as you learn that this really isn’t so difficult or burdensome.
Another alternative is to pick a flesh-based food item that you consume a lot of and cut the amount in half, either by portion size or frequency, then pick another food item and repeat the process. The most important thing is that you at least start and try eating this way.
You might even come to realize you prefer these days. And you’ll very likely feel better physically and emotionally, while the environment will thank you. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, April 17, 2019. Email Brad Waite at firstname.lastname@example.org.