Saturday, June 27, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Eat Less Meat to Save the Environment

MEROM HAGOLAN, GOLAN HEIGHTS - MAY 22:    Free...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Eat Less Meat to Save the Environment by Cathleen Woods

Global climate change is already negatively affecting the lives of millions of people across the world. The Global Humanitarian Forum released a document in May 2009 setting the number of people's lives that are seriously affected by climate change at 300 million, and the number who die from it at 300,000 annually. Ninety percent of the deaths are from "gradual environmental degradation" like climate-related malnutrition, diarrhea, and malaria, not direct weather-related deaths.

The document said that 90% of the deaths are in undeveloped countries that contribute less than 1% of the total world's emissions. Forty-five million of the 900 million chronically hungry people across the world are hungry because of climate change. As food production is falling, prices will continue to increase and push more and more people into the hungry group. That is simply not fair.

We can no longer dally about pretending everything is fine and ecologically cyclical. We need to make changes now, and diet is one of the easiest and most effective changes we can make.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you are well aware that the transportation industry contributes to global climate change. In an effort to reduce their impact on the environment, many people have been flocking to fuel-efficient cars, hybrids, and electric cars. While that is incredible, studies show that changing your diet reduces more greenhouse gases than switching from an SUV to a Prius.

"The greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs. There are now approximately 16 million SUVs currently on the road in the US." If we cut out all cheeseburgers, we do as much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as taking almost every single SUV off the road.

Most people know that turning off unused lights in our houses and buying energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances can make a huge difference on how much energy we personally use. Did you know that just 2.2 pounds of meat does as much harm to the environment as leaving all the lights on in your house while you drive for three hours?

How many people are aware that their diet choices also affect global climate change? Did you know that if you reduce or eliminate your use of animal products, that you can make a bigger difference than trading in all your SUVs for hybrids and all your old light bulbs for compact fluorescents?

If you simply stop eating meat for two days each week, it would have the same effect as replacing every single one of your appliances with a more energy efficient option.

News about how the meat industry is destroying the environment is making its way into the mainstream media. If you are an American, you should know that we are personally responsible for much of this damage to the environment. The average American eats about 275 pounds of meat each year, much more than any other country (the average Chinese person eats 108 pounds). While in the U.S. our population takes up only 5% of the world, we produce 18% of the world's emissions. Other Western countries follow the same pattern and account for the majority of total emissions.

More and more people seem to be aware that a plant-based diet takes less of a toll on the world around us than a meat-based diet. Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet is the most beneficial choice you can make to help curb global warming and future environmental destruction.

Cathleen W. tells you how the animal industry is destroying the land, air, water, and oceans in A Fresh New Vegan You, an ebook that shares the benefits of a plant-based diet done the right way. Join the insiders and subscribe to her newsletter to stay up-to-date on your health.

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