The Hidden Giant #1: “Food”

Originally posted on Planetsave on July 6, 2008, but i think it is still relevant (slightly modified).

It is one of the least discussed issues when we talk about solutions to the environmental crisis. It is not whether or not our food is organic, or whether or not it is grown locally. The underdiscussed issue is the importance of a vegetarian diet for addressing critical environmental issues.

As Albert Einstein said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

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The big issue today is global climate change. It is likely to dwarf any environmental issues we faced in the past. As reported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:

[T]he livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases…. It currently amounts to about 18 percent of the global warming effect — an even larger contribution than the transportation sector worldwide.

This is a critical issue. This is more critical than our power plants, our industries, the energy efficiency of our homes and appliances, or even transportation.

Beyond the greenhouse gas emissions, “meat production” — the raising of animals for humans to prematurely kill and eat and the processing of them after they have been killed — is a great pollutant to our water systems, causes an unsustainable amount of deforestation and soil erosion, is a significant threat to biodiversity, and requires the use of several times more natural resources than vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes.

The UN FAO states, “(the livestock sector is) one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution.”

At a time when environmental degradation and massive environmental problems have become increasingly obvious and harmful to human health (as well as the health and existence of many other species), meat production per person has nearly doubled. Granted, there are many contributors to the environmental crises we face, but this is one of the largest and, at the same time, one of the most hidden and least discussed.

For more information on the relationship between food and the environment, take a look at the UN FAO report or this webpage on the link between food and the environment.

We are the top of creation, as they say, and as we proceed, so does our planet.

We may proceed in destruction, including taking the lives of nature’s more highly evolved species to “satisfy” our tongue and stomach.

Or we may proceed in more highly evolved care for life.

Our actions come back to us.

It is a more important issue than saving the environment that sustains us, physically, but it is a critical issue in this realm as well and should not be ignored just because it is considered to be more important to the realm of morals and spiritual life.

Life is to be cherished, and not only the life of our own, but the lives of our brother and sister animals and organisms.

Without taking care for the lives of other highly evolved creatures, we threaten our own lives and the lives of our future generations.

This is a great forgotten issue in many environmental discussions and societies.

For more discussion of food issues, check out Eat. Drink. Better. and check out the vegetarian archive in particular.

image credit: cynthia shahan

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~ by Zachary Shahan on December 26, 2009.

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