There are so many good reasons to switch to a whole foods plant-based diet, one of which is the detrimental impact a meat-based diet has on our environment. What we eat is the single most important topic in the history of humanity because the future of humanity is riding on those food choices. By switching to a whole foods plant-based lifestyle, you'll be helping far more about life on this planet than you could possibly imagine.
Let's look at some major issues our planet is facing right now as a direct result of the choices we make at breakfast, lunch and dinner (and everything in between)!
This statistic should infuriate all of us...
There is just not enough land and water in the world to feed everyone the Standard American Diet (SAD). The reason being, the production of animal-based foods requires over ten times as much land, water, and energy as do the same number of healthier, plant-based foods. 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. "If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million," David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, reported at the July 24-26 meeting of the Canadian Society of Animal Science in Montreal.
If everyone on the planet ate like we do in the United States, we'd need more than two planet Earths to feed us all and the last time I checked, we only have one!
THIS IS OUR MOST URGENT PROBLEM. One billion people don't have enough water today and it's getting worse all the time. Most of the water used by the average American goes to raise the livestock we consume, making it by far our single largest use (and waste) of water. It takes more water to produce one pound of beef than the average American uses to shower for an entire year! Looked at another way, it takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef . The 5,000 gallons of water comes from the grain and hay that the cow consumes to produce that one pound of beef (http://www.organicvalley.coop/fileadmin/pdf/ENERGY_SSR.pdf). To produce a one pound loaf of bread, 250 gallons of water is required to make the wheat utilized in that loaf of bread. (http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/10/909.full)
More than one billion people are without adequate drinking water today and 500 million are approaching this situation.
SOIL EROSION AND DEFORESTATION
Land is a finite resource and we are depleting it rapidly. Since 1970, we've destroyed some 30 million acres of rainforest a year - mostly to raise livestock. Each year, we lose an area of land the size of South Carolina to erosion, mostly due to the raising of billions of animals for our dinner tables.
The data compiled by the World Resources Institute reveals that the planet has already lost 80% of its forest cover to deforestation, and going by the alarming rate at which trees are being cut, it won't take much time for that figure to reach the 100% mark. The West African region, which boasted of lush green tropical forests in the 19th century, has been stripped of 90% of its forest cover over the last century. The same trend of deforestation continues in the two remaining rainforest biomes in South America and Asia respectively.
"We are using 50% more resources than the Earth can sustainably produce, and unless we change course, that number will grow fast—by 2030, even two planets will not be enough," says Jim Leape,director general of the World Wide Fund for Nature International (formerly the World Wildlife Fund).
COST OF HEALTHCARE
Standing at almost $3 trillion in just the USA, this economic nightmare is beginning to threaten our entire way of life in the developed world, where most of the unhealthy foods are eaten. Since the CDC estimates that 80% of our medical costs are lifestyle related with diet being a huge part, that $3 trillion number can be cut by more than $2 trillion when enough citizens begin eating a whole foods plant-based diet.
Climate change exacerbates all the other problems we have. The U.N. reports that the raising of livestock generates more greenhouse gasses than all of transportation combined. Despite the fact that raising livestock is the leading cause of climate change, the largest environmental groups like Greenpeace and Sierra Club never mention it. Why not?? Because being identified as "anti-meat" would hurt their fundraising efforts. Check out the documentary Cowspiracy to learn more about this infuriating issue.
DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS
Another primary cause of climate change, our global consumption of fossil fuels has gone up every year since 1950, despite all the solar panels, electric cars and windmills that you see. The livestock industry uses massive amounts of fossil fuels to grow and transport animal feed and the livestock itself. Hence, one of the most powerful ways to actually start using less fossil fuel is to replace animal-based calories with plant-based calories.
What are we doing to our planet??
As a result of deforestation, we are destroying the natural habitats of hundreds of thousands of species. Every species in nature plays a role in the incredibly complex ecosystem that sustains us. Today, because of human activity (primarily the raising of livestock), the rate of species extinction is running at over 1,000 times the normal rate in nature. We humans are causing the biggest species extinction since the demise of the dinosaurs.
SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR CIVILIZATION
This will require a rapid movein the direction of a plant-based diet for all humans. All the other things threatening human survival on earth will take many decades or centuries to fully address, therefore, the pathway to the long-term sustainability of our species is switching to plant-based. It’s the one thing we can do immediately.