By Rebecca Libauskas
Deadly wildfires. Unprecedented flooding. Major hurricanes. With exponential growth in devastating weather events predicted for the upcoming decades, the changing climate is going to affect our homes significantly. So, let’s think about the climate catastrophe’s effect on all species’ homes — and what we can do about it.
Around the world, animal agriculture is the primary contributor to deforestation, air pollution, water pollution and biodiversity loss. It consumes a staggering 83% of farmland and is responsible for more than half of agriculture’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to University of Oxford research.
And while we bulldoze animals’ habitats to convert them into cruel factory farms, just 18% of our calories — and 37% of our protein — come from meat and dairy. When we can get our nutrition from plants, and consuming them is humane and sustainable, why are we continuing to exploit and kill animals for food?
By replacing animal agriculture and shifting to vegan foods, we could significantly reduce planet-warming greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new study by scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. So let’s embrace vegan food now, before it’s too late.
Our predicament is urgent. If severe weather continues to increase in frequency at the current rate, we risk losing 167 million houses worldwide between now and 2040 — which is the equivalent of all the homes in the U.S., according to an estimate backed by Professor Andrew Collins at Northumbria University. Just last year, wildfires, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes and other natural disasters in America destroyed approximately 15 million houses — that’s nearly one in 10.
Even though we humans caused the climate catastrophe, we aren’t the only ones losing our homes because of it. Mammals, birds and amphibians around the world have lost an average of 18% of their natural habitats as a result of climate change and changes in land use. During the next 80 years, that could rise to 23%, according to research published in Nature Communications. But that’s why we have protected areas, right?
We think of our treasured national parks as a safe haven for animals, away from human development. But our parks are also suffering from the effects of the climate crisis, including an increase in wildfires, severe drought and rising sea levels. Most recently, Yellowstone National Park and several neighboring areas were severely affected by flash flooding. Soon Yellowstone — home to animals like the endangered Canada lynx — may not be able to support all its inhabitants. And in Yosemite National Park, trees are dying rapidly and animals like the pika are becoming displaced.
Of course, these challenges aren’t limited to the U.S. Zimbabwe just moved 2,500 animals to protect them from drought. And blazing forest fires in Northern Argentina this year forced capybaras, jaguars and other animals to flee their homes.
It is well known that in the Amazon, deforestation has destroyed a great deal of animal habitat. But what may come as a surprise is that the primary source of that deforestation (up to 91%) is animal agriculture, which involves cutting down trees to make room for crops to grow animal feed.
Over a million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, according to a United Nations comprehensive assessment on biodiversity. The analysis shows that the speed at which species are being lost to the world is increasing at a rate that is tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past. But while that sounds bleak, think of the numbers of cows, chickens, turkeys, lambs and goats who are killed every day for food. One estimate states that 200 million animals are slaughtered for food every single day in the world — and that doesn’t even include fish.
Mansions, condos, cabins, trees, swamps, oceans — our dwellings may look different, but Earth is the home that we all share. So let’s remember that all sentient beings deserve a place to live. Let’s help stop the destruction of our planet — by going vegan.