Tag Archives: greenhouse gases

Are meat-eaters selfish?

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Veggies and fruits available at the REC mobile farmers market van! (see schedule below) pic:R.T.

By Michelle Kretzer

We all ponder the question, “Am I selfish?” from time to time. And the answer is simple: Yes, probably. If you claim to care about the environment, animals, world hunger, skyrocketing healthcare costs or pretty much any of the major crises that we face today but are still eating meat, then yes, you are selfish.

Because we could drastically slow down climate change, feed the entire booming population, fix the broken healthcare system and save millions of lives right now if we wanted to. But we don’t. Not enough anyway. I mean, sure, we want to solve those problems. But … bacon.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food just published the results of their study on the impact of the meat industry on the environment and our health.

They found that if the human population made a global shift toward the dietary recommendations that we hear at least once a week about eating the minimum suggested amounts of fruit and vegetables, limiting red meat and sugar, and cutting overall calories, we could cut food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 29 percent. That number jumps to 63 percent for a collective shift toward vegetarian eating. And if everyone on Earth went vegan, we could slash food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 percent.

Simply following health recommendations to eat more plants and less meat could also prevent 5.1 million deaths by 2050. And if everyone chose vegan foods, we could save the lives of 8.1 million people. Healthy plant-based eating could save us $700 billion to $1 trillion every year on health care and lost working days. And the economic savings of significantly cutting our greenhouse-gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion.

Their results mirror the findings of pretty much every food study ever.

According to the filmmakers behind the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”

The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water at a time when waging war over fresh water is no longer seen as a movie plot but as a very real threat. Animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S., and if the rest of the world ate America’s meat-heavy diet, the Earth would have run out of fresh water 15 years ago.

Turning animals into meat is also a grossly inefficient use of other limited resources. It takes up to 13 kilograms of grain fed to farmed animals to produce just 1 kilogram of meat for the world’s wealthiest citizens. With 795 million people currently going hungry, the only way to produce enough food, according to Worldwatch Institute, is “to cut back sharply on meat consumption, because conversion of grazing land to food crops will increase the amount of food produced.”

Every day, one vegan saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of greenhouse gases and an animal’s life.

By saving the Earth and animals, we also save ourselves. Numerous health studies have found that vegetarians and vegans enjoy lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, obesity and Alzheimer’s as well as lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and better overall health.

So, are you selfish? Think about it as you head off to fry some bacon … and the planet.

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Get your good-for-you goodies at REC’s Beaver Brook Park and Main South farmers markets and at the REC mobile farmers market van:

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Stopping climate change can begin at breakfast

By Craig Shapiro
 
Some 80 world leaders are meeting this month at the 21st annual Conference of Parties, the critical world climate change conference in Paris, in the hope of reaching a legally binding, universal agreement to curb carbon emissions and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
 
The goal is crucial and long overdue.
 
But it’s also in jeopardy. Concerns have already been raised that the summit will not meet its goal. Christiana Figueres, the United Nations (U.N.) climate chief, predicts that it will fall short of the 2-degree target, and there is heated disagreement over which countries among the more than 190 that will be represented should cut greenhouse-gas emissions the most and which ones should pay for it.
 
While diplomats bicker and compromise, the Earth suffers. But we don’t have to wait for them to agree—each of us can act right now to protect the environment, starting with our breakfast.

Simply eating food derived from plants instead of from animals is one of the most effective actions that we can take to limit climate change.
 
Raising and killing billions of cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens and other animals for food every year is responsible for a staggering 51 percent or more of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide. It’s no wonder that the U.N. has said that a global shift toward vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.
 
Making that shift has never been more urgent. Last month, the World Meteorological Organization reported that concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, key greenhouse gases, appeared to be increasing rapidly and that average levels of carbon dioxide had risen 43 percent over pre-industrial levels. Researchers at Britain’s University of East Anglia followed with another ominous finding—the Earth’s average temperature has exceeded historic norms by 1.02 degrees Celsius.
 
According to a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Oxford, just by going vegan, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that our diet contributes to climate change by up to 60 percent. Eating plant-based meals also helps prevent other kinds of environmental damage.
 

Eighty percent of agricultural land—nearly half the land mass of the contiguous United States—is used to raise animals for food and grow crops to feed them. Meat production wastes precious water, too: It takes more than 2,400 gallons to produce a pound of cow flesh, while producing a pound of whole-wheat flour requires only 180 gallons. Runoff from factory farms and livestock grazing pollutes our groundwater, lakes, rivers and oceans. Reducing our reliance on meat, eggs and dairy foods would free up land, water and other resources for growing food for hungry humans instead.
 
Eating vegan doesn’t just help the Earth. It has also been tied to lower rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and many other maladies. And of course, leaving animals off our plates prevents horrific cruelty.
 
Piglets raised for meat often have their tails cut off, the ends of their teeth broken off with pliers and notches cut out of their ears without any pain relief. Cows on dairy farms are repeatedly impregnated and their newborn calves are torn away from them almost immediately so that humans can take the milk that was meant for their calves. Turkeys and chickens are shackled upside down in slaughterhouses, have their throats cut and are plunged into scalding-hot water, often while still conscious.
 
Going vegan is eco-friendly, healthy and humane, but odds are that it won’t be one of the solutions discussed in Paris. That doesn’t matter, though, because climate change is everyone’s fight, and the bell is ringing.p

WPI students fight Exxon Mobil CEO’s planned commencement address

Worcester- There’s a storm brewing on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) over the invitation by the administration to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to deliver this year’s commencement speech on May 14.

According to WPI’s Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), ExxonMobil, the world’s largest private oil company and a major funder of climate deniers, has given over $1.3 million to the school. The invitation appears to have more to do with future funding aspirations than aspirational future vision.

After a decision by WPI’s President Dennis Berkey to prevent protesting students from receiving diplomas drew negative media attention, Berkey withdrew the threat and agreed to endorse an alternate commencement speech by Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. Invited by SJSF, Heinberg will deliver from the main stage directly following Tillerson’s address.

Richard Heinberg’s work is a powerful symbol of our wishes for WPI: a university which, in line with its budding green image, chooses to honor someone with leadership and vision, rather than a baron of the past, a force of the status quo.” – SJSF Leadership

However, the fact remains that the CEO of the world’s most profitable company, one that has destroyed entire ecosystems around the globe, will be addressing the next generation of parents, thinkers and leaders.

Protesters, whose ranks will be swelled by organizations including 350.org and a number of Boston/Worcester area allies, have vowed to oppose Tillerson’s speech directly.