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5 Reasons Why Eating More Plants Can Save The Planet
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Going plant-based is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, land use, and water use.

Joseph Poore, Oxford University

Although the science of Planetary health is still in its infancy, the message from research so far is clear. Our worldwide food system is a major driver of climate change. Production and consumption of animal products is the main factor weighing on the environment. There is a huge environmental gap between the emissions produced by a plant-based diet compared to a meat-and-dairy-based diet. So what would happen if we all shifted to a plant-based diet?

1. We’d Lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

The livestock industry pollutes more than all the vehicles in the world put together. This is down to the … excrement factor. In the US alone, livestock drop seven million pounds of poop per minute, producing tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide. These gases are a highly toxic GHG, the latter being 296 times more destructive to the environment than CO2. Considering this stat, it is not a surprise that FAO has estimated animal agriculture to be responsible for 18% of the world’s emissions.

In 2018, research on planetary health from medical journal The Lancet estimated a decrease in 87% of GHGs if we shifted to a plant-based diet. It’s worth noting that this refers only to high-income countries, who produce 86% of global emissions. Low-income countries’ emissions account for less than 1%. So a change in their dietary habits wouldn’t have a major impact on the world. Another study by Oxford University found that although the meat and dairy industries deplete most of the world’s resources, they only provide a small percentage of nutrition, and the idea that we can only gain protein from these foods is a myth.

2. We’d Save Water

A third of Earth’s freshwaters are used for animal farming. By adopting a plant-based diet, one person can save approximately 829,000 litres of water per year. That’s 1.458.000 pints! The numbers seem too staggering to be true. But consider the fact that a single dairy cow drinks up to 189 litres of water per day (and that amount can double in hot weather.) Commercial dairy cows can live up to seven years, meaning that they consume about half a million litres of water during their whole lifespan.

To put that in perspective, it takes 2626 litres of water to produce just one litre (nearly two pints) of dairy milk. That’s enough for a month and a half of five-minute showers. More than 9000 litres of water are needed to produce one pound (half a kg) of beef. That’s enough water to supply a family of four for a month! One pound of tofu “only” requires 924 litres (1600 pints) of water, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

To top it off, runoff from factory farms and livestock grazing end up straight into our rivers and lakes. On their website, Cowspiracy state that 70-90% of freshwater pollution in western countries is caused by animal agriculture.

3. We’d save the oceans

The popular saying “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” sounds a bit eerie these days, considering oceans could be void of fish by 2048. Although there are plenty of plant-based seafood options available on the market, fishing is still the leading cause of loss of wildlife. One million wild fish are caught every 34 seconds. Additionally, fishing nets are responsible for half of the plastic found in the oceans, which are swallowed by the same fish that end up on our plates.

A recent study by Current Biology discovered that 87 % of the world’s oceans are dying. The lead researcher of the study from University of Queensland, Australia, said the team was astonished by how many species have disappeared: “The ocean is immense, covering over 70 % of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.” Time for change!

4.We’d Stop Deforestation

To produce food for an entire year, a vegan requires 1/6 of an acre of land, while meat-eaters need 18 times more. A football field would suffice for 37,000 pounds of plant-based food, but only produce 375 pounds of meat. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, one pound of meat requires it up to 10 pounds of grain to produce. In the United States alone, 56 million acres of land are used to grow crops for animal feed. Only four million acres, on the other hand, are used to produce food for humans

5. We’d End World Hunger

According to PETA, we would be able to feed the worldwide population (nine billion humans expected by 2050) if the 40% of crops produced for animal food were used for human consumption instead. At the moment, 70% of agricultural land is used to feed 60 billion animals. And seeing 82% of starving children live next to animals used for agriculture, the global plant-based shift can’t come too soon!

“If everybody were to stop oil and gas, we would see the effects within a century. But if everybody on Earth were to go plant-based, we would see these effects in a decade”

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17 / 01 / 2020 // Written by Sylvia Helen Goodrick
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