So i’m currently reading EarthTalk: Expert Answers to Everyday Questions about the Environment (as well as a few other books), but I’m really digging this book for a few reasons – it takes questions from everyday people, ranging from various environmental topics like water pollution and organic foods and clothing, and breaks down the answer so that it is very understandable. AND it gives a list of additional resources to check out. I love when websites do this (I’ve never seen this in a book) because it allows the fascination and interest in the topic to continue to grow. I’ve also recently discovered StumbleUpon, which has fueled my obsession to check out new stuff.
Anyways, while I was reading on the train home last night, I read this statistic, “A 10% reduction in U.S. meat consumption would free up enough grain to feed sixty million people.” Just take a second to really think about this… It’s staggering to think that the amount of meat consumed in the United States affects those all over the world – to the point that people are starving while we over-indulge in meat products. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak, but I read somewhere else that if everyone in the U.S. gave up one meal a week that contained meat, we would be able to feed everyone in the world.
For as long as I can remember, when we would have family dinners growing up, we would have the main meal focused around the meat – a burger, ham, grilling; or we had meat in almost everything we ate – yum yum, manicotti, chipped beef, spaghetti, hamburger helper meals, lasagna (notice an Italian theme here?) and so on. According to many websites and dieticians, an adult plate should be 2 parts fruits and veggies to less than one part protein/meat – this is definitely not the balance on my plate! And overall, Americans need to cut back on their meat intake. There are many health benefits to cutting meat out of one’s diet, and while those reasons are important, I want to focus more on the conservation side. But for people who are interested in all of the above, there is a movement called Meatless Mondays (I just signed the pledge) that is all about the benefits to the earth and to people who partake in this movement by not eating meat on Mondays, just one day a week, it’s pretty cool.
Back to the conservation stuff. The meat industry contributes to global warming by leaving a HUGE carbon footprint by using excessive water (and the polluting other water sources), clearing tropical rain forests for grazing land or for meat factories, using a lot of grain, that as previously mentioned good go to better use feeding people around the world. So what are some solutions to this problem?
- Number 1 being definitely cut meat or some meat out of your diet! This definitely is not an easy task, one intern in particular said it would be near impossible for her because she loves meat that much. However, this simple dietary change can make a world of difference (pun intended). The Meatless Monday campaign is a great way to start, but it’s more than just cutting meat out of your diet, I think the real focus is to eat healthier – more fruits and veggies. OR another option would be to eat organic meat, in which animals are raised humanely and not given any hormones or toxins.
- I think the second thing people can do is just educate themselves and others – I think the teacher in me is coming out a bit However, I truly feel like education is the number one thing people can do to help themselves and others. AND it’s been proven that when woman in developing countries become educated or more educated they have a huge impact in changing their livelihood.
- The final thing I would recommend people to do is to positively contribute to the environment in other ways if they can’t cut meat out of their diet or find it hard to read a book about the topic. I’ve found there are a number of things people can do to positively contribute to the environment and I’ve been recently inspired by Eco-Day (today) at National Geographic. They had booths and gave out all sorts of goodies, but more than that the goal was to educate the staff about how to leave a smaller carbon footprint – solar panels, wind energy, biking to work or public transportation or carpooling, installing water regulators in faucets and toilet tanks, and the list goes on and on. NatGeo is apparently very eco-friendly, which is just another incentive for me to want to come back and work at NatGeo in the future.
If you do a quick search for “meat industry impacts on environment” you get over 3 million hits. These were a few sites I really liked:
NY Times article is basically a summary of the meat industry – including a lot of statistics and interviews from experts. It also lists a few solutions and ways people can help.
This article I think is mis-titled, but it’s called 13 Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat, it lists 13 problems associated with the meat industry. I was expecting more of a health article and benefits from cutting back on meat – it doesn’t. Nevertheless, it lists 13 impacts of the meat industry on the environment.
PETA‘s brief article, and website for that matter, are a bit extreme, and I don’t think I could ever completely give up meat in my diet, but this statistic is pretty intense, “According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.”
I would also highly recommend reading Fast Food Nation. It’ borders on the gross factor, but for the most part it is very eye-opening. Granted, it focuses only on the negative aspects of the food industry, but it does put into perspective the positive associations most people have with the fast food industry – like the fact that it’s cheap and convenient!
Lots of information to think over. Just a heads up, the next chapter of Earthtalk is about shopping organically – you should probably expect a post on that.