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Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Salvador Dali Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder 1933

Dr. D: 

Eat less meat to save the planet – report (1)
The new diet that could save the planet (2)
What to eat to save the planet: Report urges ‘radical changes’ to world’s diet – less meat, more veggies (3)

These headlines, likely sourced from a recent article from “The Lancet” (4) are a regular feature of our time, in diet, in environmentalism, and in global warming. They are well-researched, sourced by the world’s experts, and put forward with the highest intentions. However, they are also completely wrong – dangerously, ignorantly wrong. 

Like most industries, agriculture and food production is a specialty, with its own language and details. I don’t attempt to tell the Lancet how to perform heart surgery, for to do so would be ridiculous, dangerous, outside of my expertise. I wouldn’t tell a geologist how to interpret the magnetic layers of rock, or how oceanographers should properly interpret sea water samples to guide us on fishing or pollution. Yet this is what they do for farmers.

The primary drive of most such articles is that, with so many people, and so much hunger, we find that it takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.” that “64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.” (5) That it takes “20 pounds corn [to make] 1 pound beef.” (6) Or that you can get 15lbs of beef per acre, but 263lbs of soybeans. (7) Also that cattle are the primary reason for deforestation, and a major cause of methane.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

More vegetables, less meat for all our sakes

More vegetables, less meat for all our sakes

Spanish market: Vegetable-rich diets make for a healthier planet. Image: By ja ma on Unsplash

Researchers are clear: the healthy diet for a healthy planet is more vegetables, less meat. What matters is the food that’s served, and the way it’s produced too.

LONDON, 17 January, 2019 − An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, wholegrains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor’s orders, tomorrow’s farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

A commission sponsored by one of the oldest and most distinguished medical journals in the world today provides what it calls the first scientific targets for a healthy diet, from a sustainable food production system, that operates within what its authors term “planetary boundaries.”

The commission is the result of three years’ consultation by 37 experts from 16 countries, among them experts in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and political governance.

Goal within reach

It addresses the twin problems of global food supply: altogether 3 billion people are either under-nourished, or approaching clinical obesity because they are too well-nourished.

And global food production in its present form is helping to drive global warming and climate change, trigger accelerating biodiversity loss, pollute the rivers, lakes and coasts with ever greater levels of nitrogen and phosphorus run-off, and make unsustainable use of both land and fresh water.

“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said Tim Lang, a food scientist at the City University of London, and one of the authors.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scientists: The Globe’s Food Supply System Is Broken

Scientists: The Globe’s Food Supply System Is Broken

The world’s science academics are saying that the global food supply system is completely broken. They say that in order to avoid a “climate catastrophe” the global population should overhaul the farming system and eat less meat.

Billions of people worldwide are either underfed or overweight. The current food system fails to properly nourish all of these people. And that is currently driving the planet towards a climate catastrophe, according to 130 national academies of science and medicine across the world. More than 820 million people went hungry last year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, while a third of all people did not get enough vitamins. At the same time, 600 million people were classed as obese and 2 billion overweight, with serious consequences for their health. On top of this, more than 1 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, a third of the total produced.

“The global food system is broken,” said Tim Benton, professor of population ecology, at the University of Leeds, who is a member of one of the expert editorial groups which produced the report. He said the cost of the damage to human health and the environment was much greater than the profits made by the farming industry. “Whether you look at it from a human health, environmental or climate perspective, our food system is currently unsustainable and given the challenges that will come from a rising global population that is a really [serious] thing to say,” Benton said.

And while these are all horrible problems, without vast reductions in individual freedom and liberty (such as the liberty to decide what to eat and how much) the problem won’t resolve.  Solutions are, of course, more totalitarian intervention to save people from themselves.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Meat and Consequences:  More Bad News for Climate Change

Meat and Consequences:  More Bad News for Climate Change

Photo Source Audrey | CC BY 2.0

Thanksgiving is quite a holiday.  In one day, we manage to eat and enjoy 44 million turkeys, twice the number consumed at Christmas.  Yes, vegetarians may live longer and vegans even more so, but the smell of a roasting turkey in the kitchen lingering in the nostrils, titillating appetites as friends and relations gather, is synonymous with Thanksgiving — a meal where it is politic to keep politics away from the table.

Yet the news about our world cannot cease.  The annual greenhouse gas bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organization reports a new high in CO2 levels of 405.5 parts per million reached in 2017; it is 46 percent higher than preindustrial levels.  The rising trend continues for on May 14, 2018, another high of 412.60 ppm was recorded.

The enthusiastic consumption of meat in industrialized countries is one cause.  The worst culprits are lamb, mutton and beef because sheep, goats and cattle are ruminants and their digestive systems release methane mostly through belching rather than the other end.  Cattle emit so much greenhouse gas that if they were a country they “would be the planet’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.”  They produce an astounding 270,000 tonnes of emissions over their agricultural life cycle per tonne of protein, multiple times more than pork or poultry or eggs.  Transferring our carnivorous instincts from beef to poultry reduces so much emissions as to be near as good as being vegetarian although not quite.

Another way of imagining the effect is to translate a kilo of food sources into the number of car miles driven to produce the same emissions.  A kilo of beef equates to 63 miles.  Eating chicken reduces this by 47 miles, rice by another 10, lentils by 4 more.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Big Meat and Dairy are Heating up our Planet

Emissions Impossible

What do Smithfield, Tyson and Cargill have in common? Besides being three of the largest meat producers in the United States and the world, each of them has committed to reducing its climate footprint. But are they? Who is monitoring these companies to hold them accountable?

Today, IATP and GRAIN jointly published a first of its kind study that quantifies emissions from 35 of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies and scrutinizes their climate plans. What do these companies intend to do to reduce their share of emissions for the world to avoid climate catastrophe?

The short answer: These companies are pursuing growth strategies that will actually increase their emissions. 

Our research shows that:

  • The five largest meat and dairy corporations combined (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra) are already responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.
  • The combined emissions of the top 20 meat and dairy companies surpass the emissions from entire nations, such as Germany, Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom.
  • Most of the top 35 meat and dairy companies (16) either fail to report emissions entirely, or exclude their supply chain emissions, which account for 80-90 percent of emissions. Only four companies provide comprehensive emissions estimates.
  • Less than half of the top 35 meat and dairy companies have announced any type of emissions reduction targets. Out of these, only six include emissions generated from the supply chain.
  • If the growth of the global meat and dairy industry continues as projected, the livestock sector as a whole could consume 80 percent of the planet’s annual greenhouse gas budget by 2050.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Permaculture Chickens–6 Practical Lessons From the Evolution of Chickens

PERMACULTURE CHICKENS – 6 PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM THE EVOLUTION OF CHICKENS

One of the fundamentals of permaculture design is to observe, understand and work with natural ecosystems. 

It sounds simple enough to apply permaculture principles to chicken keeping. Can’t we just observe wild chickens in their natural environment? The problem is, modern domesticated chickens don’t exist in the wild. Junglefowl are the immediate ancestor of chickens, however it’s not that simple.

Modern chickens were domesticated more than 8,000 years ago and have changed a lot as a result of selective breeding. To get a more complete picture, that accounts for the differences between modern chickens and Junglefowl, I’ve studied the evolution of chickens from the Asian jungle, to modern factory farming and chicken nuggets. 

I have distilled this research into 6 lessons for a permaculture approach to happy, healthy, backyard chickens. 

Evolution of Chickens 

Before I jump into the 6 lessons for permaculture chickens, I’ll start by setting the scene with a brief history and evolution of the modern domestic chicken.

 

Junglefowl – The chicken’s immediate ancestor:

Jason Thompson – Flickr: Red Junglefowl

Domestic chickens can be traced back to  Red Junglefowl, from South East Asia and India. Jungle fowl have small lean bodies and they only lay about 20 eggs each year.  

 If we trace chickens back even further, chickens are the closest living relative of the T-Rex. This makes a lot of sense because chickens go crazy for meat, hunt down insects and even small rodents. And check out this incredible video of a chicken grabbing (stealing) a mouse that was being hunted down by a cat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwtuoHyLEiw .

Domestication and family farming (1900s to 1950):

 

Junglefowl were domesticated around 8,000 years ago. Despite domesticated chickens being very different ‘physically’ to jungle fowl, studies show that genetic differences are actually pretty small. This study of the genetic evolution of chickens shows there are two important mutations:  

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Biggest analysis to date: Cutting out animal products is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Biggest analysis to date: Cutting out animal products is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

The Guardian reports on a new study out of the University of Oxford:

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.

Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

…even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems,” he said. “Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”

The comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land.

 

 

 

 

Subsidies for sustainable and healthy foods and taxes on meat and dairy will probably also be necessary.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Meeting Paris Goals Means Dealing with Climate Impacts of Eating Meat

Meeting Paris Goals Means Dealing with Climate Impacts of Eating Meat

Environmental groups place a lot of attention on trying to stop new oil, gas, and coal development since current fossil fuel projects would likely already blow us past the less-than 2°C upper limit for warming laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, there’s a whole movement, known as “Keep It in the Ground,” predicated on this idea.

But when faced with a resurgence of support for fossil fuels from the White House, perhaps just as important is talking about how to “Keep It in the Cow,” according to some reports. Right now, experts predict agriculture is set to eat up half the greenhouse gas emissions the world can release by 2050 and still stay below 2°C (3.6°F) of warming.

That is, unless the world takes a big bite out of its meat consumption, especially from cattle and other livestock that chew their cud, say researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Raising these ruminants produces a lot of methane, a much more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

While “Meatless Mondays” is one approach to this problem, their studies show that it’s not necessarily how much meat people eat that’s linked to the climate impacts of their diet. Instead, it’s the amount of beef, lamb, and dairy.

A 2017 Chalmers study concluded that: “A switch from diets rich in ruminant meat to diets with meat from monogastric animals (pork, chicken) reduces [methane] emissions by almost the same amount as a switch to an entirely vegan diet.” Researchers at the University of Oxford in 2016 found similar benefits, concluding that shifting to a vegetarian diet could lessen greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds.

(If you want to eat vegan, of course, that’s also an option. In addition, eggs and dairy each have about half the climate impact of eating chicken and beef.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eat Less Meat to Save Ourselves.

Eat Less Meat to Save Ourselves.

A report has been released by the U.N., in which it is urged that we reduce consumption of meat and dairy products as a means to mitigate climate change, hunger and fuel poverty  It is stressed that food, transportation and housing must be made more sustainable if we seriously intend to ameliorate biodiversity loss and climate change, and as a matter of urgency. Some 30% of global CO2 emissions is a result of internationally traded goods, while the mining sector uses 7% of the world’s energy: a fraction that is expected to increase in line with “growth”, which has serious connotations regarding international policy. A doubling of income is predicted to cause an 81% increase in CO2 emissions, which is an alarming prospect in the context of the rising population, predicted to be over 9 billion by 2050. 70% of all the world’s freshwater consumption is taken by agriculture, which also accounts for 38% of the total use of land, and 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It has been estimated that it will be necessary to increase food production by 70% in 2050 if the population of the world is to be fed, but its expected increase from 7.3 billion now to perhaps 9.6 billion in 2050 will overwhelm any efficiency gains in agriculture. The production of animal products is particularly demanding in terms of land for grazing animals, and water, and a rising global middle class which is increasingly meat-hungry.

The above 70% increase in food production assumes that the western diet will spread to the Global South, with no reduction in consumption by the northern nations. 30-40% of cereals are presently fed to animals, which could rise to 50% if levels of meat and dairy consumption increase as predicted. It has been reckonedthat 3.5 billion additional people could be fed if all cereals were given over for human consumption.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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