As you know, the eating part of the No Impact project required my family to switch to eating only local, seasonal, vegetarian food. We are lucky in that local food is not difficult to get in New York City and swearing off meat has not been too hard on our palates.
If you're wondering what you could do on the food front to help the environment, here are some facts that might motivate you to eat less meat. The come from Mark Bittman's article "Rethinking the Meat Guzzler," published in Sunday's New York Times.
- "Just this week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the country’s rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles were lost."
- "At about 5 percent of the world’s population, [Americans] “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total."
- "An estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation."
- "f Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius."
- "2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."
- "Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens."
- "Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency."
- "We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein...It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources."
Meanwhile, meat is also a contributor to health problems from obesity to heart disease. Eating less meat is definitely a case of happier people, happier planet. Professor Eshel of the Bard Center told Bittman that when it comes to lowering meat consumption, “The good of people’s bodies and the good of the planet are more or less perfectly aligned."
Photo by Gary Kazanjian, courtesy of the New York Times.